Another month closer to normality. I can taste the warm beer already.
In all honesty, this month has been a bit of blur – my only concept of time is completely orientated around Manchester City games. So in that case, I’m just gonna get cracking for the sake of consistency.
SCRIPT OF THE MONTH
February was all about writing for me. I only managed to squeeze one YouTube video out because of it.
The reason I prioritised writing above all is two-fold.
I have recently got in touch with a screenwriter and they have been tremendously helpful to me. And before getting in touch with her, I was convinced that the film industry would continue to seem impregnable for me. But now, it feels like I’m finally cracking through the walls. Andy Dufresne style, but even he made it eventually. Anyway, she said she would have some spare time at the start of March to read over my stuff so I’ve gone gung-ho writing and rewriting to meet that aim.
The early-bird deadline for Austin Film Festival’s Screenwriting Competition is March 16th and this is one script I wanted to enter.
But anyway, the bastard is done (for now). I’ll wait until I get some feedback before I decide whether it’s just finished, or finished finished.
A couple YT videos hopefully. A final re-write of ‘Dying For An Inheritance’ in time for Austin. And hopefully, a scene-by-scene breakdown of the next script I’m going to write on Ching Shih.
Look her up on wikipedia if you have no idea who she is.
Anyway, this’ll most likely get no interaction but to hell with it, I need help on a title.
MOvie reviews of the month
Nomadland (dir. by Chloe Zhao)
As discussed last month, the lack of new UK releases is painful. So for the first time in years, I turned to Putlocker. And in all honesty, the constant pop-ups and the picture quality, especially the shadows, hampered my experience a bit.
But what I can say is that this is an Oscar frontrunner for a reason. It’s rare to find a film told with such honesty. There’s no embellishment, no stylisation. It feels like a documentation on a snippet of an ostracised community, bound by loss and humility. It is both bleak and beautiful. As soon as cinemas open I will be flooding in to re-watch it.
Also, Francis McDormand is going to sweep up awards left, right and centre. And having seen her performance, I will have zero argument with that.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Malcolm and Marie (dir. by Sam Levinson)
What can I say that’s nice about this movie? Well, in patches Levinson seems to capture a real life-like voice in his writing. And erm… well quite simply, John David Washington and Zendaya deserved better than the rest of the film’s self-aggrandising bullshit. Bar the patches that I previously described, the rest of the film is brimming with an adolescent impetuousness and angst. It’s well, boring. Plus, the best camera work is all in the first five minutes, after that it’s all a bit… meh.
Rating: 2 out of 5.
MOVIE IDEA OF THE MONTH
This idea I had a while back when watching Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. It was also an afterthought after I watched a Louis Theroux documentary on US prisons.
The idea is this – a play but told via film.
It would tackle very serious themes, such as the diabolical state of the US prison system and racism.
The cast would be as such:
The protagonist – a new inmate thrown into a communal cell. Beaten upon arrival.
A young kid (14) – got involved in a drug gang from a young age. The gang forced him to shoot someone.
An older, respected inmate – he would be due his release and would be protective over the kid.
A mentally ill inmate – no care for his mental illness. Extorted by other inmates.
A gang-member – fully indoctrinated by the make-belief laws with the prison system and gangs.
Two white prison guards.
And it would end in tragedy, the gang-member killing the older inmate who is due to be released. That’s the broad brushstrokes and I believe it could be an incredibly strong story.
However, I don’t think I should be the one to write it. I mean, what can a white, middle-class Englishman tell anyone about the struggle of the black community in America? I’d wager I am as ignorant as most people and although my intentions always come from a sincere place, I would be bigoted to believe that I can authentically write about these people and their struggles. So I will look elsewhere, but I hope a similar film will soon be made (perhaps it already has) because it is an incredibly important story to tell.
So, how was the first month of the year it was all supposed to get better?
You know what, I was about to go on a crusade about all the tragic inevitability of the current climate and unflinching ineptitude of this country but nobody wants to read any more about that, do they? Well I certainly don’t so allow me to be self-indulgent. I guess that’s what a blog is at the end of the day.
Anyway, I managed to hit my YouTube target of two new videos this month. So that’s a big plus. The first one has done alright, the second one less so but I had minimal expectations.
If you need twenty minutes of your day to be filled, allow me to help you out and after that thinly veiled conceit, please help me out by watching, liking, commenting, subscribing, all the good stuff.
I’ve also written my script for my next YouTube video which is going to be titled ‘How Scorsese Directs Motion’, which will hopefully be done in the next week or so to keep up with schedule.
Screenplay wise? Started off really good before all my momentum came to a crash. The missing part of the rail road? Honestly, just a lack of motivation and inspiration. Loads of people are experiencing it so I’m trying to not be *too* harsh on myself. But yeah, I really want to get this script done soon because I am hoping to enter it into the Austin Screenplay competition (and also into their Horror competition). The deadline for the early fee is March 26th so being a tight arse, that’s the goal.
Anyway, that ties neatly into…
Script of the month
^ Bit of an upgrade from ‘scene of the week’, don’t you think? Even if it is a bit misleading.
So, I’m up to page 70, nearing the end of my second act and things are kicking into gear. My guess is that I’ll need another 25-30 pages to wrap it all up.
If you need reminding and want to be intrigued, here is my provisional logline for ‘Welcome To The Neighbourhood’:
When a crooked lawyer returns to his home town to escape his past, he discovers a cult that controls the village from the inside out. And they’re after him. But they don’t wish him harm, they want to hire him.
One of the most painful things this month has been the lack of access to new films. I don’t think I’ve managed to watch a single 2021 release so far. It’s a shame that we can’t get access to HBO Max in the UK because it’s mentioned liberally in every podcast I listen to with everyone citing it as their go-to place for all the latest releases.
Hopefully, this next month will be better with films, such as Nomadland and Minari, due to be released this month in the UK. But for now, I’ve been catching up on some TV shows…
Vikings, Season 6 02
In my mind, Vikings was a once great show. In reality, it was a once pretty-good show that I stayed loyal to due to the very thing that grabbed my intention when I first started Season 1 – the story world. I’ve always had an interest in all things swords and mythological. As I have got older, however, and begun to understand not just what makes good storytelling but also the distinctions between the facts and fiction of Viking culture and mythos, Vikings has been on a gradual decline.
For starters, the shreds of historical evidence that the show was based upon have been tossed aside so the main characters can pick up their axes once more, revisit old enemies and well… die. But this would be fine providing it builds the characters arcs to a unifying and gratifying crescendo, right? Except it doesn’t. unfortunately, a sizeable chunk of the last season is given to characters that we either feel little to no attachment for or are completely new. All done because in order to give the sons of Ragnar and co a last swansong that is more akin to a whimper. But by doing that the locations synonymous with the show, namely Kattegat, are left to be scrambled over.
I will admit, the last ten episodes had some high moments. Particularly the first episode, which in many ways was an embodiment of the Viking ethos surrounding heroism and legend. Even if I still can’t fathom why on earth the Rus were in Scandinavia in the first place. But after that high of an episode, the rest of the season followed the downwards trajectory that the show had been coasting along for a few years now. It seems, looking back upon it, that there never appeared to be a roadmap for how everything was all going to play out. Perhaps, the creators and writers tackled themselves to think like Vikings. They could not settle, always looking for the newest adventure without a thought of what they had left behind and what they will do after.
Anyway, I stuck with it. All six *coughs* eight *coughs* seasons. Pat on the back for me.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
There couldn’t be a more apt title for a programme that excelled at making my skin crawl, my pulse quicken and my anxiety for travelling abroad at an all-time high.
The serpent in question is Charles Sobhraj, the French-Vietnamese serial killer who targeted young western travellers along the Hippie Trail of Southeast Asia in 1975 and 1976 with the help of his partner, Marie-Andrée Leclerc. Whilst both characters are played with a cold-blooded-ness by Tahar Rahim and Jenna Coleman respectively, the serpentine analogy can also be applied to the narrative structure that coils between multiple timelines to varying degrees of success. Whilst at times, such as Episode Three, the approach effectively ramps up the tension on-screen, during other moments it can be disorientating. In the first two episodes especially, I had a hard time grasping what was happening at all times, in fact the story never propelled at a constant pace and the main thing that kept me engaged was the atmosphere of fake smiles, telling glances and youth seconds away from being stolen.
The cast must gain praise for their ability to maintain my interest during the more stagnant moments in the series. Nobody has a bad day at the office and the dynamics within Sobhraj’s and Knippenberg’s inner circles played off wonderfully at times. Despite this, I never felt that anyone’s performance shined brighter than the others and I believe that is as a result of the writing never quite scratching underneath an inner, existential level within all the characters. If anything, this reluctance to not delve that one step further within the characters, the motivations (on all sides of these tragedies), or the implications of these horrific actions, is why the show doesn’t transcend into something brilliant.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
His Dark Materials, Season 2
I must express my surprise that this show hasn’t really taken off into the mainstream consciousness. In the void left by Game of Thrones and other shows, combined with the Phillip Pullman’s strong reputation, I believed this was going to be sure fire hit. It has all the makings of one – the cast is excellent, the production design is stellar and the CGI is as good as most things in Hollywood. Perhaps, people still have underwhelming memories of 2007’s The Golden Compass and that has turned people off before they’ve switched it on.
So to you who has probably not watched it, how was Season 2? Better than the first season, in my opinion. The narrative, scale and locations all seemed more streamlined and focused, which was possibly an inevitability given the fact that The Subtle Knife is the shortest book in Pullman’s trilogy. As previously mentioned, the production is fantastic and the cast do a stellar job (brief side note: Dafne Keen is one big hit away from everyone mentioning her in the same breath as Millie Bobbie Brown, of which she is very deserving). Ruth Wilson’s Mrs Coulter deserves extra props for a complex and chilling portrayal that teeters between overwhelming villainy and redemption.
Perhaps, despite my praise, there are reasons for the show not hitting as wide an audience as it would’ve hoped for. For starters, the world and lore is so rich that the show can hand-hold and be unforgiving in equal measure. Secondly, the density of the world can at times detract from the pace of the story and when coupled with the fact that the show is consistently serious, with very little humour scattered within, that can be seen as a drag for some people. And finally, perhaps the fact that the worlds of this series interconnect with our own can detract from the escapism of the series. You don’t go to this show to submerge yourself into the Seven Kingdoms or be swept away by Hogwarts and its mysteries. It is more grounded, familiar and perhaps for some people, lacklustre.
Nevertheless, this is a show that I am excited to see the conclusion to and I hope that the final series can build upon what it has done well so far, give its characters more gravitas and weight and conclude all the relevant arcs in a fantastical manner suiting to such a story.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
And finally, I’m going to leave a little eulogy here.
Literally, the first item of news that I digested in 2021 was something which shook me. It was the tragic passing of alternative hip-hop artist, MF DOOM, a.k.a. Daniel Dumile, Viktor Vaughn, , Metal Face King Geedorah, The Illest Villain, Zev Love X, Metal Fingers, or, most simply, DOOM.
Now, celebrity deaths generally don’t effect me, at all. At the time, my dad’s side of the family was mourning Manchester City’s King of the Kippax, Colin Bell. The fact that my dad cried when he found out the news was really sobering. Bell was already a certified legend by the time my dad was born and so it might be hard for some people to understand exactly why his death would have effected my him. But it was because my dad attached meaning to Colin Bell, a personal meaning, solidified by the fact so many of his family are now called Colin, after our number 8. And yet that sadness did not trickle down to me because I was experience my own personal grievance.
My experience with DOOM has always been a personal one. When I struggled during my first year in university was the time in which I first got into hip-hop. Which was a) a far cry from my earlier music taste, and b) probably a result of the fact that I finally met people that didn’t hail from Manchester and didn’t hail New Order and Oasis as the pinnacles of music. Anyway, I started off by listening to Loyle Carner, Anderson Paak, the usual soft boy stuff. And then I found DOOM.
My mind was shattered. I’d gone from experiencing the smooth jazz rhythms of these newer artists to a man, an artist, a super-villain that destroyed all conventions of rhythm. I was inducted into a world of sampled commercials in ‘Meat Grinder’, comic-book beats in ‘ALL CAPS’, every other word rhyming in ‘THAT’S THAT’, 82 instrumentals in a single joyous mix of ‘Special Herbs’, narrative arguments in ‘Can I Watch?’, the wise words of the weird yellow Quas, an honest innocence that fractures mid-verse in ‘Fancy Clown’ and the genuinely fucking funny lyricism of everything, no less so in ‘Great Day’.
And that is why DOOM always felt personal to me. I felt like I discovered him. That I was in a long standing comic comic-book world when I pressed play. I felt like I was the one to introduce him to my friends and that I had to wear my cheap brass MF ring even if it turned my finger green. And that is why, when he passed, it took a good while to settle in. His music had been such an integral part of my life in the last few years, making a mockery of everyone else in my Spotify wrapped year-on-year. And so I felt like I almost grieved alone. That his music was for me and me alone.
But I couldn’t have been more wrong. Seeing the overwhelming love from the hip-hop community on social media and beyond gave me a big smack-in-the-chops wake up call – that no one can have The Illest Villain to himself. And that if you truly love someone’s music, or art, you should be nothing but happy when more people become aware and start appreciating them. And I envy every last one of you that have discovered Doom for the first time in the last month. And his passing, if anything, has been a timely reminder that art is immortal and that is why I could never commit myself to a life in which I didn’t create. So thank you, for one last lesson, I’m sure it won’t be the last.
You either die a villain, or immortalise yourself enough to see yourself become the hero.
So, now I’m going to appropriately remix the structure of my blog…
TV IDEA OF THE MONTH
Hand on heart, this idea has been with my for 3 years now but there has never been a more appropriate time to share it.
I hope one day to help make an Adult Swim-style episodical animated series based on… you guessed it, MF DOOM.
So, the series would be based off albums. The episodes based off songs.
E.G. Season 1 – Vaudeville Villain
We see the making of Doom, what brings him to villainy. Perhaps turn ‘Can I Watch?’ into an episode of unrecognised heartbreak, that sort of thing.
And yes, he can have face offs with other characters, CZARFACE, whilst having his trusty sidekicks, Bishop Nehru and Quasimoto.
First off, a little pat on the back to everyone that has got through 2020. And to anyone who has managed to make something of this year, a massive round of applause to you.
For me, I managed to find a few moments of light amongst the darkness of, quite frankly, the worst year in recent memory.
I managed to finish three screenplays. Not finish finish, but they’re on their way. And considering at the start of the year, I had never managed to finish a first draft, that’s progress.
I started a YouTube channel. I may only have a handful of views but I have created it and continued to work on it. And to any of you who haven’t got round to watching them, consider it your Christmas present to me, it really does help a lot:
And I made arguably the most mature decision of my life when I decided to leave the security of a full time job to follow my passions.
For all of that and for the fact that this deadly virus hasn’t directly effected myself or any of my love ones, I consider myself very lucky.
So, with all that out in the open, what are my goals for 2021?
To have 5 finished finished screenplays. This was a goal for 2020 but quite frankly, that was a bit optimistic and also, I now realise what it means to have a finished screenplay. It means a lot of work. It means writing it, rewriting it, then sending it to someone who knows what they’re talking about and then rewriting it again.
To send 2-5 of the scripts into screenwriting competitions and hopefully, doing better than the script I sent this year which was barely even a finished screenplay, never mind finished finished.
To send queries to production companies for all of those scripts.
To build my YouTube channel by posting a video at least once every 3 weeks. And if I can manage that, I hope I can also achieve another goal – to be eligible for the YouTube Partner Programme. For that I need 1000 subscribers and 4000 watch hours and guess what? I’m a long loooong way off.
To pass my driving test. At the time of writing, Manchester has just been casually plopped into Tier 4 so my February practical test is in jeopardy to say the least, but in a year? I can do that.
To work on at least one film set, which isn’t going to be possible without a driving license.
And then the biggie – to write, produce and direct a short film.
Now, if I could achieve all that, or even six out of the seven. It would be a magnificent 2021. But I thought that about 2020, so here’s to mindless optimism. *Clink*.
Now, time for the usual blog post shenanigans.
MOVIE REVIEW OF THE WEEK
Now as you may or may not have noticed, I haven’t written a blog post since October as a result of this year’s accumulative fatigue. So I’m not going to force you through a stream of movie reviews from the last 8-10 weeks, and also, I just can’t be arsed, really.
So instead, I help numb your inevitable boredom during the New Year and potentially new lockdown by giving you some recent film recommendations:
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix)
A Sun (Netflix)
Small Axe (BBC)
Sometimes Never Rarely Always (Amazon)
MOVIE IDEA OF THE WEEK
Honestly, I haven’t been madly inspired recently. I have a single-minded track with which scripts I’m doing when. So currently, I am working on a thriller/horror called Welcome To The Neighbourhood and then I am going to research for my spec based on the pirate lord, Ching Shih, who I have talked about in a previous post.
I have, however, had one exciting new idea. A female led espionage story in a dystopian world. So imagine a female Bond in the story world of Blade Runner 2049 or Ghost in the Shell. And I could also fuse it with another idea I have had in which humanity begins to de-evolve. Perhaps, that degenerative disease (which I’d called KARMA disease) could be the reason for my apocalyptic, dystopian world.
Potentially, if the target for my screenplays goes well, this might be the sixth one I complete this year. Maybe, maybe not. But it sounds pretty cool, right?
SCENE OF THE WEEK
One of the last things I completed this year was yet another draft of Dying For An Inheritance, after I got some script coverage back from a producer. So have the full script on me:
I’ve been absent for a couple of weeks again, for a number of reasons. Firstly, for the sake of you poor souls that read this, meaning that I wanted you to actually have something to read about. As opposed to my usual, self-indulgent drawl about what has gone wrong in the previous week. Secondly, I have been engrossed… consumed… frustrated to the ends of my wits by what I have been working on that I have not been capable of typing a single word on my laptop if it isn’t going to get me closer to the finish line.
I have just crossed said finish line. For the second time, I may add.
What have I been working on?
MY first video essay
I underestimate nearly every endeavour I undertake.
My laptop now talks to me. I have begun to interpret its heavy breathing as great internal pain and stress.
There needs to be a ‘Making YouTube Video Essays for Dummies’ book.
SETBACKS (catch your breath before reading…):
Trying to create a relatively complex video whilst learning how to use editing software from scratch is a task suited only to the mentally ill. If you haven’t guessed yet, the plethora of buttons and editing jargon on one of the several pages on the software is, as an exhausted young man once said, a mind fuck.
Having no guide with how to actually source clips of the appropriate films and then get them into the editing software. Want me to bore you? Tough, because I want a little vent.
SO, originally, I downloaded a software that converted YouTube videos into a useable format for editing. Okay, cool. The catch? You get five scenes of good quality, tops. With a watermark. The quality of the other clips in YouTube are so bad they’d make a blind man cringe.
But what about the rest of the clips you want to use? Screen-record your laptop whilst on a streaming service? Nope. Tried that.
What about a website like putlocker? Better, but zero audio.
Okay, but if you buy it then you’re good to go, surely? Good one.
But what if you buy it off iTunes AND download it? Encryption, baby.
Hmmm, I got it. BUY the blu-ray and download it onto your laptop. HA. I had this moment of euphoria, ‘how have I not thought of this before, hallelujah’. And then I crashed back to earth into a pile of dung, when I realised: ‘oh. My laptop doesn’t have a DVD player.’
But I had bought the blu-ray already. I’d already played my hand, I had to call the bet. So, I did. By investing £60 in Apple’s USB superdrive/DVD player malarkey.
And I got it and I was happy and oh my god, what the fuck it doesn’t fucking register blu-ray, fucking Apple are you kidding me!
So I had to wait another day for the SD DVD to arrive.
And it did. So, I then use another new software called MakeMKV. After a few tutorials, I’m good to go. Vrooom, downloaded.
It’s the goddamn commentary version.
Okay, round two: Tick the boxes, fear for my private data, disk go vroom.
Bang. No commentary.
ARGGGGGGHHHHH. Subtitles. Ugly big subtitles stretched across the screen.
Okay, anyway, 6 hours after getting the DVD. I managed to download it.
Pop, into my editing software it goes….. ‘Computer says no.’
MKV file no good, needs to be MP4.
More weird software and converting until I have Tesco Bags for Life under my eyes!
VLC player did the trick. First time. Wow. Into the editing software.
NO AUDIO. ZILCH. SILENCE.
Finally, finally. It worked, through some fiddling and praying.
£85 and probably 85 hours later and I had got the film into the software.
And you’re right, I hope people in high places don’t find their way to this blog.
That night I dreamt about hunting mammoths with Simon Pegg and his fabricated girlfriend. The girlfriend died.
But I did it. I finished the video. I wept, I cracked open a beer, I said this year was looking up, finally. And thus, I posted it onto YouTube, and…
Honestly, I thought it was in line with ‘Fair Use’. Apparently not. Here’s the original video anyway. Give it a watch, since nobody else is bloody able to. Plus, Copyright will probably take this down in minus 5 minutes so enjoy it when you can.
EDIT: I tried. You can’t. Apparently WordPress doesn’t even like my video.
But anyway, I’ve finished it for a second time. I just thought ‘I’m rewriting an essay, making it better, that is all.’ Admittedly, by the end, I rushed some elements of it. I just want to do something else and have it behind me.
In all likelihood, the new version will probably also get hounded on by the copyright fairies but, I haven’t given up yet. Not quite.
So please, after all my stress, watch the video on YouTube for me:
Turn it on, like it, mute it, open a new web tab for all I care. A watch and a like would go a long way.
So! Now you have skipped the previous section and hover the mouse over the ‘close tab’ section, allow me to continue normally.
What else happened?
I finally heard of the Austin Film Festival. I didn’t get through to the quarter finals. Honestly, if I had, I would have questioned their credibility as I got so excited that I had written ‘THE END’ for the first time, I shot it straight to them. I know it needs work and had waited for their feedback, which I can’t get until December, because… COVID? God knows, tbh. My goal is finish a decent draft of my short (and no, I haven’t worked on it recently) and then finish my rewrite of ‘The Gateway’ script before they give that back to me. Then, finally I can rewrite that.
I am also going to write up my next idea in the not too distant future, so allow me to tell you about it –
MOVIE IDEA OF THE WEEK
For a while now, I’ve thought about writing a thriller set in this creepy old gaff.
This little shack is barely 100 yards from my front door. Its use? The sign next to the door says ‘Place of Worship’ if you can make out the tiny text. The building is invisible on Google or Apple maps and its gates are always closed.
The weirdest part? It’s used, alright.
My dad is a guitarist and thus has done gigs throughout his life, all across the country. Meaning that he gets home at silly o’clock in the morning and therefore, is awake until silly o’clock in the morning.
So when he was having a smoke at the early hours of the morning one night, he sees a man heading towards the gate. Clunk, he unlocks it. The key holder.
All of a sudden, my dad realises: our road is chock-a-block with cars.
This key holder, opens the gates wide and suddenly, sends out a signal. A whistle and hand movement.
Immediately, car doors click open and slam shut. A hoard of undescriptive people rush into the gates in a huddled procession. No talking, no noise, like ants retreating to their burrows.
Seconds later, they have all slipped into the building. The gate is locked, the door is shut. Silence. Not to be seen again.
The sun rises and the cars are gone.
Now, I know the likelihood is that this is in fact a place of worship and I don’t mean to offend anyone, but A) this sent an uncomfortable shiver down my spine and B) got my brain thinking.
How did so many people fit in that tiny building? Does it go underground? Underground tunnels (think of Us). Cult practices? What is the purpose of what they do?
Some of these questioned were answered in a dream that I had. After I had woken up from being partly responsible for the death of Simon Pegg’s imaginary girlfriend, my mind appeared to be in a heightened state of anxiety. So the next time I fell asleep, it was even more twisted.
I was in a little village. Contained, as if nothing existed outside of it. Quaint and cute, how the typical American imagination would reconstruct an English town. I’m trying to get to grip with my surroundings when I’m shrouded in darkness again. Kidnapped.
The bag is taken off my head inside an office, belonging to a headteacher/law firm manager. You get the drill, old oak furniture, glazed windows, still smells of the cleaner.
These people stand before me, staring, silent and then all of a sudden, their eyes and mouth glow a harsh blue light. (The video I was making at the time also has clips of The World’s End, hence this.) Again, I’m knocked out. ‘Brainwashed.’ They take me to rooms with loads of young people to sign housing documents, selling my wallet and soul away to them.
After that, they pitched me up in some communal housing arrangement and put us all under house arrest. I escaped. Got caught again. I woke up.
So, all this in mind:
‘When a unfulfilled night-worker moves house, he discovers a secret society that only meets at nights but his discoveries don’t just put him at risk, they endanger his entire neighbourhood.’
The logline needs work, okay.
MOVIE REVIEW(S) OF THE WEEK(S)
The Devil All The Time (dir. by Antonio Campos)
I was excited for this film. The cast is fantastic, the concept of characters all existing in morally grey zones, discussions of religion and war. And… I was left disappointed.
For one, it’s the first time I wasn’t convinced by Battinson in a long while and I even liked that French accent in The King. Secondly, the interwoven narratives kept colliding in predictable ways. Imagine how a Tarantino film would play out but without any of Tarantino’s flair. And finally, the voiceover began to get into lazy territory.
The large cast of characters would be better suited to a mini-series in my opinion. Many required more fleshing out. Some smaller obstacles to overcome and show who they were without a voice-over outright telling us, before they go and deal with their biggest obstacles out of the blocks straight away. And that’s what it felt like, a lot. They had a story that could be ten hours and they crammed it into two hours plus, therefore everything was zero to one hundred. Especially considering, we don’t see Tom Holland’s protagonist for the first forty minutes. So that’s an hour-forty for ten odd hours of potential content.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked a fair bit about this film. The cinematography suited the tone, effective camera choices to portray how some characters felt trapped, others insignificant in ‘God’s plan’, others lonely, and the majority of the cast did a pretty good job.
And alas, I am not an all-knowing voice-over. So watch it and form your own opinion.
Saint Maud (dir. by Rose Glass)
Films such as this exhibit the direction that the horror genre has followed recently. A overwhelmingly fresh direction.
Gone are the days of copy and paste supernatural stories that hinge upon exhausted clichés, such as the jump scare. Don’t get me wrong, the jump scare shall (and should) always be a staple of the horror genre as it taps into that human anxiety of the unknown lingering nearby and the uneasy U-turns that smash into our lives in tiny temporal vacuums.
What I find so pleasing, and what Essex-born director, Rose Glass excels at is crafting atmosphere. In Saint Maud, the atmosphere is both internal and external. The internal is conveyed through Morfyyd Clark’s unnerving performance, flinching between exalted and a finger hovering over a switch, and Glass’ silently telling direction that displays Maud’s disconnect and close-up fury. The external, shot predominantly in dreary sea-side Scarborough, captures the essence of the isolated house, the fury of mother nature on the horizon and the spectral protagonist lost amongst it all.
Whilst the scares don’t come thick and fast, they are perfectly orchestrated in quiet moments of intimate terror. As a result, it may perhaps be more apt to call this film a character study. Taxi Driver heads to Scarborough and battles with godly (or devilish) inspirations, as opposed to socio-political struggles.
A moment to consider our local cinemas
My local Cineworld has closed.
Saint Maud, a critically acclaimed film, scheduled for release in March, was in said cinema for a single day before its closure. If a cinema is open and nearby yourself, go. For those among you who rarely go, it could be that you enjoy it more than ever. You will have more space and it will provide an escape that you most likely need from reality.
Because of the restrictions in place (2+ seats between every party/individual), they are struggling to survive. And whilst there may not be films that appeal to you, since the big players in Hollywood care only for the financial success of their films, there are plenty of other films available. This week I also saw Akira for the first time, a film thirty years older and thirty times more impressive than most of what is available on your television. All the Rocky films have played recently, Back to the Future and more classics (although I don’t really like BTTF – don’t shoot me). Films you want to see are available and likely, cheaper than ever.
There has been a cinema in my local village that has been closed down since I was born. Until this year, it was unoccupied, empty, a relic of a building that was the centre of a community. Now, after 20+ years, it is being converted into a carpark. Don’t let that happen to your local cinema. Don’t let streaming services become your only option. Support the jobs of people at the cinema. There is nothing for you to lose than a few quid and some self-respect after eating two pick-n-mix and a slushie.
SCENE OF THE WEEK
As stated earlier, I haven’t worked on the short in a couple weeks. Meaning a) I don’t want you to read it yet and b) You have a video to watch above. No more reading, hurray for you.
This is a week late. I say that in the knowledge that not a single human other than myself is outraged. Nonetheless, as I started this whole process as a matter of self-reflection, I must therefore explain myself, even if that is only to myself and my laptop screen.
Last week, I was disrupted by a personal tragedy. My dog, Star, passed away which consumed my thoughts and emotions when I was meant to write last week’s blog. He still does rule my mind, truth be told, but I feel like enough time has now passed for me to be able to reflect upon it with measured retrospect, rather than consuming sadness. He was fourteen, a bloody good age for a dog and his time had come. He suffered from what I believe to be canine degenerative myelopathy, which essentially is a defect that stops the brain connecting to the nerves in certain areas of the body, in Star it effected his back legs above all. He dragged his paws, his legs gave way and his ability to walk a few minutes around the field faded away. If anything, seeing him suffering from it was the greatest misery.
I believe one of the main reasons that mankind is so drawn to dogs is their simplicity. An owner’s relationship to their dog isn’t tainted with distrust, subtext or anxiety. A dog becomes a comfort against those very forces. No judgement, no change of heart, emotion is constantly requited. Thus, a dog’s greatest pleasures are the simple ones. A scratch behind the ear, a scrap of your dinner, a sniff of a bush. The fact that Star was deprived of those pleasures was something that I should have considered earlier, however, since he was my first dog, my dog, one I asked for, paid for and occasionally slept on the floor with, I was blind to his frustration and it was only until he stopped eating and didn’t perk his ears up at the sight of his lead that I noticed. And yet, what I believe to be a failure, he would have never viewed as such.
A final note, before I get too emotional and end up in a teary soliloquy, I was curious at the circularity of his life. He came into my life, lying down in the back of my mum’s car, head resting on my thigh, calm and content. His last moments were the exact same. We had to wait for an hour before the vets were ready for us. An hour I am so grateful to have had. Even though it was upsetting and anxious, it was a final hour where it was just me and him. I take comfort in the fact that I know in-between those two moments, his life was a full one. He destroyed enough sofas, chewed enough dry wall, bit enough postmen, ate a wider variety of food than any child at his age, jumped into enough ponds, sniffed enough butts, slept on enough beds, chased enough squirrels, punctured enough footballs, caught enough tennis balls, went into enough unadulterated joyous frenzies and received enough tickles behind his ears, on his belly and on his grey-flecked chops than almost any dog can hope to do in a lifetime. Now, I simply imagine him sprinting in the stars again, along with all the friends that he met along his way.
Now, down to the normal business before I berate myself anymore –
WHERE AM I AT?
So, in the last two weeks I have managed to complete a second draft of my screenplay, ‘The Gateway’. What I believe I’ve done in this draft is take it away from ordinary and cliché and took it into a unashamedly bat-shit-crazy direction. Due to this, it’s probably the first time I have written something that I genuinely think is unlike any film I’ve seen before. Step in the right direction. BUT, it’s in need of a lotta lotta lotta refinement. Character motivations, unfinished subplots, more effective set-up and pay-off. I’ve read through it and I think I know where it is weak and where it is strong. It’ll take longer to rewrite than previous scripts but this one is more complicated and needs to be watertight. Think Dog Day Afternoon x Requirem For A Dream x E.T. I know, right?
I might share my rewriting process on here, however, I think I’m going to make a YouTube video on that instead (more on that in a minute).
However, to take a break from the insanity of ‘The Gateway’, I’m going to take a week or two trying to write the post-apocalyptic short-film that I discussed a week or two ago. The concept is there but I need to flesh it out before writing it.
Secondly, my Berlin videos have been fully edited for a while. Now, I need to get round to creating a YouTube channel, posting them and writing my script for my Shaun of the Dead video essay. Busy busy busy.
Also, I went to London over the weekend which was just good for my mental health as I saw my university housemates which I hadn’t seen in ages. However, I am now an unorganised train wreck.
Oh, I also passed my theory test after being enough of a muppet to let it expire the last time I did it. BUT, I can’t book a practical for before the end of January 2021. Ha, 2020 is a bitch. Looks like the runner jobs are gonna be on hold for quite a while longer.
MOVIE REVIEW OF THE WEEK
I’m Thinking of Ending Things – dir. by Charlie Kaufmann
Oh boy, Charlie Kaufmann just has a mind that operates on a different creative dimension to anyone else. I’m not saying he is more creative than anyone else, I am saying that when you’re watching his work, you know it’s his work. Cerebral, awkward and just a hint of nihilism.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is his latest film, adapted from Iain Reid’s novel of the same name and similar thematically to his 2008 film Synecdoche, New York whilst the tone veers off into a twisted psychological-horror twilight zone. The film follows a young woman, portrayed excellently by Jessie Buckley (big career coming her way), travelling to her boyfriend’s (Jesse Plemmons) childhood home to meet his parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis) for a nightmarish meal, whilst internally she considers ‘ending things’ with her boyfriend. I won’t spoil anything else.
To define this film would not only be a disservice to Kaufmann but also to you, if you intend on watching it, for it is a film that requires your upmost attention across multiple viewings. It essentially dips its hand into many themeatic pockets, such as how the ego and media shape one’s identity and world view, time, grief, regret and inescapable immortality.
Now, among audiences this has rather polarising reviews. Yes, the film can be considered self-indulgent drivel if you approach it with a narrow mind that expects slasher or jump-scare horror but if you open yourself up to what Kaufmann is saying you could really enjoy it. It’s probably his best looking film to date, with acting that is equally human and unsettling and it is a film that rewards your thought. It’s on Netflix so just give it a go.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Before I move on, there are two more films I want to alert your attention to. If you live in Manchester, HOME is currently showing a restoration of Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine. If you’re doubting my taste after despising I’m Thinking of Ending Things, then let me reassure you with La Haine‘s 100% Rotten Tomatoes Score and 8.1 IMDB rating. Seats are getting booked up fast and it’s not going to be showing for long so do not miss out.
Or, if the sinking leather of your sofa makes it impossible to move your arse, try Park Chan-Wook’s The Handmaiden, which is now available on Netflix.
MOVIE IDEA OF THE WEEK
When I was in London, my inner kid jumped into my mind and said to me: ‘I wanna see some fucking dinosaurs!’
So, a trip to the Natural History Museum was in order and whilst I was there it got my creative juices going. And no, I’m not about to rip off Jurassic Park. Instead, whilst looking at the pea-head skulls of Neanderthals and the like, I began to think of a concept – devolution. What would happen to our society if we started to become more primitive? As we start to become ruled by instinct once more, when consciousness becomes only a maddening whisper? For dramatic purposes, I think these changes would have to happen quickly, rather than having a script that lasts 100 million years. But imagine a father having dinner with his family, only to forget how he uses the knife and fork in his hand; or, a man tells his lover that he loves them, only for them to not be able to say it back, to not understand conceptually or linguistically. Imagine a reverse of The Dawn of Man sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey. An opening image – a river bed, a soft trickle of water, a close up on a tuft of grass that is simultaneously crushed by a military boot. Establishing shot of a guerrilla war wherever you want to imagine it. Then the eyes of soldiers, already dehumanised through training, ready to kill. When crunch time comes to it, we follow one soldier who becomes completely incapable of using his gun. Expectation, reversal, hopefully an interesting hook.
As for the project, I like the idea of this devolution coming in the form of a disease, most likely man-made. Karma disease rings a nice tune for me, as does ‘KARMA’ for a title. Now its just a case of find the human story to be told within the whole and how I would fit a tangible and consistent goal within a sci-fi concept. Research time.
I’m also going to throw in another idea, since I was lacking in my latest post. It also ties into a couple of other things. It revolves around the first script that I ever wrote, called These Charming Men. Earlier this year, when I FINALLY completed it, finally wrote those revenant words ‘THE END’ – I got way too giddy for my own good and entered it straight into Austin Film Festival’s Drama Competition. I may have read over the whole thing… twice? Obviously since that, the wave of excitement crashed on realism’s shore and I have thought of numerous ways to improve upon it. Why am I telling you this? I should, should be finally finding out how it fared in the competition. My expectations are very low, I won’t lie, I think it’s my weakest script. Christ, I sound pessimistic. Point being, I’ll have concrete feedback from industry professionals and I didn’t want to begin rewrites without them. The draft I entered into the competition is available to view and download below.
And I’ve still not got to the fucking point have I?
Idea Number Two would to turn These Charming Men into a trilogy, TCM being the second of three films. The first would be a tale of T’s (a protagonist in TCM, if you read it) growing involvement in organised crime and the degeneration of his relationship with his family. The third instalment would be focused on his daughter, Janice, where circumstances force her to divulge the darker parts of her nature and she will be forced to realise the similarities between her and T.
The merit I see in this, from a writing standpoint, is that my re-writes of TCM should be executed as if that prequel exists. As if it is a film, canon, something readers/watchers know. Hopefully doing such an exercise will improve how organic my writing feels. On the point of improvement, I do feel what I have told you, i.e. what I have done wrong in my scripts etc., is prove that I have developed a lot as a screenwriter over the last five months, and that is probably as cheerful a note as I will ever end on.
Firstly, a word on the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman. It seems like cruel irony that I was discussing his future movie role of Yasuke the other week. We as audience members tend to be ignorant of the lives of those we worship on screen and the information we get is usually never from their mouths. The fact that Boseman continued to complete films, such as Marshall, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, to his stellar performance in Spike Lee’s recent Netflix hit, Da 5 Bloods and, of course, Black Panther – all whilst surviving a four-year battle with colon cancer, is many things. It is a testament to the human spirit, a king’s spirit, a superhero’s spirit. It shows our own ignorance and how we should repress our cruel and cynical thoughts towards those who harbour devastating truths. And it shows that, as he has done throughout his career, that humans are capable of extraordinary strength. His personal story only serves to embolden his role of King T’Challa in Black Panther, the most culturally important film in recent memory. The influence that Boseman has had on the black community is simultaneously an influence that is undeniable and one that I cannot fully understand. He showed black children that there are superheroes with the same skin as them, for that alone he will continue to always be celebrated.
After that, I’m becoming self-aware of the insignificance of everything else that I have to say. Nonetheless, this is a process I must force myself to be consistent with so if you continue to read with me, I thank you.
Up until a couple of days ago, I was on course for another bad week. When things aren’t going how I envisaged, I automatically get consumed with frustration and berating myself which leads me to a cycle of inactivity. My reinvigoration was a result of some words spoken by Aaron Sorkin in his Masterclass:
“When you’re writing, you need to be in a good mood.”
– Aaron Sorkin
Now, that is so simple. It is something that I knew subconsciously but always refused to accept. Sorkin went on to explain that his default position is writer’s block and that sometimes, he doesn’t actually write for months. Well, that’s alright when you’re an Academy Award winning screenwriter and I haven’t worked for that luxury of stasis. Nonetheless, just hearing him say it was liberating. It forced me to think differently. The last few days I have’t sat glaring at my laptop waiting for words to magically appear on the screen. So my approach is going to be different from now on – if it isn’t going well, don’t force it and move onto something else.
So with this all-too-late revelation, what have I achieved?
I wrote 30 pages of a new draft. Not bad, it’s leaning more towards the word vomit of a first draft but it is a complete overhaul so for now, it’ll do. This week, I intend to finish this draft. If I do so, I’m going to get to work on the short film idea that I spoke about last week.
I got a rough edit done of my Berlin video. Jesus, Mary and Joseph editing software is a brainfuck. One day, I spent four hours watching videos just so I could do the basics. Like basic basics. It’s getting there though, it’s rough, unprofessional but it’s enjoyable. Again, this week I intend to finish it. If I do, I’m going to write my script for the Shaun of the Dead video essay.
I joined a gym which is just as anxiety inducing as I imagined. As I type, my body aches but at least that it’s reminding me that there are some (albeit invisible) muscles still left in my body.
I’ve sorted out my routine finally, up at seven, out of bed pretty soon after. It’s bizarre how much it has an effect on me mentally. When I wake up late, I feel like I’ve already wasted some of the days opportunity which just puts me in a bad mood automatically, which, shock!, leads to me being even more unproductive.
I’ve finished Bob Saenz’s ‘That’s Not The Way It Works’ and now intend to start Robert McKee’s ‘Story’.
Basically, I feel like I’m finally getting to grips with the basics of what i wanted to do in the first place. Well, more like the first week but that crashed and burned like Manchester City’s annual Champions League hopes. But still, positive progression.
MOVIE REVIEWS OF THE WEEK
BABYTEETH – dir. by Shannon Murphy
I was one of eight people in the cinema watching this film. When the lights came on, I saw two people wiping their eyes.
Babyteeth is an unconventional Romeo and Juliet tale told in organic fashion both in the writing and the direction. The camera floats like lovers’ eyes, the performances are nuanced and powerful, all whilst the music shifts from Studio-Ghibli-esque piano to tunes to teen euphoria. Teen-like is an apt description for the emotional journey that the film takes you on. From angst, to awkwardness, to grief and to humour with a bipolar intensity, all within memorable frames often soaked in saturated colours.
I won’t deny, there were moments in which I questioned the choices made in this film, where my gut wrenched but this film made me feel – and that is what cinema of any scale should do. What also touched me was the overriding message: that nobody is perfect and we should accept that. I was ultimately won over by this film’s sensibilities.
I implore you to see this film whilst it is still in cinemas. Please, support independent filmmakers that pour their hearts into their films. They need the audience’s help to make more films and the director, Shannon Murphy (who also directed two episode of Killing Eve’s Season 3) deserves to make more films. Trust me, you’ll get more than you bargained for.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
TENET – dir. by Christopher Nolan
And now for a film that I am sure the majority of you will go and see. Remember, there was once a time when Christopher Nolan was in the same position as Babyteeth’s Shannon Murphy. A time where Nolan had only released Following, a film with a budget of £6000. Yep. Now he is one of the very few directors that production companies trust their oodles of money into for their own original stories. Nolan has now developed into mainline cinema’s most daring auteur. The man has an imagination that baffles mere mortals like myself.
Right, so when you go watch the film, here’s the Tenet rulebook:
Don’t be late
Don’t go for a piss
Bring your hearing aids.
I say this because Tenet works on a scale and intellectual level that requires every once of your attention. Something this complex (and it is his most complex film on first viewing) requires a lot of expository dialogue and it happens fast and often and the fucking sound mixing is a pain in the arse. So, in sound mixing there are levels. The score is on one, background noise another, sound effects another and for some reason in Nolan’s films, dialogue is bottom of the pile. Sometimes I really struggled to hear what they were saying and I’m a subtitles kind of guy as it is. That is my most glaring gripe.
My other gripe is also a result of Nolan’s vision for grand, intricate stories and that is the adverse effect it can have on character. Whilst John David Washington and Robert Pattinson both deliver strong, charismatic performances, the density of the story and concept means there is very little room for character development. They are tools for the story. Elizabeth Debicki’s character is the one that holds the emotional weight of the film and whilst it works, it isn’t enough.
None-the-fucking-less, the spectacle is just…
The things that Nolan manages to get on camera; buildings blowing up at the bottom whilst simultaneously being un-blown-up at the top, a fight between someone moving forwards in time and someone backwards in time, cars moving backwards towards those moving normally; they all amazed me. And let me add that Nolan almost always uses practical effects. It’s the stuff that the big screen is made for.
Ultimately, there are so many things that this film did well. The score by Ludwig Göransson was exceptional, the story structure worked expertly, the pacing was relentless. A personal highlight was also a scene filmed on the very pier I walked on a year ago in Amalfi and that was just one example of the beauty captured in the frames of the film. BUT (big but), it is a film that requires multiple viewings. For example, at the end there is an insert shot and I remember thinking, ‘oh fuck, I remember seeing that earlier’ and then, ‘oh fuck, I can’t remember its entire significance because my eyes, ears and brains have been overrided so much in the last 150 minutes’. And unfortuntely, there are flaws, it isn’t his best film. But you’re a fool if you don’t see this on as big a screen as possible.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
MOVIE IDEA OF THE WEEK
Honestly, this week I haven’t thought of many. My original trail of thought was again inspired by Aaron Sorkin, who said that the copyright of books is open to all if the author has been dead 70 years or more. But guess what? They’ve all been done. Every single last one. Don Quixote? Tick. Frankenstein? Tick tick. Gatsby? Tick tick tick. You get the gist. Basically every gold nugget of material has been swept up and done, and studios are continuing to buy book rights and do their own adaptations all the time.
Something more unconventional like A24’s upcoming The Green Knight is a refreshing twist on an ancient text is something that appeals to me. Meanwhile, I also considered more existentialist texts I loved when I was a teenager and thought it was really cool to be a nihilist. The problem? Dostoevsky, I haven’t actually read anything front to back. Whoops. Camus? Gotta wait another ten years. Conrad (not an out and out existentilaist, I know)? Well, my favourite book, Heart of Darkness, is just pointless since topping something like Apocalypse Now just isn’t going to happen.
You’re probably just as disappointed with this section as I am this week. Hopefully, next week I’ll be more imaginative.
SCENE OF THE WEEK
And finally, my magnum opus…
Now, THAT is realistic dialogue.
All jokes and procrastination aside, here is my scene(s) of the week from Act Two of ‘The Gateway’, of which the first few scenes are available on last week’s blog.
And that just about sums up another week and for once, I am feeling a lot more positive about the week to come.
I have a theory about Berlin. It is a phoenix city. Rebuilt from ashes, walls and war. The pace the residents move at reflect this. Life is slower than England. The same can be said with much of Europe, which is why I love visiting. But this pace in Berlin, the general assurance of the locals – perhaps, it is all a result of the long-remembered ashes. The structures of oppression have been broken and transformed into labours of love, art and at times, terrible beauty.
This process of transformation seems constant. Rooted from a deep understanding that Berlin has ascended from the lowest point of the valley and together, as a city, they have hiked up another hill. It’s a tall climb but the hill is worth it. A hill of culture, individualism, multi-ethnicity and healthy acceptance.
Perhaps, Great Britain should acknowledge we’ve been rolling downwards for a long time.
Back to Berlin: it is a city that radiates cool. From the in-yer-face graffiti laden cityscape, to the Wilhelmine architecture in Eastern areas, such as Prenzlauer Berg – there’s a balanced duality between new and old, refined and rough, monochrome and colour. As Berlin-based architect Matthias Reese said “we were poor, but we were sexy”.
But as so often is the case with short trips to cities, I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface and now I have an itch to discover more. This being my first visit, I was consumed with seeing the main attractions: East Side Gallery, Brandenburg Gate, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. All worthy of my time and attention, no doubt. Nonetheless, as is so often the case, aimless wandering reveals the best secrets though. One day, walking near Postdamer Platz my eyes peeked into an archway that led into a dream of an alleyway. A cinema café, walls stampeded with stickers and glorified with graffiti, hanging trees letting through ripples of light, packed tables of people babbling with beers. Just this one brief excursion has left me with an itch that will only be scratched by revisiting. It’s a city that I imagine surprises real Berliners once in a while.
Whilst entering that modern day Diagon Alley, I had a mini disaster. My camera ran out. Cruel comedic timing. My filming was thus limited to my iPhone. That mini disaster was one of many…
So, disaster time – since I am incapable of living a day on this earth without inflicting Armageddon onto myself.
#1. Raspberries. Sweet, sour, lovely, bastard raspberries. All I wanted was a refreshing zip of fruit whilst I was on the go. I had images of a picnic in a park, maybe some butterflies fluttering around my head. Instead, I had a soggy (and slightly fragrant) facemask for the remainder of my day, purple blotched notepads and I ‘ruined’ my missus’ blue cardigan. It’s tie dye now.
#2. Deja-vu. If you read my memoirs of travelling, specifically in Krakow, you will know that the first shop you enter, after you’ve dropped your bags off at your respective gaff, is a test of the human spirit. A baptism of fire. An unnecessary pain in the arse. All I wanted was water, you know, the thing you need to not die. But no. My card is rejected. Contactless? Uh-uh. My other card? Nope. My missus’ card? Noooooo.
To make matters worse, a newly formed line of angry Germans wanting to pay for their schnitzels was eyeballing me. And so, I did the walk of shame. I left my bag of shopping. Walked an age. Took cash out. Returned, tail between legs. Another queue. So I stand next to my bags and next to another person paying for their shopping whose wondering whether I’m going to nick his crisps or offer to pack his shopping for €20.
Eventually. Eventually, the kid behind the desk managed to sort me out. He paid for my shopping when I left the shop, bless him. It looked like his first day, first week at least – hands shaking when a problem arises, eyes shifting just to not focus on reality. Then his manager came, grilling everyone in German and pointing fingers.
I gave up. I handed the kid a €20 note, gave my thanks and bolted. The shopping came to €11.50.
#3. Purgatory. I lost the key card to the apartment. Left it inside the room. Leading all of your suspicions that I’m ‘not quite all there’ to be confirmed. And guess what? Reception was a ghost town. The phones sent me straight to answer phone. Their WhatsApp sent me automated messages so I felt mugged off by inanimate objects to harden the blow. It was traumatic. No more detail, no more reliving it. Just know that I didn’t wake up on a duvet of binbags next to some ‘new buddies’.
I got over my camera fear. The fear of looking like a weapon, of being the sort of tourist that you might roll your eyes at. I just had fun filming, even if it wasn’t anything special or innovative, I started to get to grips with the camera. Now with this footage, I’m going to experiment and attempt to make a travel video. That means using editing software for the first time, which is inevitably going to be a learning curve and a half, but hopefully I have fun doing it.
Secondly, I have felt revitalised when I’m writing. I made the decision to stop working on the script, ‘Moving Up In The Underworld’, that I’ve been plugging away at the last couple of weeks. It felt like too many dead ends and frustrations. Instead, I’ve begun another rewrite of a different script and it’s making my writing flow a lot easier.
I’ve started reading regularly again. Currently, I’m on Bob Saenz’s ‘That’s Not The Way It Works’. After reading several screenwriting books that try to teach you the craft, I needed something different. Saenz’s book not only inspires you with the freedom to write what you want, how you want but it is also a no-nonsense, hard fact look at the industry and what you need to do to build a career which is really refreshing. If you’re into screenwriting, read this before you read ‘Save The Cat’ and the likes, trust me.
I’ve also begun watching Aaron Sorkin’s Masterclass. An expensive but worthwhile investment.
Unfortunately, I saw nothing new this week. I intended to go to the cinema to see Babyteeth but things got in the way. I shall recitfy that this week.
I did, however, watch Searching (2018) from the comfort of my own bed and it is a film worthy of your attention. In fact, whether you believe it to be worthy or not, two minutes into this movie it will have your attention. In a vice grip.
At face value, the way it is filmed may appear like a gimmick. What you see as a viewer is literally only what the protagonist (portrayed brilliantly by John Cho) sees. His computer screen, his phone screen and news reports. That’s it. Whilst at first you may expect this to be reductive, it is far from it. The story is one you’ve seen before – the search for the protagonist’s daughter. But the way it is shown is something rarely done before and props to the director Aneesh Chaganty who was only 27 when the film was released, which I find just as inspiring as the bravery displayed by the way it was filmed.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
MOVIE IDEA OF THE WEEK
I felt more inspired this week. My ideas ranged from a property developer who arranges ‘exclusive’ house viewings, which are actually black market auctions and meetings to a Berlin-inspired drama about an old man who continues to party, lauded by his city and its youth. When he bumps into his long-lost daughter, however, he realises it might be time to grow up.
This idea was specifically inspired by Berlin’s “techno grandpa”, Bernhard Enste. Check this video VICE made on him:
My favourite ideas this week were of the post-apocalyptic variety. I think I am now having a belated obsession with apocalypses, after everyone else got their out of their systems during lockdown. My first idea was pretty bad – an apocalyptic world that has no gunpowder. Which element has disappear, be it sulphur, potassium nitrate, etc. I have yet to decide, same with how it would disappear. To be totally honest, the only reason I had this idea was imagining how cool a dystopian/apocalyptic landscape where people are forced to fight with swords would be.
You want to know how cool it would be? Check this painting out.
There’s an even bigger but though. I’m a novice writer with no track record. Essentially meaning that there is no point me investing huge amounts of time right now writing a script which is likely to be very high-concept. Need to start at the bottom if I want to get anything sold and build on from there.
So I came up with a short-film idea that would suit a low budget. A contained thriller, wherein a woman fleeing from something unknown yet horrific, finds shelter in a house/room, only to meet a suicidal maniac inside. She attempts to bring him towards the light even though he could be the end of both of them.
SCENE OF THE WEEK
This is the opening of a script titled, ‘The Gateway’. This is a third rewrite I am doing on it currently and I am taking it in an entirely new direction now, which I’m loving.
Anyways, that’s it for this week. Same goals as ever, I want to get back to writing.
Before anything else this week, I want to reflect on temptations. Now, I’m not proclaiming to be Jesus in the desert giving Satan the middle finger, in fact, on the basis of this week, I’d probably be in hell by now. But this week was pretty hard, man. Harder than I expected.
The temptations were varied. I could have gone away for the weekend with a group of friends I haven’t seen for a long time but I didn’t because I had been a slacker. I had to arrive late and leave early when I saw other friends because my body has now discovered that hangovers are a very very bad thing. I went to a BBQ on my last day of being vegan… I had to smell jerk chicken whilst I munched on Quorn scotch eggs.
Whilst most of these temptations were social orientated, the greatest one was overcoming my mental blocks when I tried to work. I feel as if going back to a ‘normal job’ has dragged my mind out of the creative space it was in during lockdown and now that mischievous little voice keeps telling me ‘you deserve to chill… play The Last Of Us II more… just watch a film, consider it revision’. That voice has been a bastard.
So how did I fare? About as well as an Olympic athlete collapsing ten metres into the 100m sprint.
I didn’t get into a strict routine. I didn’t get out of bed straight away. I didn’t get into a productive writing routine, many times the biggest hurdle, sitting at my desk, defeated me at the outset.
I did cook, though. So well done me, I guess.
A QUICK NOTE ON VEGANISM
Yeah… it’s not for me. But I did the full week and I didn’t experience any food comas, which is what I was hoping to get out of it.
But the day after I went to Yard and Coop and the chicken never tasted better. And for an alektopohobic like me – yes, that is a fear of chickens, you’re correct – the more chickens wiped out, the better.
‘SO DID YOU ACTUALLY DO ANYTHING?’
I applied to a role as a voluntary script reader, a role I’ve applied to a few times with no success. I think I will keep applying to more positions of a similar nature, however, since reading as many scripts as possible is a surefire way of improving my own craft whilst getting a view of the scripts getting read in the market right now.
I sent a script to a lovely woman in the industry who is giving me feedback for a very fair price, hopefully, it will be fruitful and positive.
I started work on my first (currently hypothetical) YouTube video. Initially, it was going to be ‘Shaun of the Dead vs Raising Arizona – Camera, Callback and Character’. However, after dissecting Shaun of the Dead to death, I have a good four video ideas for it alone. It’s about making it a video which hasn’t been seen before, a fresh take.
N.B. Anyone got any YT channel name recommendations for me? There’s a few in the mixer already… Mr. Unemployed, Cinema Snob, Scene Stealer, Lense and Lead. Leave any thoughts in the comments.
I got my application back for Imagine-Impact’s first pitch prompt!! A big fat expected no. In all fairness, I’m not down about it. Firstly, you have to get used to the word ‘no’ in this industry. Secondly, I have changed the plot since I sent my application – a plot which I have struggled with A LOT this week, juggling the mythology the characters and the world come within whilst trying to come up with my own story that doesn’t disrespect Greek mythology has been tricky. And that’s without getting worked up about how I am going to handle the exposition of the lore. With the rejection, I can now choose my own target audience and tone, which is a big plus and might help in the long run.
I have also decided not to apply for their second prompt, ‘Lifestyle with a Competition Element’. Why? Because it bores me. Every film under this umbrella is either sports or music based. I thought about an idea which was the ‘Karate Kid’ but with samurai. But then I thought there are a million other ways to make a samurai movie more exciting than that. It’s not bitterness that is stopping me from not applying, I promise. It’s integrity. I should write what I want to write and that should never change.
MOVIE IDEA OF THE WEEK
Recently, I saw a Twitter post about a historical figure called Yasuke. He was an African man (of indeterminable origin) who arrived in feudal Japan in 1579, in the service of the Italian Jesuit missionary Allessandro Valignano. He came into the service of a Japanese lord, Oda Nobunaga, and later became the first and only black samurai.
My first reaction? That is FUCKING COOL, I want to make that. Samurais again, I know, I’ve watched a lot of Kurosawa recently.
So I got proper, proper excited and then… I discovered a film about his life is already in the works with Chadwick Boseman in the leading role.
So I started looking for some more historical gems and I stumbled upon Ching Shih.
Ching Shih started off as a Cantonese prostitute in Guangzhou. She later married the notorious pirate, Cheng I, and upon his death, she took control of his pirate fleet. She is now described as one of the most successful pirates in history, captaining a fleet of up to 1800 ships and fighting naval battles against the Qing dynasty, the East India Trading Company and the Portuguese navy. Now that’s one tough bitch.
I stumbled across some more historical figures, all more than worthy of biopics:
Project Power (2020) – dir. by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
This is a film that I could nit-pick to fuck but nobody wants to hear all that. What I will say is it is probably better than I expected it to be, especially the first act. The three lead performances from Jaime Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Dominique Fishback are all sound as you like. They’re three actors that step into the realms of ‘hard not to like’ and they all appear to have fun in these roles. The cinematography was good for the most part, some of the fights could have been clearer, there were too many cuts on motion for me, I found it disorientating – but I enjoyed the neon-soaked hue of blue and red throughout.
The main problem was the script. This script was apparently part of a bidding war (which is rare nowadays) and I can see why. The concept is a gem, one that’s easily marketable and pumped with potential. I just never thought the script made the most of that potential. Furthermore, some of the comedy just didn’t land for me and since the comedy was littered between some pretty graphic violence and not-so-graphic language, the tone was a bit all over the place. Personally, though, it was the characters that disappointed me the most. The actors made them likeable, the interchange between them was entertaining but the progression is practically none existent. That, for me, is the main reason that this film will be stuck to the backlog of my mind in approximately two minutes time to never be revisited again. Nonetheless, it’s a fun enough and easy watch.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
SCENE OF THE WEEK
Regrettably, I’ve spent most of my week planning and not writing, and planning is always a frustrating drag for me. Therefore, I haven’t written many scenes, none I’d like to share. So instead, enjoy (or hate) my feature length script, ‘Dying For An Inheritance’, that I sent for feedback this week. A great tie-in to this week’s title – temptations.
LOGLINE: A secret drug-addict must navigate his contemptuous relationship with his recently deceased brother in order to win the grand prize of a posthumous treasure hunt: the brother’s entire inheritance.
Honestly, because of the last week’s shortcomings, the goals remain much the same – routine, writing and hard work.
This week, however, I’m off to Berlin. I’m going to use this opportunity to shoot with my camera as much as possible and hopefully, create a little travel video with the footage I get – that’s the goal anyway.
It is now over a year since I received my degree from the University of Nottingham. A year in which I have been working at J.D. Wetherspoons… ‘Spoons’… Hell, whatever you want to call it.
Whilst I mean no disrespect towards anyone who works there, as many who do are my firm friends, my prolonged occupation there has been a source of personal embarressment. It should never have been. No job should be, unless you’re a full time gabba DJ.
Nonetheless, this feeling of embarrassment arose from a force that I believe cripples much of my generation – expectation.
For example, societal expectation:
“Oh you did English at university, soooo, you’re gonna be a teacher right?” Nope.
“A journalist, then?” Nah.
At this point they run out of ideas and settle on the notion of you being a bum.
Societal expectation, the expectations of loved ones that hear you get one good school report and then imagine you buying them (well deserved but fabricated) holiday homes when you hit 30, and – most importantly – my own expectations. The middleman between my dreams and ego, of which I have plenty of both.
These expectations have left me feeling lost, empty, purposeless for much of my time since graduation. Because of that little ego I just mentioned, I have blamed a lot of this on my workplace. But what I can’t deny is that my own fears, anxieties and indecisivenesss have halted me from taking the necessary steps towards what I want to be.
So what do I want to be?
I want to be a filmmaker.
“Aw bless”… “Can you do that?”… “Oh… okay”… “*stifles snigger*”… “Good for you!”
Yeah, it’s pretty far-fetched I’ll give you that.
“So what have you made?”…. “You done anything I’ll have heard of?”
Zilch. Nuttin. Nada. Sweet fuck all.
I had this conversation with a woman at a friend’s graduation party recently. It went pretty much verbatim, except, she completely turned away from me at this point and talked to my friend for hours about his accountancy career. I mean, no offence, Oliver, but even you don’t like it.
Anyway, yeah, I’ve left my soul-destroying yet PAYING job to pursue an even more potentially soul-destroying pipe dream.
But guess how I feel right now? Fucking brilliant.
You know when you want to sneeze but your body is just denying you. But you continue pulling ugly faces for the next half an hour but that sneeze keeps eluding you. And finally, you let rip out of nowhere and spray everything in your general vicinity? Yeah, like that x1000.
I have made the first step. Without that step, nothing you want is possible to achieve. Saving up the money and building up the courage to take this step took longer than I expected, but now it is done. But the steps will get bigger and bigger and bigger and I’m a little guy with little legs. Like 5ft 9inch little.
This blog is going to be a charting of how I deal with each step, each week. A journal of sorts, a method of self reflection and a gauging of my progress towards these goals.
You may be interested, you probably won’t be, but my hope is that many people my age will be able to relate to this battle against expectations, seemingly unreachable dreams, anxieties and trying to grasp what you ACTUALLY want to do with your life.
You know what, if nothing else, this blog series may just make you feel better about your own lives, which is cool with me.
So what are my goals?
Make movies, big or small. You see the movies. Meaning I can make more movies.
Be happy and fulfilled, which we all know is harder than it sounds.
See as much of the world as possible, which I will have to magic money out of my arse to achieve.
Keep up with my screenplay goals. I have three written now. Two I did in lockdown. For context, my first took me two years whilst I was working and at uni. The schedule I’ll be enforcing on myself is: one month writing a first draft of a new screenplay, the next month rewriting an older script.
Begin inquiring production companies, i.e. getting people to read my scripts. Firstly, I need to make sure they are ready to be read.
Set up a YouTube channel, consisting mostly of video essays on cinema.
Begin working with a camera and making short films.
Getting experience working on film productions. Doing anything, most likely a runner.
Be body confident. This one has a big impact on my mental health. I haven’t been to the gym in 6 months, haven’t been consistently for a year. So I now resemble a bruised, mushy pear with vermicelli noodles for arms.
Pass my driving test. This means people will actually consider hiring me as a runner.
Writing short film scripts, something I haven’t done before. It’ll be a learning curve.
Doing Imagine-Impact’s second script prompt for Netflix – ‘Lifestyle with a Competition element’. Yikes is all I can say to that one. The first was ‘Action Adventure for All Ages’, my idea was about a Spartan trying to escape the Greek Underworld. I’ll probably hear about my rejection for that this week.
Firstly, and most importantly…
THIS WEEK’S GOALS
Get into a proper routine. No more Wetherspoons induced 4am-11am sleeping pattern.
Get my arse out of bed straight away. This one will be surprisingly hard.
Eat healthy. This week I’m trying to be vegan.
Write everyday. Professionally. Write like a writer.
A final bit of admin, every week I’m gonna include a few mini segments. These’ll be my ‘Movie Idea of the Week’, my ‘Scene of the Week’ written by yours truly, and ‘Mini-Movie Reviews’ of any new releases.
So yeah, that’s how it’s gonna go down. This post was a laying of the groundwork, it won’t always be this long and tedious but hopefully, you will join me on this ‘journey’ (cringe all you want, sunshine). What I do hope it will achieve, is that it will encourage you to take your own leaps of faith so you can share in my existential dread. At the very least, we can do ourselves justice and give our dreams a go.
Another month closer to normality. I can taste the warm beer already. In all honesty, this month has been a bit of blur – my only concept of time is completely orientated around Manchester City games. So in that case, I’m just gonna get cracking for the sake of consistency. SCRIPT OF THE MONTH February … Continue reading Mr Unemployed – feb 2021, ‘Goodbye Neighbourhood’
So, how was the first month of the year it was all supposed to get better? You know what, I was about to go on a crusade about all the tragic inevitability of the current climate and unflinching ineptitude of this country but nobody wants to read any more about that, do they? Well I … Continue reading Mr Unemployed – Jan 2021, ‘Me and doom’
Well that was a bit shit, wasn’t it? First off, a little pat on the back to everyone that has got through 2020. And to anyone who has managed to make something of this year, a massive round of applause to you. For me, I managed to find a few moments of light amongst the … Continue reading Mr. Unemployed – 2020, ‘Aaand that’s a wrap’
I have now returned to work to pour pints to people who tell me that Coronavirus is a myth. Yippie. I guess that means my lockdown is over. However, for all of you still stuck with your bottoms on sofas, here is some inspiration for what to switch on that screen you’ve been ogling for the last few months. But, try to keep those eyes circular.
Booksmart (dir. by Olivia Wilde)
The new Superbad with girls in the leads. Endlessly rewatch-able and relentlessly heartfelt and funny. An ayahuasca scene for the ages.
The Servant (dir. by Joseph Losey)
A socio-political drama with devilish characters and punctuated by Harold Pinter’s screenplay where power struggles simmer underneath seemingly trivial dialogue. On top of this, it is a cinematographer’s dream. Anyone that uses a camera should watch the films of Joseph Losey.
Paddington series (dir. by Paul King)
Both films ooze charm and King directs with fun and a real proficiency for set-pieces. The look of both films also remind me of Wes Anderson and his pastel palettes. The use of set-up and pay-off added to the cohesion that allowed me to smile through the thick layer of cheese.
Paddington – 7.5/10
Paddington 2 – 8/10
The Wild Goose Lake (dir. by Diao Yinan)
Neon lit neo-noir set in Wuhan. A non-linear pulp approach to storytelling that is cool with substance and subtlety. It’s one I want to watch again.
The Godfather Part III (dir. by Francis Ford-Coppola)
Finally got to it. The failure of this film is the product of its predecessors’ brilliance. I mean, Brando, De Niro and then… Andy Garcia? Meh. Michael Corleone was better when he was a grade A sonofabitch.
John Wick (dir. by Chad Stahelski)
Flashy. Fun. The world’s favourite ‘bad’ actor. Despite the awesome fight choreography, the third act loses all momentum and the tension is never really there. I did enjoy all the illusions to the Greek underworld however.
Bacarau (dir. by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles)
This won the Grand Jury prize at Cannes last year so I was excited. It looked and sounded cool. The build up was intriguing. The social and political messages hit their mark BUT I’m still mourning the lost potential of some of Bacarau’s inhabitants. Instead, a lot of the film focused on bland stereotypically 80s antagonists.
The Royal Tenebaums (dir. by Wes Anderson)
It’s Anderson. It’s gorgeous and quirky. That’s a given. But these characters are just lacking compared to his other works and the emotional beats didn’t really work for me.
Irreversible (dir. by Gasper Noe)
Abrasive. Disorientating. It accomplishes everything that it sets out to do but you need damn thick skin for this one. It appears I don’t.
Silence (dir. by Ingmar Bergman)
When you watch it, you’ll get why it’s called ‘Silence’. It’s what it’s all about and what isn’t said in this film says more than most modern movies do.
Nosferatu (dir. by F. W. Murnau)
Silent yet scary… surely not? It amazes me what auteurs were once able to do with so little. It’s time to immerse myself with more silent age cinema.
The Passion of Joan of Arc (dir. by Carl Theodore Dreyer)
So I did. This film made the close up what it is today. If I was to rate it on the basis of its technical brilliance in the context of 1920s cinema, it’d be a straight 11. Silent cinema, however, is something to be revered, admired but not something you invite your friends over to watch.
The Vengeance Trilogy (dir. by Park Chan Wook)
Brutal but brilliant. An idiom that reads true for much of Korean cinema. If you haven’t seen or heard of Oldboy then grow up youngen.
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance – 7.5/10
Oldboy – 8.5/10
Lady Vengeance – 7.5/10
Enjoy these films? Enjoy Parasite? Check out Park Chan Wook’s The Handmaiden. It’s brilliant. Maybe don’t watch it with your parents though.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
Honey Boy (dir. by Alma Har’el)
You can just tell that this film came from the depths of Shia LaBeouf’s soul. I hope this film revitalises his career and establishes Har’el’s as this deserved much more award’s recognition.
Maybe too many chickens for an alektorophobic like myself.
Room (dir. by Lenny Abrahamson)
I was surprised by how little I had heard about this film. It is the most emotionally charged film I’ve watched in a while, led by two stellar performances. Disclaimer: there may have been a little tear.
Want a similar concept with a tone that will make you bite your nails till they bleed? Watch Dan Trachtenberg’s 10 Cloverfield Lane.
The Disaster Artist (dir. by James Franco)
An endearing and hilarious tribute to one if cinema’s most mysterious and inspiring productions: Tommy Wiseau’s The Room.
The Martian (dir. by Ridley Scott)
I tried to watch this a year or so ago and found myself unable to. Whilst I can barely fault the film itself I just felt no connection to it.
Midsommar (dir. by Ari Aster)
Ari Aster is a name that is going to be on everyone’s lips for years. Hereditary is my favourite horror of the last few years and Midsommar is even more beautiful – the editing (the cut to Florence Pugh on the aeroplane, wow), cinematography and general technical proficiency is plain as Swedish sunlight.
But I couldn’t help but find the story lacking, if not, pretentious. Regardless, I’m very excited to see what he does next.
Moonlight (dir. by Barry Jenkins)
Blue, black and beautiful. A modern masterpiece crafted with the simplest and most effective techniques. The use of contrast and fragmentation metaphorically and literally forming a fully rounded and multifaceted protagonist.
Tokyo Story (dir. by Yasujirõ Ozu)
A simultaneously heart-breaking and heart-warming drama about family estrangement in the midst of Japanese post-war modernity.
A minimalistic look that packs the emotional weight: a rule breaking 360 degree editing, perfect framing and blocking that expresses the disconnect. The quiet fragility of this film made me appreciate my family after I watched it.
Le Doulos (dir. by Jean Pierre Melville)
The French are cooler than you, deal with it. And believe me, they’ve influenced every modern film you love.
Shoplifters (dir. by Hirokazu Koreeda)
This naturalistic tale of an odd family of petty thieves is an example of how tender cinema can be. The characters steal from their local shop and they stole my heart.
Les Diaboliques (dir. by Henri-Georges Clouzot)
In a famous story elucidated to me on Roger Ebert’s website, a manwrote to Alfred Hitchcock: “Sir, After seeing ‘Diabolique,’ my daughter was afraid to take a bath. Now she has seen your ‘Psycho’ and is afraid to take a shower. What should I do with her?” Hitchcock replied: “Send her to the dry cleaners.”
The fact that it is mentioned in the same breath as Psycho should be reason enough to watch it. And I promise you, the final line is perfect.
2001: A Space Odyssey (dir. by Stanley Kubrick)
I think that trying to explain why some films are so good can almost do them a disservice – they are meant to be experienced. Kurbrick’s finest hour is one such film.
The Tree of Life (dir. by Terence Malick)
This is another such film, but since you may know less about it, I will indulge you with some of my feelings towards it.
After watching the film, my senses felt heightened, my eyes opened and my heart imbued with things I did not and still, do not fully understand. The camera appeared to act like time itself. In some ways, I feel like it is a spiritual descendent of Kubrick’s 2001, yet grounded on the earth amidst the sense of the otherworldly, of things humanity can experience but not fully understand. Not everyone’s cup of tea, admittedly, but in my opinion it is poetic transcendence.
The Godfather (dir. by Francis Ford Coppola)
There’s nothing that I can say that hasn’t already been said. Sit back, watch it and feel the three hours fly by.
The Godfather Part II (dir. by Francis Ford Coppola)
It builds on its predecessor as well as could be imagined. Personally, Brando’s presence edges the first film in my eyes.
Seven Samurai (dir. by Akira Kurosawa)
I urge anyone who has apprehensions about watching either foreign language or black and white films to start with this. Those apprehensions will be shattered.
Love Star Wars and noticed the connections? Watch Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress. There’s heaps more.
Pulp Fiction (dir. by Quentin Tarantino)
My favourite film of all time. Yes, I know, I’m a basic bitch but it made me think about what makes films special for the first time and when a film starts past midnight on TV and you just HAVE to watch it all, you know it’s special.
Hot Fuzz (dir. by Edgar Wright)
And now for my most re-watched film of all time. Edgar Wright is the most underappricated director around, in my opinion. Whilst Shaun of the Dead is arguably slightly less flawed, Hot Fuzz holds a special place in my heart.
Love Edgar Wright like myself? His Channel 4 comedy Spaced is new on Netflix.
Spirited Away (dir. by Hayao Miyazaki)
I don’t know if there is a world depicted in cinema that I want to see explored more than the one created by Studio Ghibli in Spirited Away. It is Miyazaki’s magnum opus.
The Shining (dir. by Stanley Kubrick)
Gorgeous horror. I guess that’s an oxymoron?
Inglorious Basterds (dir. by Quentin Tarantino)
“This just might be my masterpiece” – not quite, but I’d say you’ve set the bar pretty high, Quentin.
Howl’s Moving Castle (dir. by Hayao Miyazaki)
A childhood favourite. I had to indulge myself when Netflix added it to its catalogue. Only the before-mentioned Spirited Away blows it away.
The Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy (dir. by Gore Verbinski)
I want to write a pirate-centric screenplay every time I watch these films. A combination of nostalgia and escapism allows me to overlook their cheesiness and occasional incoherences.
The Curse of the Black Pearl – 7.5/10
Dead Man’s Chest – 7/10
At World’s End – 8/10
And yes, the third is my favourite, get over it.
The Inbetweeners Movies
They’re hard not to watch when they’re on TV. No TV show has defined my sad little generation better. And I’ll probably be that creepy old dude still laughing at it when I’m bound to my wheelchair.
The Inbetweeners Movie (dir. by Ben Palmer) – 7/10
The Inbetweeners 2 (dir. by Damon Beasley and Iain Morris) – 4.5/10
BEST OF THE REST
Rear Window (dir. by Alfred Hitchcock)
Ditatched yet intimate. Voyeuristic yet leaves you feeling a strange breath on your shoulder. Hitchcock is the seer of suspense, the master of manipulation, one of the best ever.
Vertigo (dir. by Alfred Hitchcock)
Hypnotic and psychedelic before it was cool. Just edged out by Rear Window as my favourite Hitchcock film.
Ran (dir. by Akira Kurosawa)
Only Kurosawa can make epic seem effortless.
Do The Right Thing (dir. by Spike Lee)
Necessarily in-your-face from the get go. Firstly, the screenplay is fantastic. Influenced by Mohammed Ali to The Night of the Hunter and has influenced the likes of Tarantino – “you shoot me in a dream, you better wake up and apologise”, sound familiar? Secondly, the actors elevate the words the a rhythm that mirrors Lee’s American world. Thirdly, it is eternally relevant and essential viewing. Fight the power.
Breathless (dir. by Jean-Luc Godard)
The French New Wave should wash away your plans to watch yet another Judd Apatow comedy. Seriously, go watch it now.
Sunset Boulevard (dir. by Billy Wilder)
“I am big! It’s the pictures that got small.” Every single line of dialogue in this film is a dream. Billy Wilder as the best screenwriter ever? A claim as big as one of Norma Desmond’s and probably one with much more credence.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (dir. by Céline Sciamma)
Every frame is a painting. How appropriate.
Die Hard (dir. by John McTiernan)
The blueprint for what every action film should do. And every Christmas film.
The Conformist (dir. by Bernardo Bertolucci)
I’m lost for words to describe this film’s cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro. The light and shadow constantly tread the line between seduction and restraint. It is a film that will leave you questioning your own allegiances.
Collateral (dir. by Michael Mann)
Whilst I find most of Mann’s filmography pretty ugly, this film fares well in the night-time LA setting. The true triumph of this film is its script, a budding screenwriter’s wet dream.
The 13th (dir. by Ava DuVernay)
The first and only documentary on this list, it is one of incredible importance. Sleek and informative throughout, it is essential viewing. My rating is based upon my feelings of how well it is developed from a filmmaking point of view.
American Beauty (dir. by Sam Mendes)
A touching interior to a film with a creepy exterior. It is an inspection of the American Dream in a Fitzgerald-esque mood.
The Matrix (dir. by The Wachowski Brothers)
It’s a crime that I had never seen it before. It is also a crime how exposition was relentlessly dumped upon me in the first act without me even noticing at the time because of how damn entertained I was. And that hallway shootout: disgustingly good.
Shadow (dir. by Zhang Yimou)
Whilst I found the plot slightly lacking at times, this film is BEYOND beautiful. Whilst the action scenes are imaginative and supremely done.
Want some samurai action but want your eyes to be bombarded with colour? Try Yimou’s 2002 film Hero.
Raising Arizona (dir. by Joel Coen)
You know something is going right when a would-be despicable tale is fucking hilarious.
The Grandaddy of Pegg and Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy, which if you haven’t seen, don’t speak to me. And go watch them. Now. NOW.
Zodiac (dir. by David Fincher)
Mysterious, gritty and prime Fincher. The man’s a genius.
Roma (dir. by Alfonso Cuarón)
As personal a film as you could find. And the story of how the lead actress, Yalitza Aparicio, was casted is as beautiful as the film itself.
The Conversation (dir. by Francis Ford Coppola)
This one makes you think. The sound design forces the viewer to share the obsessive POV of a man who listens to a secret recording whilst engulfed by guilt and paranoia that sheds away his faith and personal space.
If you like The Conversation, try Brian De Palma’s Blow Out.
Training Day (dir. by Antoine Fuqua)
Whilst the direction is bland, this film is a testament to what a good script and an animalistic performance from Denzel can do. It also shocked me how similar the first act is to one of my own scripts. If the third act stuck the landing, it’d be one of my faves.
Your Name (dir. by Makoto Shinkai)
Probably the most beautiful and cinematic anime I’ve seen in a long while. It was a brilliant concept and fusing of genres but it got a bit too melodramatic for me. The spoon-feeding voice-over was unnecessary when the emotional beats would’ve landed without it.
Army of Shadows (dir. by Jean-Pierre Melville)
An existential war film about resistance fighters doomed to failure but with the strength to try anyway, by any means necessary.
Inside Llewyn Davis(dir. by The Coen Brothers)
Not my favourite film from the Coen’s. Nonetheless, it’s intimate, ironic and the script is insanely good. No shit, Sherlock.
Da 5 Bloods (dir. by Spike Lee)
Spike Lee is a cinematic prophet, who is currently more relevant than any other filmmaker. But the film itself is worth watching and Delroy Lindo is superb. Despite this, I felt there were some pacing issues and it didn’t always weave together seamlessly.
E.T. (dir. by Steven Spielberg)
For some reason whenever I think of the term ‘movie magic’, this film and the iconic image over the moon is what comes to mind. Having watched it for the first time since I was a child, I think Spielberg’s magic is found more in his other films.
Un Flic (dir. by Jean-Pierre Melville)
The more I watch Melville, the more I recognise his influence. The painstaking emphasis on character’s actions and skills? Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Who shot first? Han Solo did. He was even the one who told Godard to cut to the best parts of his shots, hence initiating the jump cuts that became a stylistic staple of the French New Wave.
Alphaville (dir. by Jean-Luc Godard)
This film includes the precursor to Kubrick’s HAL-3000 but with a philosophical and insecure edge. Unfortunately, this film poses questions rather than tells a story. Whilst quintessentially Godard, it isn’t as fun as his other works. Worth a rewatch.
Fedora (dir. by Billy Wilder)
No one shows off the old Hollywood like Wilder. But this seems too much like an echo of the past, with almost self-indulgent similarities to Sunset Boulevard. Whilst the first half is excellent with a killer twist, the second half is killed by exposition. Regardless, a few iconic shots and Wilder’s whip smart writing makes it worth a watch.
What We Do In The Shadows (dir. by Taika Waititi)
Taika Waititi is the best type of weird. And weird is good.
Kiki’s Delivery Service (dir. by Hayao Miyazaki)
I want Jiji.
Black Mass (dir. by Scott Cooper)
Since when I first watched it, the only thing I remember is that Depp is excellent in the role of Whitey Bulger and a brilliant dinner table scene where David Harbour soils himself. I watched it again a few weeks back, and again, that (along with dodgy pacing and story structure) are the only things I remember.
A History of Violence (dir. by David Cronenberg)
The themes resonate. The performances are strong. But I just felt the premise could have been stretched to greater potential.
The Death of Stalin (dir. by Armando Iannucci)
Jet-black political satire that had me laughing but not in stitches. The chemistry of the great cast made it but I miss it when a film appears to lack any proper weight.
Free Fire (dir. by Ben Wheatley)
Messy, senseless fun about people with bad aim and bad legs.
The Town (dir. by Ben Affleck)
Just a big old yawn. Whether you’ve watched this film or not, you’ve seen it all before.