Friday, 29 March 2013

Spoiling Side Effects: The Implications of its Revelations

Sorry to shout but DO NOT READ THIS ARTICLE IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN SIDE EFFECTS!!!

I will be revealing major spoilers as this is not really a review but just more some of my thoughts on the film and films in general after seeing Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects starring Rooney Mara, Jude Law and Channing Tatum.

So please consider that fair warning. If you've seen Side Effects, I hope you might still be here. If you haven't, please do yourself a favour and go away!


Side Effects is the story of Emily (Mara), a terribly depressed woman whose husband Martin (Tatum) has been in prison for four years for insider trading. On his release, things should suddenly get better but it appears Emily just gets worse, driving her car into a wall and nearly killing herself on more than one occasion. Prescribed a new drug by her therapist Dr Banks (Law), it seems to make things better with Emily feeling happier but on the other hand it does come with some side effects.

THIS IS WHERE THE SPOILERS REALLY START.


Emily starts sleepwalking and doing all sorts of strange things while she is sleepwalking. Martin returns home one day to find Emily cutting vegetables and she turns around at stabs him repeatedly before returning to her bed as if nothing has happened. Martin dies and Emily wakes with no memory of what happened.

With Emily facing prison or being locked up in a secure psychiatric ward, Dr Banks wishes to help her as he feels perhaps somewhat responsible for what has happened. He enlists the help of Emily's previous therapist Dr Siebert (Catherine Zeta Jones) and tries to get to the bottom of what happened and why so that Emily will not face murder charges and will instead be considered Not Guilty for Reasons of Insanity.

OK NOW FOR THE MOST SPOILER-IFIC PART!


It turns out that Emily and Dr Siebert hatched an elaborate plan when Emily first start attending therapy sessions and they became lesbian lovers determined to do a bit of insider trading of their own. By faking depression and side effects, the pair decided they could murder Martin and also affect shares prices of a new drug. They nearly get away with it but for the brilliance and determination of Dr Banks to get to the bottom of the story.

So basically it turns out that not only are two women the villains of the film, but their villainy also stems from their homosexual desires to be together. This is where I find the film very troubling. We've seen this idea of lesbian psychopaths a million times before in Hollywood thrillers and it does strike me as more than a little homophobic. The film could also be read as deeply misogynist due to the two women being so evil, manipulative and hideous.

At first Emily is just a victim character and we cannot help but sympathise with her but then we realise she is an incredibly skilled performer and manipulator. The two women have hatched a brilliant plan and use their skills of manipulation to fool the doctors, the courts and everyone involved in the case, even Emily's own husband.


However I don't want to just jump quickly onto my high horse and claim that this film is either misogynist or homophobic. Just because a film has a woman villain or a lesbian villain, does not make it either of these things. Imagine a world where we only allowed old white men to be the villains for fear of offending anyone else. It would quickly get boring and predictable.

So I have to see Side Effects as just a clever thriller that repeatedly pulls the rug out from under audiences. To have a twist that suggests a (sort of) happily married woman actually has a lesbian lover is unexpected. To have a seemingly minor character emerge as a sort of puppet master pulling strings is unexpected. To have a character who appears to be an innocent victim turn out to be a manipulative, evil murderer is, again, unexpected! So all Side Effects representations serve to produce clever and unexpected revelations.

When I walked out the cinema, I wondered why I hadn't heard anyone accusing the film of being misogynist or homophobic but to do this would totally spoil the film for everyone. However it used to be that films like Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction attracted a fair amount of criticism for their depiction of women and homosexuality so I wondered what has changed.

Sometimes you start a film and you get an immediate sense that this director or writer hates women. You don't get this at all with Side Effects but that only serves to make the rug pull more unexpected.

I guess the reason I want to particularly highlight the homophobia issue is that Hollywood just does not offer many representations of happy, normal, healthy homosexuality. If there were more of these representations, perhaps I wouldn't immediately think the film was leaning towards homophobia when the villains turn out to be lesbians.

Therefore my message is... lets have more homosexual characters from Hollywood and not just nasty scheming villain types! I can't wait for the day when we have a gay cop in a Die Hard style action extravaganza! Hell perhaps it could be a neat twist for Die Hard 6. John McClane finally comes to terms with why his marriage never worked out and comes out of the closet! Or maybe that's too far...

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Happy Easter: This is for Brodie!

Happy Easter everybody! I'd love to say I have a top 5 Easter moments in film for you but unfortunately I don't quite. However I do have a couple of memorable Easter Bunny moments for you instead. These little Easter eggs are actually more like an anti-Easter present I'm afraid. Don't let your kids watch!

I could have filled this post with religious ramblings and videos of Jesus going through some horrific stuff in Mel Gibson's torture porn Passion of the Christ, but I thought I'd take a slightly less disgusting route to wishing you a happy Easter.


First up is one of my all time favourite films. It has a special place in my heart as Mallrats was my introduction to Kevin Smith, Jay and Silent Bob and most of all the star of the film Jason Lee as Brodie. I love Brodie. Every line out of his mouth is hilarious but he's also a bit of a douche bag. He gets the crap beaten out of him by the asshole in the Fashionable Male shop (played by Ben Affleck) and then tells his mall rat buddies Jay and Bob that it was the guy in the Easter Bunny suit. It's despicable really that the poor Easter Bunny becomes an innocent victim here but still, watch the clip below for a bit of a laugh.



Later in the film, some children find Ethan Suplee staring at one of those weird Magic Eye things (remember them?) that I could never bloody do so I feel this guy's pain. When the kids out smart him, he lashes out and it is another lovely Easter Bunny moment for all those of you who aren't quite as taken by Easter as others.



Finally Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey popped into my head because I remember there being an evil Easter Bunny in it. It's really not very scary and more than a bit silly but it might bring back some fond memories for some of you who were Bill and Ted fans.



I'm off to go play chess with Death! Have a lovely Easter holidays and try not to eat too much chocolate. and if you're feeling religious then why not have a read of my latest article for Yahoo about why I still pray sometimes.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Antibiotics, potholes and the Iraq war

The Yahoo Contributor Network keep inviting me back to write about various topics and most recently I have been wading in on topics as varied as the effectiveness of antibiotics, the state of Britain's roads and their many potholes and my complete and utter shame at the war in Iraq. Sorry film lovers this post has nothing to do with films!

In the antibiotics article, I was asked to write about my experience and so I have gone into great detail about how antibiotics were dished out to me to cure my chest infections but I actually think they may have done more harm than good. While I'm sure antibiotics are vital in many cases, I think perhaps they may not have been needed in my case. Perhaps it is my fault for bugging the doctors but I was fed up of having chest infections and desperate for an end to them. I don't think antibiotics did much to battle my chest infections. After four separate courses of antibiotics failed and left me with upset stomachs and a resistance that might put me at risk if I get a dangerous infectious disease in the future, I decided a lifestyle change was the answer.

Then I took the opportunity to write about the state of British roads and how I feel about the amount of potholes we have and the cost that has been estimated to fix them. I've got to be honest, I don't care that much about the state of of our roads. We should be grateful that they are as good as they are when there are other countries in the world in far worse states. What bugs me is the shocking way our government wastes money on stupid shit like far off wars in other countries. If they didn't waste money on that, then the roads would likely be in a far better state.

Which leads me to the final article on my thoughts on the Iraq war ten years after we started it. It made me angry even writing about it and I'm still angry typing this now. If you want to read my feelings, then please read my article called The Iraq war and my shame.

I hate even calling it the Iraq war. When my wife got back from Vietnam she told me how the Vietnamese don't call it the Vietnam War, they call it the American War. I guess most wars would have to be called The American War these days or the British War and that would get confusing so instead it's the Iraq war. Anyway enough! Sorry film fans. Back to normal in the next post hopefully!

Is it just me… or should Warner Bros forget a Batman reboot?



Is a Batman reboot really necessary... I mean ever? For my money, The Dark Knight Rises is the best comic book movie that will likely ever be made. Christopher Nolan’s final take on Batman and Bruce Wayne scaled dizzying heights of greatness with its grand, emotional and epic storytelling.

The entire Dark Knight trilogy was a miracle rebirth for a character that should have been all but forgotten after the 1995 disaster that was Batman and Robin. George Clooney’s nipples, Alicia Silverstone’s Batgirl and Schwarzenegger’s comical if he wasn’t so damn awful Mr Freeze all nailed Batman’s coffin shut for eight years.
 
Looking to the future

Nolan revived the franchise with a new direction, a new Batman and a very different vision from what had come before, whether from Tim Burton or Joel Schumacher. Batman Begins began a new trilogy but only in 2005 was this attempted after the wounds inflicted on Bat fans were finally starting to heal.

Whoever takes on the frankly silly task of topping Nolan’s trilogy is cruising for a bruising. It will take something seriously impressive to do justice to what Nolan, Bale and the rest of the crew and cast achieved over the past seven years.

Reports initially suggested the possibility of a 2015 reboot (only three years after The Dark Knight Rises) but recent rumours suggest it is more likely to be 2017 or possibly beyond. I’m sure that most Bat fans will agree that this can only be a good thing!

See what is says there... The legend ENDS!!!!

If you want to watch a Batman film so desperately, go out and buy Nolan’s trilogy on Blu-ray and watch the films again, then work your way through the exhaustive special features. If that doesn’t satisfy your desire for the masked vigilante then start a petition to have Nolan’s films put back in the cinemas where they belong. I for one will sign that petition if it comes along in 2017 or so. I’d even consider forking out for an IMAX visit.

Please don’t urge Warner Bros into rushing into a financially motivated reboot. We do not need any more Batman stories for now. A script does not need to be hastily cobbled together, just because Warner Bros want to keep milking their caped crusader cash cow. No one in their right mind would try to best Nolan’s trilogy at this point so you will be most likely getting the work of a madman.


There was eight years between Batman and Robin and Batman Begins. Eight years it took to get the right director, script and cast and to let us Bat fans come to terms with a reboot. That was after a disaster. Whatever follows The Dark Knight Rises is taking on a modern masterpiece.

Marvel only waited five years to reboot Spider-man and grosses were down and frankly the new film felt completely pointless. Man of Steel may only be arriving seven years after Superman returned but at least it has Nolan behind it and is again, following a disappointment. 

I urge Warner Bros to give The Dark Knight a rest at least until 2020. He’s earned it. Or is it just me?

Technical roles in the TV and Film Industries



Technical jobs in the TV and film industry are those that require a person to be skilled in the use of equipment and technology such as cameras, lights and audio technology. These workers will benefit from having a certain level of creativity as their input is likely to be welcomed but it is most important that they can listen to instructions and carry out tasks exactly as they have been asked. Their role requires them to work quickly and professionally, ensuring that they do what is asked in a timely fashion so as not to delay the whole production. Examples of technical jobs include Technical Producers and Technical Directors, Camera Operators, Gaffers and Sound Recordists.

 In my BTEC media classes, we have already looked at:

A Camera Operator is a vital member of the camera department, working closely with the Director of Photography and Director, and ensuring the camera is positioned and moved effectively. A Camera Operator must have a good knowledge of shot composition, lighting, art direction and performance but most importantly must be able to follow and interpret instructions. They must have excellent technical skills but also a high level of creativity.

Often Camera Operators will start as runners or Camera Assistants, working their way up through the camera department to 1st Camera Operator and then perhaps even progressing to become a DOP. They have to work long hours on film and TV sets and the work can be physically demanding and involve some travel to wherever the set is, perhaps even foreign travel. It is essential for Camera Operators to keep up with advances in technology and it is their responsibility to do this, meaning continuous professional development is vital. They have to be knowledgeable about different camera systems, lenses, support equipment and accessories. Camera Operators are also likely to be employed on a freelance basis so they will have to be good at networking, marketing themselves and finding new job opportunities.

A good way into the TV industry for young people is to take a researcher role. These people have to find information, contributors, locations and archive footage for programmes, among other things. Most researchers begin as runners and much of their job is office based, though they may also have to go out on locations for shoot sometimes. Researchers must show initiative and always be able to think of contingency plans when things go wrong. Researchers must be able to remain calm under pressure and communicate effectively with a range of people.

As usual much of this information comes from the Skillset website and particularly the section on Camera Operators. If any camera operators out there read this and want to correct me, add to this or just give me a quote to use, I would be eternally grateful!

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Creative Jobs in the TV and Film Industies


Creative jobs are those that require a person to originate, develop or expand original ideas in order to help complete a final product. These roles are for imaginative and creative people who have lots of ideas and can work both independently and in a group with other creative people. Examples of these jobs are set designers, cinematographers, script writers and storyboard artists.

A Director of Photography (cinematographer) has a key role in designing the look of the film by working closely with the Director and Production Designer. Directors of Photography are required on most moving image productions and they often progress from commercials and promos up to feature films. DOP’s have to work with a wide range of people in the crew. They must be able to take direction but also collaborate and guide the camera crew, gaffers and even work with the hair, make up and production designers. They are responsible for giving the film or show its visual signature, created through camera work and lighting.


DOP’s learn their craft through many years of experience on film and television sets. They have often studied film/photography to degree level or higher and may work their way up through the hierarchy of film/TV crews. Camera operators, 2nd Assistant Camera and workers in the Lighting Department all can potentially progress to becoming a DOP. They may start on student films or in advertising before moving onto bigger productions.

A DOP might have to travel for their job and will likely only be employed for the length of the production. Their work will begin in the pre-production stages and end when the shoot is complete. This means they are often freelance and have to keep their skills up to date and keep themselves active and well known in the industry to keep getting more work. Being a DOP is hard and very skilled job but very creatively rewarding.

As usual a great deal of this information and much more can be found on the Skillset website and in particular the section on Directors of Photography. If any DOP's read this, please get in touch so I can maybe grab a lovely quote or two from you! It's all in the name of education! 

More in this series:

Narrative Music Videos



Narrative music videos are those that tell a story. There are many different ways a story can be told in a music video. A narrative can be edited alongside the performance of the artist so that the video cuts back and forth between elements of performance and narrative. Sometimes the artist can be involved in the narrative in some way and can even be lip synching as they act in the narrative. In other examples the artist can be performing in the same location as the narrative is occurring. Having a narrative generally means there is a clear beginning, middle and end but sometimes narratives can be a bit more abstract and actually the narrative progresses very little from the start to the finish.

Narrative music videos often help to tell the story that is already present in the lyrics of the song and other times the narrative is more of an open interpretation of the lyrics or seems almost completely unrelated. Narratives engage the audience by providing enigmas and mystery. Audience will want to see how the stories will end because they will have questions they want answering.


An example of a very cinematic narrative music video is Eminem’s Stan, featuring the actor Devon Sawa playing an obsessed fan and also Dido and Eminem who sing and rap in the song. The video follows the story present in the lyrics of the song from Stan writing letters to Eminem to eventually killing himself and his girlfriend. Devon Sawa plays Stan and he lip synch’s Eminem’s lyrics until the last verse where Eminem is writing a letter back and then he appears in the video. It references Eminem’s fame and his problems with obsessive fans and the lighting makes and subject matter make it feel almost like a horror film. This video even has some of the sound effects from the narrative audible in the song such as the car splashing into the river.


The music video for Just by Radiohead sets up a very big enigma. A man lies in the street but will not tell anyone why. Throughout the video the audience will be questioning what the problem is with the man and what will happen. The performance of Radiohead is intercut between the narrative scenes and it also becomes clear that the room that Radiohead are performing in overlooks the street where the man is lying. It has a kind of twist ending that will hopefully surprise the audience. This sense of surprise will also likely be present by the end of The Scientist by Coldplay which all plays out in reverse.




What are your favourite narrative music videos? 

More on styles, conventions and techniques of music videos:

Monday, 25 March 2013

Animated Music Videos


Another popular style of music video is using animation techniques Some use cartoon animation, some use stop motion animation and others use digital animation. Sometimes the artist is represented performing in animated form and other times there is a narrative featured using animation.

My students and I are looking at different style of music videos and we have already looked at a couple of different music genres, and as-live or in concert music videos so far.

Animated music videos can often be very eye-catching and allow the impossible to be achieved. Cartoon animation can range from the simplistic child-like drawings of the music video for Nizlopi’s JCB song to the anime style of Linkin Park’s Breaking The Habit. If the artist is performing in animated style, then lip synching can still be included. In the case of the Linkin Park music video, this was achieved by filming the band’s performance and then rotoscoping it. This is where animators use the real footage as the basis for their animation. Take on Me famously mixed live action with cartoon animation.






Stop motion animated music videos are still very popular despite the increase of digital animation. They allow very imaginative ideas to be brought to life. Stop motion is the process of taking many still images and putting them together to create the impression of a moving image. It can make lip synching difficult but many stop motion music videos have achieved it. Plan B’s video for No Good took seven days to shoot on a stills camera and is particularly creative for its use of lip synching.  This ‘was achieved by Levi shooting Plan B performing the track on a DV camera, then output the footage at 12 frames per second and printed a book of all 2,800 frames, which became their lip-synch bible. “Every frame we shot we showed him the relevant page of the book and he mimicked the shape of his mouth on that page for the shot,” says Daniel.’’’ (www.britishcouncil.org/antenna_uk_transcript_english.doc)

Other examples include Oren Levi and Her Morning Elegance, early example Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel and Coldplay’s Strawberry Swing.





Finally digital animation is the most recent form of animation to be used in music videos. It is the same principal as other forms of animation with fluid motion being created frame by frame but now on computers. The Red Hot Chilli Peppers use digital animation for their video for Californication to make it look like a video game.


As always there are many more examples out there and I would be very grateful if anyone could point me in the direction of any better examples of animated videos and perhaps I can add them to this post.

More in this series on the styles, conventions and techniques of music videos:

Box Office Reporter for Tastic Film

I have just been given the proud title of Box Office Reporter for the Tastic Film website. My first piece on what is big at the US Box Office in March 2013 is now online at Tastic Film here. It looks at the top 10 of the month and discusses what is big, what is making lots of money and what is profitable.

I met the guy that runs Tastic Film at the Flight premiere where we were both scrambling to get some words from the man of the moment Denzel Washington. Tastic Film also has a great YouTube channel full of red carpet reports and other bits and pieces so head over and check it out. It's also available in print and is likely going to expand across the pond to having writers from America on board.


I will be doing one or two box office reports every month for Tastic Film, mainly focusing on the US box office and the top 10 films of the month. Box Office Mojo is going to be my essential tool for gathering information on the biggest grossing films and their production budgets.

It is interesting to focus on the business side of things and particularly keeping an eye on what films do well at the box office, but more specifically which films become the most profitable. Some of the budgets on these films are astronomical and must be huge gambles for the Hollywood studios. This month for example Jack the Giant Slayer cost nearly $200 million and though its got some serious star and special effects power, surely it will have to be pretty damn popular to make a profit off a budget that huge.

Other big releases of the month include Oz the Great and Powerful, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and The Last Exorcism Part 2 so head on over to Tastic Film and check out the biggest box office hits of the month.

More box office reports at Tastic Film:

Week of Magical Action
The Scare Off
Iron Man 3
Star Trek Into Darkness

Fight Club Video Essay

The other day I posted an essay answer to the question of whether Fight Club is a film about power and control or liberation. As I haven't done any video editing in a long time, I thought I'd throw together this video version of the essay. It's just me speaking the essay with lovely pictures and gifs to look at while you watch.


I quite enjoyed making this little video though I am a bit worried about my utterly monotonous voice. I thought this was me sounding excited! I tried to include video clips but couldn't find a way to download video clips from YouTube anymore. People must rip clips from films to put in their videos on YouTube but unfortunately I have no idea how to do this either. As usual my lack of technical skills are completely limiting what I can do. This video could have been so much more exciting with frequent clips from the film to throw in.

While browsing around for images to put to my words, I found a huge range of pictures. There is so much cool Fight Club fan art out there and I love the gifs people have made. I hope they don't mind me using such things on my video!



I'm thinking I make some more of these though I might see if this one actually gets any views first as I guess there is not much point in making more if no one is going to see them. What I really need to find out is how to get clips from film to put in and then I could break up the monotony of my voice over with something far more exciting!

I'd be very interested to know what anyone who reads this or watches the video thinks. If anyone has some technical know how and could point me in the direction of a site that allows me to download YouTube videos to avi. files, I would also be incredibly grateful.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Editorial Job Roles in the TV and Film Industry

My BTEC Media students and I are looking at job roles in the TV and Film Industries. We recently looked at managerial roles and I specifically wrote about production managers here. In this post, I will look at editorial roles in the TV and film industries.

Editorial jobs are often found in the print industry but there are also some notable editorial roles in the television and film industry. These jobs require a person to check over often written work such as scripts, reviewing the work that has been produced and give notes or suggestions on how to adapt and improve it, and perhaps collect and arrange bits of work together into a final piece. Some examples are script editors and film editors.

Script Editors analyse scripts in order to help screenwriters to identify problems with their work. They are involved in communicating between producers and screenwriters, helping to explain to a screenwriter the consequences of their choices. For example if a screenwriter wants a spectacular computer generated climax in outer space, the script editor may have to explain the producers concerns over the budget of such a set-piece. A Script Editor will help to strengthen a screenplay and get it ready for development. Sometimes they will be employed full-time by a production company but usually they are freelancers and therefore their fee and level of involvement can differ and be negotiated.

Script Editors must have an excellent knowledge of all aspects of screenplay writing and development. Their communication skills must also be excellent as they have a very delicate role in liaising between producers and screenwriters and therefore the business and creative sides of film and television production. Script Editors will be highly educated, often experienced script readers and will have likely taken a respected industry Script Editing course.

Again a great deal of this information came from the amazing Skillset website and more specifically the section on script editors. Next time I'll be looking at creative jobs in the TV and film industries. Again if any script editors read this, please get in touch, I'd love to hear from you!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Director Retrospectives: Part 2 Danny Boyle

In the continuing series of director retrospectives over at Filmoria, my latest is on the career of British director Danny Boyle, ahead of the release of his new film Trance. I'm seeing Trance tomorrow at a preview screening and cannot wait! It's got James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson and Vincent Cassell and looks like it might be a hypnotic blast. Early reviews are looking very good, no surprise after Danny Boyle wowed the world with the London Olympics Opening Ceremony last year!


 In advance of some of the biggest and best film releases of 2013, Filmoria writers are all contributing retrospectives of many directors' work. We have all chosen six directors who have films being released in 2013 and the idea is that in the week leading up to the new film, we will write and publish a retrospective look at that director's body of work.



The six directors I picked are some of my very favourites and others that have significant films to make their body of work worth revisiting. I take tasks like this very seriously and would like to get through all the films of each particular director before I write the pieces. I started out with Quentin Tarantino as my first director and that retrospective was published back in January ahead of the release of Django Unchained.


In the meantime other Filmoria writers have been tackling the likes of:


Sam Raimi

Pedro Almodovar
Steven Soderbergh
Walter Hill
Kathryn Bigelow
Judd Apatow
Robert Zemeckis

and many more!


I've been re-watching all of Boyle's films over the last couple of months in order to reappraise them and give this retrospective of the great director's work the respect it deserves. You can check out my Danny Boyle retrospective at Filmoria here. In case you didn't know this is the guy who gave us the likes of Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours. He's easily one of my favourite directors and definitely my favourite British director, responsible for two of the greatest British films of all time in my opinion. Please go check out the retrospective to find out more about the man and his films.

If you aren't uncontrollably dribbling and desperate to see Trance by the end then I will consider myself a failure and hang my head in shame. Choose Life! Choose reading my retrospective!

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



Fight Club is the story of an unnamed narrator (from here referred to as Jack) who unconsciously creates an alter ego for himself in the form of revolutionary anarchist icon Tyler Durden. This split in the personality of the hero manifests itself in a whole new person being created who helps Jack to become free from the trappings of modern life. However Tyler is also an agent of control with great power over Jack and therefore Fight Club is both about power and control as well as liberation.

Tyler is virtually a fascist. His ideology is centred on the idea that pain and violence can be progressive. Fascists believed in the benefits of war, particularly for men as war can bring out the best in people. War allows people to come together to fight a common good, allows men to fight and be brave and strong and also helps society to advance technologically. Tyler believes that by creating his own army, he can change society for the better. These changes will include acts of destruction, damage and violence or at least the very real threat of violence. For example he intends to blow up credit card company buildings and threatens to kill a man if he does not strive to reach his potential by becoming a vet.


Tyler also controls his army like a fascist dictator. He shouts slogans at them like ‘you are not a beautiful and unique snowflake’, therefore controlling what they think and taking away their individuality. He makes them dress in an all-black uniform and shave their heads so they look the same. He refers to them as space monkeys who should be willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. He has great power over his army and controls their actions, their words and their thoughts. Project Mayhem members begin behaving like indoctrinated cult members, unable to think for themselves and chanting ‘His name is Robert Paulson’ simply because they fail to question authority.

Fight Club itself turns into Project Mayhem and the rules state that its members should not talk about it. Similarly Tyler insists that Jack does not talk about Tyler to Marla. Jack even says that sometimes Tyler spoke for him, almost like he is an abused and silenced housewife. Tyler may have some revolutionary politics and appear as a liberator but he is also a very controlling and domineering force in the film.


On the other hand, Tyler is also a liberator, a revolutionary and an anarchist. He is created by Jack because Jack is unhappy with the state of his current life, desperate for an escape from the boring existence of the modern corporate man. Tyler offers him freedom in the form of giving up his possessions, his job and learning to live without the trappings of IKEA catalogues and comfy living. Tyler teaches Jack to let go and ‘hit bottom’. This seemingly cures Jack of his insomnia and allows him to speak up for himself at work, scaring his boss and finally leaving his job. Tyler believes that having unnecessary possessions and media marketing keep people enslaved in their jobs and consuming products that they do not actually need. Tyler attempts to convince young men that they do not need to work boring jobs and keep buying whatever advertising tells them to buy. He wants men to free themselves from the comforts of modern living.

Tyler also tries to start a revolution against capitalism and the culture it has created. He wishes to blow up credit card companies in order to erase the debt record. In this way he is a socialist as he wants everyone to be free from debt so that all human beings can be equal again. He believes that destroying these companies, he can bring about real change in an unfair and unequal society. Marxists believe that a revolution will be necessary in order to bring about social change and to redistribute the wealth of the world to all people equally. Tyler appears s to be a revolutionary but he has to be a dictator to begin the revolution. The question is, in a freer and more equal society after erasing the debt record, would Tyler relinquish his power, leaving society to run itself or would he become an even more tyrannical dictator?


The film is also critical of corporate control over men in the modern world. Jack is bored and depressed because of the monotony of his job. His boss talks to him like a faceless robot and it seems that much of Jack’s life is dictated by work. He has to travel where work tells him and do as he is told. This allows him to afford the life he lives and the life that Tyler tries to get him to reject. Jack even mentions in his voice over that when space exploration develops, it will be the corporations that take control of the planets, naming them after themselves like ‘Planet Starbucks’. This shows that he thinks that corporate control is total and that their profits will allow them to explore and dominate the universe in the future. It is the banks that control the debt that keeps people working all their lives in order to pay it back and that Tyler wants to overthrow.

Advertising also is a key form of control that Tyler criticises for telling people what to buy, what to wear, where to eat and drink and how to look. Fight Club seems to stand against these sorts of control but in the end, the protagonist Jack rejects Tyler so perhaps it is more complex than to say Fight Club is simply anti-capitalist and against corporate control.


Marla appears to be the most liberated character in the film. She does not fear death, she does not let her gender stop her from attending testicular cancer support groups and she steals from others with reckless abandon. Jack/Tyler does seem to have some control over her as he manages to mess with her mind and she keeps coming back to him. She is also literally restrained and dragged back to Jack in the final scene of the film, showing that again, Project Mayhem is as much about power and control as liberating the masses.

The question of whether Fight Club is all about power and control or liberation really comes down to the intentions of Tyler and Project Mayhem. On the one hand their intentions to make a more equal society can appear noble and could help to set free a lot of the wage slaves of the world. On the other hand Tyler is a dictatorial presence and a hypocrite and it is only once Jack destroys him that he can truly be free. Fight Club is therefore about power, control and liberation. It questions corporate control over the world and has a character that advocates revolution but it also represents the revolutionary as a character to be critical and cautious of. Tyler is as much of a dictator as he is an anarchist and contrary to his demands, Tyler must be discussed. We have to talk about Fight Club.


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

 

2 Year Birthday and 150,000 Views

Happy belated birthday to the blog, sorry I missed it! It seems I started I Love That Film on March 5th 2011 so I've well and truly missed the official second birthday! Never mind at least this has allowed the total page views to reach 150,000 so there is a cause for double celebrations! It seems like only yesterday (actually three months ago) that I was celebrating 100,000 page views!

I'm useless at all the technical stuff so I'm afraid not much has changed since the birth of this blog. I probably write a lot more regularly and hopefully a little better. Instead of putting the love, care and attention into I Love That Film, I have been focusing more of my efforts on writing for other websites such as Filmoria and Static Mass Emporium.

I wish I had the skills and know how to turn I Love That Film into one of the most popular and pretty websites in the world but unfortunately I am lacking in the technical department so my design is the same old boring, unorganized mess it always has been.

Speaking of which, one thing I am looking to do is have header things at the top of the page so that you can get here and find reviews, stuff on horror, trailers, news, academic stuff and pieces for my media students really easily as at the moment I have no idea how people find stuff on this page if they are looking for anything specific. If anyone can help with this, I'll be forever grateful!

One thing that has changed over the 2 years of blogging is that I have moved my comments to this Disqus thing as recommended by a fellow blogger, Bonjour Tristesse. I'm not sure if it was a coincidence but I'm sure my page views started rising around this time but I also started getting a hell of a lot less comments.

When I first started blogging, I was very active in the community, visiting and commenting on a huge range of blogs regularly. Now I have less time I've become way more picky on the blogs I read and particularly the posts I comment on. This I think has also left me with far less comments on my own posts but I don't mind too much as long as the page views keep going up!

To be honest, I'd say 95% of the comments I receive these days are spam which I am also going to try and stop as they are getting on my nerves! Again, any advice gratefully appreciated!

I assume as I don't get so many comments these days that it is because I don't have many regular readers from the blogging community anymore which is really sad as there are a whole load of blogs out there that I completely love and respect. On the other hand I guess the page views must come from search engine results so I hope that means I am doing something right.

I'm not sure how to take this blog to the next level. I'm desperate to start finding some paid work as a film writer but not really sure where to go from here. I get so many opportunities from Filmoria that my work for them is just utterly awesome but it also costs me a lot in train fares to London.

This has turned into a rather depressing confessional diary thing. What is more the guy who helped me incredibly at the start of this journey, Scott from Front Room Cinema seems to have very sadly disappeared from the blogosphere.

Well I still love blogging so I'm going to keep going with I Love That Film but I'm also going to keep trying to take my film writing to another level somehow. As much as I'm in this for the love, I'd also love to do it even more for a living!

Thanks so much to everyone who keeps visiting, commenting, helping and supporting. It really does mean a hell of a lot to me!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

End of Watch, The Hunt, Sightseers

Three of the best films of last year, David Ayers' End of Watch, Thomas Vinterberg's The Hunt and British Ben Wheatley's Sightseers are all either just out now on DVD and Blu-ray or are released this coming Monday for you to buy or rent.

I reviewed all three of these films for Static Mass Emporium when they were in cinemas last year and now that they are out for home release, my reviews are proudly sitting on the front page again today.


David Ayer’s End Of Watch is a blistering look at a pair of LAPD cops played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña and the bravery it takes to fight drug dealing cartels.


Mads Mikkelsen stars in Thomas Vinterberg’s powerful Danish drama The Hunt, a tense tale of a teacher accused of a crime against a child that he did not commit.


With Sightseers, director Ben Wheatley follows Kill List with a pitch black British serial killer comedy that lets loose psychotic lovers on a caravan driven killing spree through Yorkshire.

All three of these films made it in to my top 20 films of 2012 with End of Watch and The Hunt taking the 3rd and 2nd places respectively just behind The Dark Knight Rises at the number one spot. Sightseers came in just outside the top 10 at number 12.

I'm very proud of these three reviews and even more proud to be sharing positive reviews of three films that really deserve to be seen by as many people as possible. End of Watch you've no doubt heard of and if you are a British reader, you likely saw a poster or trailer for Sightseers but I'm sure not everyone heard of or even got a chance to see The Hunt. Now is the time to rectify that.

Please click all the above links and check out my reviews of End of Watch, The Hunt and Sightseers. I'm sure that at least one of these great films will take your fancy!

Let me know your thoughts!

Weekend Screenings: The Lords of Salem, Trance, The Liability

I've got three wonderful screenings lined up this weekend; two for Filmoria and one just for me (though I may end up reviewing it for Filmoria too). Rob Zombie's new horror The Lords of Salem stars his good old wife Sheri Moon Zombie again and looks far more interesting than his other films so far, particularly those last two Halloween remakes. From the trailer below, it looks very atmospheric and almost like it is going for a slightly more mature style than his earlier films. Less all out gore and brutality and more of a focus on a single female character who may or may not be going crazy perhaps? Perhaps it's even fair to say The Lords of Salem looks like Rob Zombie has been studying the likes of Dario Argento and Roman Polanski. Perhaps.



Trance is Danny Boyle's first film since 127 Hours. Danny Boyle is one of my favourite directors for three reasons: Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and 127 Hours. He may have been busy with a theatre version of Frankenstein and the small matter of the London Olympics Opening Ceremony (which I have still yet to see as I was on honeymoon in Costa Rica), but he is back with a great cast, a very interesting and trippy, twisty sounding premise and one of my favourite actors Vincent Cassell. I literally cannot wait to see this film. Though Boyle has had the odd misfire, I think this looks like a good one. My Danny Boyle Retrospective is going up on Filmoria tomorrow so please check it out. I've been going through his entire back catalogue which has mostly been a pleasure.



I'm not sure what to think about this next one. The Liability is a British hit man thriller. It's got a great cast with Tim Roth, Peter Mullan and Jack O'Connell and despite the silly macho voice over in this trailer, looks like quite a bit of fun potentially. I'll watch Tim Roth in anything and Jack O'Connell is bound to be a very big star eventually. He was great in Tower Block and is already set for bigger things with the upcoming 300 prequel.



Any of these films take your fancy?

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

In concert and As-live Music Videos



Following on from my discussion of music genres and their different styles of video, I will now look at other styles of music videos. A very common style of music video is the in concert or as-live video. In concert videos are where a director puts together a music video from one or more live shows. Clips from the gigs are edited together and usually put to a professionally recorded version of the song. Sometimes the audio will actually be from the live performance but usually not.

As-live music videos on the other hand still have the artist performing in front of a crowd but the performance has been set up specifically for the production of the music video. Both of these styles showcase the energy or emotion of a live performance of the band, making them look popular as they have an audience and also helping the band to hopefully sell more concert tickets.


A huge range of camera angles are used in these styles of video as if the band’s performance has been captured from every possible angle. The camera work and editing will often reflect the pace of the music and the energy of the performance. There is still a great deal of focus on the lead singer but often there are plenty of shots of the audience too. Fans of the band can then see other fans on screen in their videos and can feel a sense of camaraderie. Often as-live videos will be more experimental in their camerawork such as in the video for Chop Suey by System of a Down.


In as-live videos, the location the performance is shot in will also be relevant. For example Sum 41’s Fat Lip is filmed in a skate park which will no doubt appeal to much of the target audience. In the video for Paradise City, Guns N Roses are filmed in real stadium concerts at the height of their popularity, showing just how incredible and huge their success has been.


Often the live performances might be intercut with other images. For example The Omen by Prodigy has a creepy little girl wandering through the crowd, Paradise City has backstage footage of the band and Papa Roach’s Last Resort has inserted shots of the fans in the crowd at home in their bedrooms. Coldplay’s Fix You starts with the lead singer wandering the streets and then ends with the band playing live.








What are your favourite in concert or as live music videos? I'm always on the look our for more examples from a range of music genres as I know some of my students will not be fans of my taste in music though I do try to include and refer to a range. I even put that horrible man Chris Brown on here.

Music Genres and Music Video Conventions



Different genres of music have different styles of music video. Rock music videos are generally very different to rap videos and dubstep videos, but similar across many sub-genres of rock such as videos for metal songs and punk songs. My students on the BTEC Media course have to write about the style of one genre of music.

Here I will look at a couple of different genres. Firstly rock videos are often very much based around an as-live performance of the band. The videos below of Green Day, Foo Fighters and Slipknot all show this. Often the performance will make up the entire video as in American Idiot where a single location has been used. Similarly in Before I Forget only one location is used. On the other hand in Best of You, there is a few locations used but the video keeps returning to the main location throughout the video. This video also has added insert shots that are quite surreal and quickly cut in to add something to the video apart from performance. It is almost like cutting to a narrative but these images appear almost random but no doubt have some element of lyric interpretation in them.


Rock videos often focus heavily on the sight of the band playing their instruments; the guitars and the drums are often filmed at key moments in the song. The lead singer usually gets more screen time and close ups than the rest of the band, as seen in both the Green Day and Foo Fighters songs. This means there can be a lot of lip synching and the audience can clearly identify the ‘leader’ of the band and see their emotions as they sing the song. The Slipknot video beautifully subverts this by never showing any of the band members’ faces. They are known for their masks at live gigs and in their other videos but in this video they are unmasked but their faces are never shown. This keeps their fans interested and waiting to see the elusive faces of the stars.


Other common techniques are the use of slow motion and quick, hectic cuts and cutting to the beat of the songs. The band are often filmed from a low angle to make them appear important or to give the viewer of the video and audience-eye-view like at a live gig. American Idiot also features the band being filmed within the video and we see them on a screen within a screen. This idea of being watched/filmed is often present in music videos. Rock videos are often dark and the band members dress in a fashion that would appeal to the target audience, often in dark clothing.




Rap videos on the other hand are very different. The examples below show two of the main differences in gangster rap videos. Both work on strict stereotypes of African American males but Candy Shop shows 50 Cent as extremely popular with a wide selection of scantily clad females who are there to dance and look sexy. It also makes him look incredibly wealthy and successful. Amusingly it then undercuts all this by showing it all to be a dream at the end.


Still DRE on the other hand plays up the ‘street’ style, emphasising that the rappers are from the ‘hood’, still popular with the ladies but despite their wealth and success, still rapping about being real gangsters on the streets of LA. There is a focus on cars and girls' bodies throughout. In both these rap videos the artists are dressed appropriately for the genre and they lip sync to camera for much of the video.



There are many other music genres that could be explored and I hope that some of my students will take on more modern music genres such as Grime and Dubstep to discuss if a style has emerged in music videos for these types of music.