Thursday, 26 May 2011

Ban this sick filth!

Off to a conference in London today to see Ruggero Deodato, director of gob-smackingly sick and twisted Cannibal Holocaust, argue/debate with the BBFC about censorship and show off a premiere of a brand-new cut of his masterpiece/bucket of squalid filth. So... real animal cruelty, forced abortion, rape, horrific punishment for rape... you name it, this films got it!

Some films just go too far don't they? But what is too far? Irreversible's 10 minute single shot rape scene? A Serbian Film and any of the joys contained within? Salo and 120 Days of Sodom? I could go on but I've got a conference to go to. I will return....

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The Development of the Techniques and Styles of Stop-Motion Animation

You may find this useful if you are studying stop motion animation at college; particularly if you are doing the BTEC in Media Production.
Animation has developed a huge amount in the last century from its beginnings as cartoon animation such as ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’ through to stop-motion animation as pioneered by George Pal and now onto digital animation as in the films of Pixar. In this report I will discuss the development of animation from the origins of the moving image such as Joseph Plateau’s Phenakitoscope through to contemporary examples of stop-motion animation such as the feature films of Aardman animations (e.g. Chicken Run) and various modern music videos (e.g. Plan B, No Good) and adverts.

Wikipedia defines animation as ‘the rapid display of a sequence of images of 2-D or 3-D artwork or model positions in order to create an illusion of movement. It is an optical illusion of motion due to the phenomenon of persistence of vision, and can be created and demonstrated in a number of ways.’ ( Persistence of vision is the phenomenon that means when a series of images is flashed up in front of someone’s eyes, the image is retained on the retina for at least a tenth of a second. Therefore if a series of images are flashed quick enough (at least 12 images a second) the subject of the images appears to move. This is why frame rates are important in the discussion of stop-motion animation. Frame rates are measured in frames per second and are literally the amount of frames the viewer sees on screen every second. Cinema is generally 24 fps and video is generally 30 fps. For animation to appear smooth and not jerky the subject of the individual images will need to be moved around 10 or twelve times for every second of the finished film. This is stop-frame animation; the process of taking a still photo of an object, then moving the object slightly and taking another photo and so on and therefore making the object appear to move all by itself. Camera movements such as pans and tilts can also be created by moving the camera a very small amount each frame.

Some of the pioneers of the moving image were Joseph Plateau, William Horner, Emile Reynaud, Edward Muybridge, Thomas Edison and the Lumiere brothers. Their inventions lead to the development of cinema itself, cartoon animation and then stop-motion animation by early pioneer George Pal. Plateau invented the Phenakitoscope which first used the persistence of vision principle to create moving images. It was a simple device that involved two discs that were span together in the same direction, one with successive images drawn on it which would appear to move. Later in the 1800’s William Horner developed the Zoetrope which improved on the former because it did not require a mirror to be viewed. A drum is spun with successive images on the inside of it and the audience looked through slits in the side of the drum to see a ‘moving image’. Emile Reynaud next invented the Praxinoscope which was the first device to show cartoons on a public screen. Like the Phenakitoscope it involved a mirror and successive images being revolved in order to create a ‘moving image’. These inventions all displayed drawn images or cartoon images and therefore are not as related to stop-motion animation as some of the next devices I will discuss.

Edward Muybridge, a biologist interested in movement of humans and animals, later developed the zoopraxiscope which was similar to the zoetrope except for two things. Firstly, the images could be projected onto a public screen and secondly, Muybridge was using photographic stills of humans and animals moving to create moving images. A famous example of his work is the film of the horse galloping. In order to achieve this, Muybridge had to line up a bank of cameras to capture the movement of humans and animals. As the subject moved past the line of cameras successive photos were taken and these could then be put into a zoetrope-like device and screened for the public to see a ‘moving image’. Thomas Edison later developed the Kinetoscope which introduced the basic approach to cinematic projection that is still used today. A strip of perforated film with successive images on it is pulled over a light source to create the illusion of motion. This is where frame rates really began as Edison’s device screened films at 48 fps. Films could only be viewed by individuals as opposed to public screenings and the camera, or Kinetograph, was very heavy. The Lumiere brothers then developed the Cinematographe which was smaller, lighter and less noisy than the Kinetograph. It also meant films could be screened to a big audience. The frame rate was 16fps which meant less film was used which would be cheaper.

Cartoon animation soon followed and early examples of this include Winsor McCay’s and Walt Disney’s films. However stop-motion animation was not at first common and was pioneered later by George Pal. Instead of cartoons, Pal began using inanimate objects such as cigarettes in one advert and wooden puppets in a series of short films which became known as ‘Puppetoons’. These were made in the 1940’s with many different wooden puppets or puppet parts to create the illusion of movement. These puppets or parts were in various different positions and could therefore be replaced between frames in order to create movement. This foreshadowed various other techniques used in stop-motion animation such as using models, puppets, people and cut-out pictures. Ray Harryhausen became famous for his work with stop-motion animated models in live action films such as ‘Jason and the Argonauts’. The original ‘King Kong’ also used stop-motion animation very effectively.

Contemporary examples of stop-motion animation can be broadly divided into five categories; music videos, adverts, feature films, television programmes and digital exhibitions. An example of a music video that uses stop-motion animation is Plan B’s song No Good. The video was made by Daniel Levi and features the artist himself being animated as well as a huge amount of inanimate objects around his house. Objects such as kitchen appliances and food are made to appear as if they are moving by themselves and objects even move in time with the beat of the tune. Other techniques include a pile of clothes covering Plan B and then when the clothes move away again, Plan B is no longer there. Also the video contains lip synching which means that it would have had to be extremely well planned as in every single individual shot, Plan B’s mouth would have had to be in the right position for that moment in the song. Some digital exhibitions are very similar to music videos in that they are just a piece of film set to music with no dialogue and often very little narrative. Other music videos that feature stop-motion animation include ‘Fell in Love with a Girl’ by The White Stripes and also ‘Sledgehammer’ by Peter Gabriel. Some mix live action with stop-motion and some mix digital animation with stop-motion. These are usually aimed at teenagers and adults and therefore often do not use cartoon animation or claymation techniques, but animate real people instead.
An example of a modern advert to use stop-motion animation is the Doritos Tribe advert made by Matt Bowron and John Addis. It cost under ten pounds to make and demonstrates why stop-motion techniques can be so popular with companies that wish to make cheap adverts. It consists of very few camera set-ups and simply has a bag of Doritos open itself and Dorito crisps doing a little sacrificial dance and one crisp sacrifices itself to a pot of dip. It is very simple and very effectively sells the product. The ‘Creature Comforts’ adverts made by Aardman animations were also hugely successful for the Electricity Board and featured clay animals talking about various things (voiced by the British public). Like music videos these are short products, often set to music but adverts differ from music videos in that they can also feature dialogue. Adverts are aimed at all ages but mainly adults in these examples. The claymation technique used in the Creature Comforts ads is a juxtaposition with the boring normality of the voices used. This creates humour that would appeal to adults and children.

An example of a television programme that uses stop-motion animation is ‘Robot Chicken’ created by Seth Green. This is aimed at adults and teenagers and is different to the majority of television shows that use stop-motion which are aimed at children. Examples of this are ‘Bob the Builder’ and ‘Shaun the Sheep’. However ‘Robot Chicken’ and ‘Celebrity Death Match’ are two examples that are primarily aimed at teenagers and adults. They feature swearing, violence and coarse humour mixed with claymation in the case of ‘Celebrity Death Match’ and 1980’s toys quite often in ‘Robot Chicken’ such as ‘Transformers’ and ‘Star Wars’ toys. They are both using stop-motion animation to increase the comedy value of their products.

Feature films have generally been made by Aardman animations such as ‘Chicken Run’ and ‘Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit’. These are feature length films made from animating very detailed clay models, elaborate sets and featuring huge numbers of camera set-ups and camera ‘movements’. Aardman are a huge company with massive amounts of animators and recently collaborated with Dreamworks on a digitally animated film. Aardman’s films are aimed generally at children with talking chickens and innocent, action packed stories. On the other hand Tim Burton has produced some darker animations such as ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ and ‘The Corpse Bride’. These are aimed at children and adults with their darker themes and animation style.
Finally there are also digital exhibitions. These are stop-motion animations that have been made purely to be shown on the internet. A great example of this is ‘Tony vs Paul’ made by Paul Cummings and Tony Fiandaca. This features two friends who seem to have telekinetic powers because they can move objects just by waving their hands. They can also ‘fly’ and go through walls by using stop-motion techniques. This film is very like a music video as it is around five minutes and set to a piece of music. There are thousands of examples of these on YouTube and there are often competitions and festivals to celebrate these films.
Stop-motion has come a long way since its beginnings. It has been threatened by digital animation but has had a resurgence due to the internet and also budgets in music videos and adverts being cut dramatically in recent years.

WJEC A2 Film Studies Exam Practice Section B: Spectatorship and Emotional Response

How far is the emotional response to mainstream films triggered by specific techniques used by the filmmakers?

(This answer is far from perfect and any suggestions for improvement would be gratefully recieved)

The emotional response to mainstream films is almost completely triggered by techniques used by filmmakers. Creation of character through the script and narrative structure, the use of stars and actors and their performances and the director and crews use of film form all help to provoke specific responses from audiences of mainstream films. There are generally clear preferred readings encoded in these films as the filmmakers want to make the viewers feel a certain way. The films studied are all dramas and therefore it is conventional that they are likely to make the audience feel sad.

Film form is an integral part of triggering an emotional response in the audience and creating a preferred reading. The soundtrack is a prominent part of the film form in the three films studied for this topic. ‘American History X’ (AHX) uses violins, a choir and complements this with a great deal of slow motion during scenes of emotional intensity, for example when the protagonist’s brother dies at the end. Similarly ‘United 93’ (U93) uses violin music complemented by a documentary-style aesthetic with handheld cameras and long takes. This cinematography helps to create a sense of realism and therefore the viewer will be reminded that the film is based on real events and the emotional resonance will be greater. While the use of music may detract from the sense of realism, it is very sad and will add to the emotional response of the audience. Similarly the filmmakers of ‘This is England’ (TIE) use the soundtrack to increase and guide the emotional response of viewers. Slow, piano and violin music is used at various points in the film to give a sense of sadness. Most notably, this technique is employed in a scene where a character (Combo) begins a racist rant in the presence of a group of friends, including a man of Caribbean origin. The sound of Combo’s voice is decreased as the sound of the music increases. This technique brilliantly makes the audience feel sad as the music replaces the characters words and the cinematography and editing emphasise close ups on different members of the groups as they react to the offensive story.

Black and white cinematography is also used in flashback scenes in AHX. This is to signal to the audience that these scenes are in the past, but it also gives the scenes a sad tone as the events have already taken place and the audience knows that the past cannot be changed. TIE uses cinematography in other interesting ways to create emotional responses in viewers. For example the scene where the protagonist Shaun plays by himself by the sea is dominated by extreme long shots and high angle shots. These emphasises the loneliness of the character as he is clearly all by himself with no one else around and this cinematography also makes Shaun appear very small and vulnerable. Accompanied by piano music, it is clear the filmmakers want viewers to empathise and sympathise with this character. 

The performances and use of stars and actors also triggers emotional responses in the audience. Most significantly, the performance of Thomas Turgoose as Shaun in TIE is powerful and emphasised by frequent close ups on his face. The use of an unknown actor adds to the realistic tone of the film and the performance of the young actor is made more emotionally involving by his prominence in the narrative and also the fact that his mother died during the shooting of the film. Similarly U93 uses an ensemble cast of barely recognisable actors and avoids the use of stars to add to the realism of the film. Again, numerous close ups and constant handheld cinematography emphasise the performances of the actors and create a strong emotional response from viewers. In contrast, AHX has a far less realistic tone (with use of black and white and slow motion used frequently giving a more stylised aesthetic) and the use of some major stars (Edward Norton and Edward Furlong). However their performances are brilliant with Norton particularly appearing with a bulked up physique, Swastika and other Nazi-inspired tattoos and wild eyes that suggest a man who has lost his mind. The narrative structure also shows the transformations of Derek’s character over the course of the film and his performance inspires disgust and anger at the beginning, but then later the audience is encouraged to sympathise with him and feel pity as his brother is murdered.

The narrative structure and scripts of the film are also vital techniques in creating emotional responses from viewers. Racist language is very notable in AHX and TIE and can easily shock the audience and make them feel sad or angry. The use of a child in TIE as the hero/protagonist adds to the emotional impact, particularly as he descends into using racist language and socialising with violent, threatening skinheads. Both AHX and TIE have main characters that are charismatic leader types that are incredibly articulate but also extremely racist. The films give these characters a platform to express extremely right-wing, offensive and controversial views and this can cause offence and shock to audiences but also sadness and despair.

U93, on the other hand gains a great deal of its emotional impact from its depiction of a real life recent event. Much of the films sadness stems from simply knowing that this is an accurate representation of what happened to the fourth hijacked plane on September 11th 2001. The techniques used by the filmmakers add to the emotional response but there is an inevitable sadness triggered in the majority of audiences just from knowing the subject matter of the film. This could also be argued for the other two films. Themes of racism and racial conflict are going to cause many audience members to feel sad but how the film is constructed and the techniques the filmmakers use will be essential considerations when analysing how emotional response is created. 

More A2 exam answers:

Is Fight Club a film about power and control rather than liberation?

Analysing La Haine

World Cinema: Distinctive Visual Features

World Cinema: Social and Political Context

WJEC A2 Film Studies Exam Practice Section B

A2 Film Studies Exam Practice Section B

A2 Film Studies Exam Practice Section B: Spectatorship and Emotional Response

Explore possible reasons to explain why a second or third viewing of a film can actually increase the emotional response rather than lessen it.

(This is not a perfect answer and any suggestions for improvement would be greatly appreciated)

Films, and in particular, mainstream films are generally created and designed to provoke an emotional response from the audience. The range of emotional responses audiences can have to films depends on a range of factors, including what preferred readings the filmmakers have encoded and what frameworks of interpretation the individual viewers are bringing to the film. Emotional responses can range from anger to joy and happiness to sadness. The films studied this year revolved around themes of racial conflict and were all designed to create strong and often controversial emotional responses. The impact these films can have on audiences emotions can be increased on a second or third viewing for a number of reasons.

Films like those studied this year can all create increased emotional responses on repeated viewings, firstly due to their shocking endings. American History X (AHX) ends with the shocking murder of the protagonist Derek’s younger brother Danny. This Is England (TIE) ends with the beating of a main character, Milky, by a racist skinhead, Combo, and United 93 (U93) ends with the death of all the main characters in the film. These films are all created to provoke feelings of anger, sadness and despair in the audience. On repeated viewings of the films, the viewer is now aware of the resolutions and what will happen to the characters. This adds an element of sadness throughout the viewing of the film. Some viewers will be aware when they are watching a drama that there will be a conventional sad ending but until they actually know why the ending is sad (by watching the entire film a first time), they may not feel sad until the end of the film. However when the viewer is aware of Danny’s death or the beating of Milky or the deaths of all the passengers on United 93, they will feel sadder from the first moment they see these characters on screen in their second and third viewings. Knowledge of the ending will affect their response to the whole film on repeated viewings.

However it could be argued that with a film like United 93, the majority of the audience will be completely aware of how the film ends even on their first viewing. The story is based on the real events of September 11th 2001 and the crashing of the fourth hijacked plane into a field after the passengers fought back against the hijackers. For audiences that are aware of these real-life events, the ending is not a surprise and they will go into this film with expectations of a sad ending. Therefore they may not have an increased emotional response on repeated viewings of the film. Instead it could be argued that as viewers of this film watch it more and more times, their emotional response may lessen. As time moves on and there is more temporal distance between people watching the film and the actual events of 2001, the response to this film may become less in audiences as they do not remember the real life events as clearly or with as strong emotions as they had back in 2001. Therefore future audiences of United 93 may have less of an emotional response to the film than contemporary audiences.

On the other hand, second or third viewings of a film can increase emotional responses from a viewer because of the idea that audiences can form a kind of personal relationship with the characters. The uses and gratifications theory suggests that audiences may go to watch a film to form relationships with characters they like. They may have a lack of personal relationships in their life and form attachments with certain characters in films. For this reason, if a viewer watches a film more than once, they can have an increased response to it due to having an increased emotional attachment to the characters. Danny’s death, Milky’s beating and the death of the passengers in U93 can all be sadder due to viewers feeling closer to these characters on repeated viewings.

When Danny dies in AHX, it is sad on a first viewing as the filmmakers have encoded a preferred reading in the text. Danny’s voiceover guides the viewers’ feelings and shows the character’s inner thoughts throughout the film. The film form is created to emphasise the sadness of the killing with slow motion used and sad violin music on the soundtrack. Similarly music is used in the final scene of TIE and U93 to enhance the emotions of viewers. U93 also uses a documentary aesthetic with handheld cameras and long takes to emphasise realism and make the viewer feel like they are watching real life rather than a reconstruction. The protagonist of TIE, Shaun, is a young boy who the audience is encouraged to empathise with throughout the film and when he witnesses the beating of his friend Milky, the audience is encouraged to feel the emotions that Shaun feels. This increases the emotional response. 

There are many reasons why repeated viewings of a film can increase the emotional response of a viewer. I feel the main one is that, although the endings will be less of a shock, viewers will be aware of how the films end and will bring this knowledge to their second and third viewing of the film. This means that although they may have had some expectations of a sad ending on first viewing, they will now be sure of the death or beatings of characters from the first moment they see the characters on screen in their second and third viewings. This will add to their emotional response throughout the film. 

More A2 exam answers:

Is Fight Club a film about power and control rather than liberation?

Analysing La Haine

World Cinema: Distinctive Visual Features

World Cinema: Social and Political Context

WJEC A2 Film Studies Exam Practice Section B

A2 Film Studies Exam Practice Section B

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Best of British

After seeing ‘Attack the Block’ this week at a preview screening attended by Joe Cornish, some of the cast and Edgar Wright, I feel obliged to gush about how awesome British film of the last decade has been. Ok so I’m really talking about British film as in the fairly low-budget but generally commercial movies that might as well be American because of their obviously American influences and dedication to popular American genres.
The films I’m choosing to pick out will probably not be much of a surprise. Loved by critics and audiences and popular on both sides of the Atlantic, I’m not trying to dazzle you with rarely seen undiscovered gems.
So what’s got me all excited about British film (apart from the hilarious ‘Attack the Block’). Well obviously ‘Shaun of the Dead’ (2004), a film which is continually mentioned in the reviews and publicity for ATB. But going back a little further; 28 Days Later (2002), Dead Man’s Shoes (2004) and This is England (2006).

Shaun, directed by Edgar Wright and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost took the zombie genre and affectionately parodied it. Written by Pegg and Wright as a tribute to Romero’s Dead trilogy and beating the disappointing ‘Land of the Dead’ into cinemas by a year, audiences loved it’s mix of zombie horror conventions and slacker romantic comedy character dynamics. It was released just after Zack Snyder’s running zombie remake of Dawn of the Dead (a film which owed as much to 28 Days Later as it did to Romero’s original Dawn!). Shaun took British settings (including a devotion to the great British pub), characters and actors and mixed them with the shuffling subtext-laden zombies of Romero’s Night, Dawn and Day trilogy.
Very funny, sweet and surprisingly gory, the film had something for most people. The use of Rom-Zom-Com in the marketing clearly helped the film to pull in men, women, horror and comedy fans. Not only did Romero love it, America and the world loved it leading to a $30 million gross off a £4 million budget. Edgar Wright became a hot director taking his kinetic style from ‘Spaced’ up a gear and sending him onto ‘Hot Fuzz’ and ‘Scott Pilgrim Vs the World’. Pegg became an international star delivering on his comedic potential so clearly visible in ‘Big Train’ and ‘Spaced’. And the breakout was blatantly Nick Frost who was gifted with the character of Ed, the loveable stoner/dealer sidekick.

Frost, incidentally plays another stoner/dealer in ATB and gets a lot of laughs with a relatively small role. It’s great to see this little unit working together again and again and supporting each other. Pegg and Frost have written and starred together in the recent ‘Paul’ while Wright went off to direct Scott Pilgrim. Frost pops up in ATB which is exec-produced by Wright. Cornish had a cameo in Hot Fuzz, wrote some material for ‘Big Train’ and has been co-writing the screenplay for ‘Tintin’ (for Spielberg no less!) with Wright.
Then there’s Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later which as far as I’m aware gave the world the gift of running zombies. As a Romero fan I feel bad for saying this but zombies that run are f**king cool! And 28 Days Later not only made them run, but it also called them ‘The Infected’ and introduced the Rage virus making the monsters absolutely terrifying in their ferocity… all red eyes, vomiting blood and animalistic snarls. Boyle was one of my favourite directors anyway with the classic ‘Trainspotting’ already proving what an amazingly gifted director he is. But after ‘A Life Less Ordinary’ and ‘The Beach’, I was concerned that Boyle had sold out big time and was destined to make films that would never reach the quality of Trainspotting. Boyle talks about his discomfort with mega-budget filmmaking briefly in this video (skip to 2.09)
Like Shaun of the Dead it took recognizably British settings, particularly the famous opening scenes of a deserted London, British characters and actors and mixed them with zombie horror conventions. The idea of other people being more dangerous than the zombies continued from the Romero films as well as the distrust of the military and authority in general. Again, audiences in Britain and America loved it with an $82 million gross from an $8 million budget. An inferior but still incredibly fun sequel followed and I hear rumours that Boyle might return to direct a third one day.

Then there’s the wonderful Shane Meadows. After super low budget social realist gems Twenty Four Seven and A Room for Romeo Brass, Meadows misfired in my opinion with Once Upon a Time in the Midlands. But then he made a very British, very unconventional take on the slasher film, Dean Man’s Shoes. Gritty and realistic, with outstanding performances from Paddy Considine (see also Le Donk and Scor-zay-zee for more Meadows/Considine magic) and Toby Kebbell, this is a horror with a heart. The vengeful returning soldier brother and his use of a gas mask when stalking prey feel like a mix of Western and slasher conventions, but the villains of the film are the most ordinary looking, recognizably British pathetic drug dealing criminals you will ever see in a film. As a result this one failed to set the box office on fire. Too real, too British and not as slavishly dedicated to following genre conventions, it is still a brilliant and emotional film.

Meadows soon went on to write and direct This is England, another film in the tradition of American History X and Romper Stomper that takes an extremely charismatic racist bastard and plonks him centre stage to give an up and coming actor the chance to show their skills. America gets Edward Norton, Australia gets Russell Crowe, and now Britain’s own Stephen Graham gives a brilliant, raw performance as nutjob Combo. This film is not a devoted genre film like others mentioned in this article but I had to mention it as it is one of the most unforgettable and powerful British films of the last decade.
So anyway back to Attack the Block. Taking science-fiction conventions (aliens invade earth) and splicing them with inner-city kids in a distinctly British tower block, the film is fast, funny and exciting. Filled with uniquely British slang, an exceptional young cast and brilliantly directed by first-time feature director Joe Cornish on a low budget, I highly recommend if you haven’t seen all the posters or the trailer for this yet, you seek them out and then go watch it. This is destined to be a huge hit and I hope that American audiences will be able to decipher the slang and make this an even bigger smash than Shaun.

I know there are countless other smaller British films that I should be supporting but the industry will only keep growing if Britain keeps producing films that can sell overseas. With the (soon to disappear) UK Film Council being prominent in the opening credits of ATB, it feels like an important time to big up British film. We can produce films that the whole world wants to see and for my money, the films listed here are some of the absolutely greatest films produced in the last decade.
Let’s just hope all the filmmakers don’t permanently move to Hollywood and forget the British settings, characters and actors that helped to make their name.
Any other low-budget but commercial British gems I should have mentioned?

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Loving free screenings

Just a quick one to spread some love for ShowFilmFirst, Total Film Magazine, LoveFilm and Paramount Pictures. So far this year I've been to free preview screenings of '127 Hours', 'The Fighter', 'Tomorrow When The War Began' and just last Sunday, 'Water for Elephants'.

Total Film Magazine has a screening club run in association with ShowFilmFirst and because of this I got a pair of tickets to 'The Fighter' (very good) before it's national release. I also got tickets for Hall Pass but couldn't go (and judging by the trailer... I think this may have been a good thing!) and have tickets in my posession for new Paul Giamatti film 'Win Win' on Tuesday. I just love a free film especially because of the hideous prices of cinema tickets and look forward to spreading the word on films that need a word of mouth push.

I also get updates from ShowFilmFirst just by 'liking' them on facebook. This lead to the recent grabbing of a pair of tickets to 'Water for Elephants' This was a film I had very low expectations of. It just didn't sound like my kind of thing. Robert Pattinson... blah... Reese Witherspoon... blah blah. But I don't know if I get blinded by the thoughts of not paying for a film or if it really was good but I quite enjoyed it. It's not a masterpiece or anything but it was very engaging and kept me interested throughout. However no tears were shed so it's definitely not up there with the greatest dramas.

I have entered 3 competitions so far this year. One with Paramount to see 'TWTWB' with introduction from Rachel Hurd Wood which I won 2 tickets for and even got fed free popcorn and coke!!! The other two were with LoveFilm. One for '127 Hours' (outstanding) with Danny Boyle Q and A where I got to ask the director a question and the other was for an 'Attack the Block' screening followed by Q and A with director Joe Cornish and actress Jodie Whitaker. This is on Monday in London and I can't wait. I've been looking forward to this film for awhile now and hope it lives up to the very funny, exciting looking trailer.

Also, while I'm praising all these wonderful film-related companies, I've got to mention the Empire cinema chain that now do cheap tickets on Tuesdays. It costs anybody who wants a ticket £2.95 to see a film in the cinema (but only Tuesdays!). Along with Orange Wednesdays, this is the best promotion I've seen and is the only way film studios, distributors, exhibitors are going to lure tight-ass people like me back into cinemas. With Lovefilm servicing my filmic needs, I'd almost forgotten the cinema existed. Forget 3D, digital screens, extra comfy seats and waiter services or whatever cinemas are all now offering... I JUST WANT CHEAP TICKETS! Or free ones if there's any going...