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Author: Richard Norton

Gentleman, podcaster and pop culture nerd, I love talking and writing about pretty much all pop culture.
Editorials

Was It Really That Bad? Alexander

November 12, 2019

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who liked Alexander – this being Oliver Stone’s 2004 film about the life of Alexander the Great. But it is a film I like. At the start, I should say I am obsessed with history and – as with zombie films – I will overlook a lot of problems in a historical epic.

Conquer your fear, and I promise you, you will conquer death

Alexander (irishcentral.com)

Alexander had a big cast featuring Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins and Angelina Jolie but the titular character was played by Colin Farrell. Farrell is often a divisive figure and even my own opinion on him is divided – he is undeniably brilliant in In Bruges but he doesn’t always hit those heights. What follows is a combination plot synopsis and sort-of history lesson. Alexander was the son of King Philip of Macedonia and inherits the large kingdom upon his father’s death, eager for revenge and glory Alexander invades the huge Persian empire. Seemingly unstoppable, Alexander marches across the known world, going all the way to India. As well as his military glory he also has childhood companion and lover Hephaiston who accompanied Alexander on his conquests until his own death. Alexander dies young, only thirty-three, and seemingly within hours of his death, his great empire is already breaking apart.

No man or woman can be too powerful or too beautiful without disaster befalling.

Alexander (collider.com)

Alexander was not a successful film. IMDb rates it at a lowly 5.6, Rotten Tomatoes has a truly damning critic rating of 16% and a slightly better audience rating of 35%. For a director of the stature like Oliver Stone that must hurt. Stone subsequently released two different cuts, perhaps trying to rescue a work he believed in but with little impact with the public. The bad reviews are something to behold – “Stone has made an excruciating disaster for the ages” The AV Club, “emotionally and intellectually incoherent” Newsweek and “Puerile writing, confused plotting and shockingly off-note performances make Oliver Stone’s epic film a disappointment.” The New York Times. The criticisms fall into three main categories:

  1. It’s boring.
  2. There isn’t much of a story
  3. Colin Farrell’s performance

While I don’t find the film boring it’s such a common complaint that it’s hard to argue with, and truly it is a staggering achievement to take the life of one of the most famous people in all of history who lead an amazingly interesting life and bore people.

As for the story…well obviously this stuff really happened so you are sort of stuck with the facts to some degree. Perhaps it’s because Alexander the Great was so successful it’s hard to make an interesting narrative, there are no real setbacks, no defeats. There is no Robert the Bruce watching the spider in the cave moment where he overcomes adversity, just endless success.

Finally Colin Farrell; as I said I have a bit of a soft spot for Farrell but this is not a great performance by any stretch of the imagination. We obviously don’t know what the Macedonian accent was like over 2000 years ago but I doubt it’s the one Farrell and his friends have. It does seem like they realised Farrell was going to struggle with doing an accent and simply told the rest of the cast to mimic him. Perhaps, as some critics suggest, most actors would struggle to capture the gigantic presence and personality Alexander must have had.

“My poor child. You’re like Achilles; cursed by your greatness.”

Alexander (bestmoviereviews.co.uk)

Okay, so what is good about Alexander? The biggest plus are the battles which look amazing. Tens of thousands of soldiers or at least what looks like tens of thousands, battling it out. The Macedonians fight in a phalanx with their huge spears as cavalry rage back and forth, hundreds of arrows fill the sky, the battles are genuinely epic.

I would agree that Farrell isn’t quite up to playing Alexander the Great but I did enjoy the love story between Alexander and Hephaiston (played by Jared Leto). While Alexander did marry the film portrays his real love as Hephaiston and this was not a secret. The other Greek epic film that came out around the same Troy got some criticism as it removed the Achilles-Patroclus relationship entirely and the only reason that could be, or at least that I can think of, is that they didn’t want to portray a gay relationship.

There are a two enjoyable and slightly over-the-top performances of Alexander’s parents. Philip is played by Val Kilmer and Olympias by Angelina Jolie. Jolie especially seems to have a lot of fun chewing the scenario and plotting against just about everyone else in the film.

My final reason for enjoying Alexander is that I love history and these days you rarely see films like this. It’s lots of fun seeing scenes I’ve read about in history books recreated on a massive scale. Admittedly, if you’re not a history nerd this film may less to offer you.

Was It Really That Bad? No……but it’s not far off.

Also Read: Was It Really That Bad? The Mummy (2017)

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Editorials

Was It Really That Bad? Jennifer’s Body

November 1, 2019
Jennifer's Body

I know that the theme of this series is to look at films that maybe aren’t quite as bad as people think but I have to say – I love this film. It’s not “so bad it’s good” it’s not a “guilty pleasure” and there is no “ironic appreciation” going on here. This was the film Diablo Cody wrote after Juno and was directed by Karyn Kusama who went on to direct The Invitation and Destroyer, so there was a talented team behind the film so why does it have such a bad reputation?

“No, I mean she’s actually evil, not high school evil.”

Jennifer’s Body starred Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox, the latter playing the eponymous Jennifer. This is the plot – an unsuccessful indie band decide to sacrifice a virgin to get in with the Devil and therefore help their career. Unfortunately, their sacrifice, Jennifer, isn’t a virgin, meaning that she doesn’t die but becomes a demon. Using her position as the pretty and popular girl in school she lures other high school students to their death, where she eats them. Jennifer’s best friend, Needy (Amanda Seyfried), works this out and confronts her best friend.

“Hell is a teenage girl”

The demonic Jennifer ( source: vice.com)

Jennifer’s Body IMDb score is a lowly 5.2, Rotten Tomatoes critic score 44% and the audience score 34%. The audience score is particularly damning as sometimes films which critics hate are redeemed by an audience who “gets” it, but seemingly very few got it. This IMDb rating is worse than the Jennifer Aniston vehicle Bounty Hunter, arcade-mashup catastrophe Pixels and the Vin Diesel bodyguard/babysitting film The Pacifier all scoring 5.6. Reviews were mixed at best, with comments like “Jennifer’s Body comes across as a tame, derivative vehicle for the girl from the Transformers franchise” and “is never scary and it’s only sporadically amusing” . Many of the reviews compare it unfavourably to Juno, which while frustrating, is not unusual for a follow-up to such a hit.

But despite the critical mauling and audience rejection I love this film and recognise it as the true overlooked cult classic it is. First of all, the script is largely great, I love Diablo Cody’s dialogue in everything of hers I’ve seen and it is endlessly quotable. Next, the horror, I think this film has genuine moments of horror, from recently turned Jennifer arriving at Needy’s house and throwing up the most disgusting stuff imaginable to Jennifer pooling the blood of her victim’s in her hands so it is easier to drink. Most importantly of all is the relationship between Jennifer and Needy – it is incredibly relatable. If you’ve never had a friend in school who didn’t always treat you well but you remained friend’s with because you’ve always been friends with them — this film is for you. Jennifer consistently tries to put Needy in her place and even in moments of full-on horror and danger the problems in their relationship are laid bare. As well as the horror of demons there is the very real horror of being a teenager and it is this collision of worlds of horror and high school film that is the best thing about it.

“God, do you have to undermine everything I do? You are such a player hater.”

Every high school film needs a prom (source: IMDb.com)

One reason I give for the poor reviews is the presence of Megan Fox and the connotations she brought with her. This was absolutely unfair as every film, and every actor’s performance should be judged individually and critics who thought that because Fox was going to be in this film it was going to bed bad, should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. That said, I was such a person and it was only later after having heard people discuss the film in detail that I decided to watch it.

“I am still socially relevant.”

Was Jennifer’s Body really that bad? No. I think it’s a great film and hopefully will become a cult classic.

Also Read: Was It Really That Bad? The Mummy (2017)

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Editorials

Batman & Joker: The Future of the DCEU

October 22, 2019
Batman Vs Joker

Joker has been a big success commercially and for the most part critically, but what does this Joker mean for the DCEU?

Warning – major spoilers for Joker below

Not A Superhero Film

Joker is many things. In my opinion, it is a great film, an intense film, a controversial film but it’s hardly a superhero film at all. There is very little of the comic book about it – no superpowers, no gadgets and absolutely no heroes. Joker has far more in common with Taxi Driver than The Dark Knight and that film is evoked often. The titular character is Arthur Fleck, a man who is struggling to survive in Gotham City. He lives with his mother who is in poor health, he works a poorly-paid job where his colleagues laugh at him when he rarely tries to reach out to anyone it does not go well. Arthur also has very serious mental health problems for which he sees a court-appointed therapist as well as taking lots of medication. At the beginning of the film, Arthur seems to be trying to stay on a positive path but that is proving increasingly difficult.

Joker without his makeup (source: indiewire.com)

The “origins” of Joker are the grim, horrible circumstances of what such a person, in reality, might have. While still cinematic Gotham is a seedy, dirty, city, a million miles from the Gotham of the Bale or Affleck films. If we were still in the Affleck-Batman world there could be no way of integrating these two characters or these two universes (the same would be true of the Nolan films). Not a successful way of doing it anyway, but they may well have tried. And while the Robert Pattison Batman is an unknown quality it would be hard to imagine a Batman that would work with this Joker. The instant the batmobile made an appearance would cause some terrible schism of the comic book universe where such a vehicle could happen and the brutal and dirty universe where such a thing is plainly ridiculous and impossible.

Jared Leto as the Joker (source: reddit.com)

Too Many Jokers

But some of you might say well we have a perfectly good Joker right here…well, a Joker anyway, in the shape of Jared Leto from Suicide Squad. I was quite forgiving of this incarnation of the Joker, yes, it was bad, but trying to follow the iconic performances of Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger was going to be damn-near impossible. Leto’s IMDb page still has an Untitled Joker film in the works but such was the rancour directed at his portrayal I doubt we’ll see him reprise the role. I have heard some people suggest that Joaquin Phoenix’s character is not the Joker but rather perhaps an inspiration for him, with that being said could both Leto and Phoenix’s Joker appear in the same film? I can’t see how this would work, already comparisons between the two different portrayals have not been kind to Leto and putting him in scenes with Phoenix would only make it worse.

A Billionaire Playboy

An interesting facet of Joker that I had not at all anticipated was the anti-wealth aspect. When Fleck kills three stockbrokers many of the citizens of Gotham see someone striking back against the greedy upper class. Thomas Wayne is shown as an unsympathetic character, harbouring his own prejudices against the poor and his murder was motivated less for material gain than as a political killing. What type of figure would Bruce Wayne be in this world? There has been a meme going around for years that said if Bruce Wayne really wanted to help Gotham he would use his vast wealth in more orthodox ways. Would we get a Batman who delighted in attacking the less fortunate who had resorted to crime because of their circumstances rather than criminal insanity? Those denied essential services, with no opportunities to improve their lot, that would hardly seem heroic.

The glamorous Gotham of Christopher Nolan (source: polygon.com)

I still think of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy as the pinnacle of superhero films, a genius director, a fantastic cast and the money to make it happen. For me, and many people, Batman Vs Superman was an outright disaster and I was so disillusioned I didn’t even bother with Justice League, but undeniably it has a different feel to Nolan’s films. So coming up with a whole new distinct world might be difficult, especially so as I hope Joker is quarantined and kept safe from any other DC films. Joker is a brilliant film and should be allowed to be that and not just the first part of another story.

The Next Villain

As we now know Robert Pattison is taking over the role of Batman and very recent news seems to suggest the villain will be The Riddler (played by Paul Dano) so it may be that the DCEU lets the character of the Joker rest a little while. However, I’m sure they will return to the character, after all, he is best-known and most iconic Batman villain.

Also Read: Joke’s On You: The History of Batman’s Arch-Nemesis

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Editorials

#Cancelled: Being Offended and Offensive in the 21st Century

October 9, 2019
Jojo Rabit

Monty Python’s Life of Brian, The Human Centipede, Borat, Cannibal Holocaust and South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut – all films considered extremely offensive. At least by some people. There’s everything from mocking religion, gory death and songs chock full of swearwords in that list and a wide spectrum of quality and artistic merit. Indeed, one of my all-time favourite films is on that list (to be clear, it’s Life of Brian). In these polarised times it can seem that everything has some scandal attached to it, but is this true?

Monty Python’s Life of Brian – at the time considered by some to be extremely offensive (source: sabotagetimes.com)

There is an attitude that people are more easily offended these days than in the past, that once upon a time people believed in freedom of speech, a time before PC culture ruined everyone’s fun. I don’t really believe such a time ever existed, when Life of Brian was released there were protests up and down the country and The Exorcist saw queuing audiences splashed with holy water. I think nowadays people would be quite surprised that these films caused such an uproar.

There are too many issues of what is offensive to deal with them all in just one article, but an issue that has been in the news recently is “whitewashing” in which roles which either from real-life inspiration or original source material were people of colour but for the film release either played by white people pretending to be that race or had the race changed to suit the actor. The titanic cultural institution of The Simpsons was caught up in this; the character Apu is an immigrant from India but is played by the white actor, Hank Azaria. Apu, especially at the beginning of The Simpsons, is very much a stereotype of an Indian person. To make matters worse, Azaria has said part of the inspiration for Apu’s way of speaking came from an Indian character in the film The Party, who was played by Peter Sellers, a white person. The comedian Hari Kondabolu made the film The Problem Of Apu about this issue, Kondabolu an American whose parent emigrated from India to America and despite his great love of The Simpsons, he remembers many childhood insults based around the character of Apu. Another complication is that The Simpsons’ longevity means that when the show started very few people saw this as an issue.

The Problem With Apu (source: pbs.org)

Something very much caught up with this is social media. When people were offended by something in the past they had few options, a letter to the creators was usually the best they could do. In modern times it is relatively easy to mobilise literally millions of people with social media. While this can allow disparate individuals to help unite for a cause social media has never been a medium for careful and considered reflection and sometimes well-meaning groups have unleashed unpleasant forces. Jon Ronson’s brilliant book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed goes into various Twitter-fuelled examples of this.

The 2016 Ghostbusters ( source: movieweb.com)

There is a perception that the people being so easily offended are all on the left, politically speaking. They are offended by sexism and racism, issues of representation and more but there are millions of people who while might not describe themselves “offended” their behaviour suggests that they are. Whether it’s the audacity to remake Ghostbusters with female stars, or the fact Damien Chazelle didn’t specifically show Neil Armstrong planting the flag in First Man, they are terribly upset with a lot of films. The remade Ghostbusters is perhaps the best example of this as the cry that the remake was “destroying my childhood” was everywhere. It does seem that all people, not just those of one particular political leaning, are very quick to get upset.

It does seem that right now these issues are particularly strong and that is linked to wider trends in society and politics. To go back to the recent Ghostbusters remake – stating whether or not you liked the film seemed to be making a larger statement about your views on a whole host of issues. Many people who didn’t like it stressed that was because of the failings of the film rather than issues around sexism.

An argument often made is that a culture of people being offended will stifle freedom of expression and any art form will be worse off because of that, however in recent years we’ve seen films like the thoroughly disgusting Brothers Grimsby and Nymphomaniac Vol I and II, which I’m sure needs no further explanation as to what it’s about, and Taika Waititi’s upcoming Jojo Rabbit where Waititi plays Hitler – well, a boy’s imaginary friend version of Hitler – so I don’t think creativity has been stifled.

Jojo Rabbit (source: vice.com)

Despite being the politically left-leaning liberal that I am I don’t think filmmakers should let the idea of other people being offended by their work stop them from making it – filmmakers need to think carefully about their work, its impact on people and potential interpretations but ultimately it’s their decision. However, free speech doesn’t mean you don’t have to deal with the consequences of what you make, that freedom equally applies to criticism.

Unfortunately, there are no simple rules on what is offensive or is so offensive the filmmaker shouldn’t have made the film – the difficult answer is to judge every piece of work and artistic decision individually and in context and then decide for yourself.

Also Read: The Human Centipede: A Love / Hate Story

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Editorials

The Matrix: Twenty Years On

September 10, 2019

It has been twenty years since the release of the hugely influentially film The Matrix. It’s hard to overstate the impact it had on its release, it was the fourth highest-grossing film of the year and its effect was felt not just in films but fashion, speech and even mobile phones. But what was once the height of cool over time can appear dated and lacklustre, how does this film hold up?

The Plot

(pinterest.com)

For those who don’t know I shall briefly explain the plot – Thomas Anderson lived in late 90s America, working as a computer programmer but is secretly the hacker “Neo”. He was approached by sinister government agents asked him to work as a spy. Neo refused and is quickly picked up by the people he was asked to spy against. Their leader Morpheus explained to Neo that what he thought was reality was actually only a computer programme, in reality AI robots were draining his energy to survive. What follows is a spectacular two hours of gunfights, fistfights and metaphysical pondering on the nature of reality and destiny.

Great Expectations

Dodging bullets ( source: vulture.com)

There was a huge amount of hype surrounding the film especially with the talk of unprecedented special effects – what became known as “bullet time”. The famous “bullet time”. The Matrix was not the first film to use this technique but undoubtedly popularised it. Bullet time is a form of slow-motion photography that will often have the camera moving around the target. In The Matrix, this was used as characters dodged bullets using what would be super-human reflexes. While the technology has moved on a lot since the effects still look great to this day.

The film wasn’t stunning just because of bullet time. The hand to hand fight scenes, such as Neo and Morpheus fighting or the climactic fight between Agent Smith and Neo were amongst the first of the extremely choreographed fights that are the mainstay amongst recent action-films (with perhaps the most relevant example of this being in the John Wick films – starring Keanu Reeves).

The Internet, Computers & Technology

Understanding computers (source: pinterest.com)

The Matrix capitalised on computers and the Internet in a way few films had before. Neo was a computer programmer by day and hacker by night and you got the feeling that not only Neo understood computers but so did the Wachowskis. The fact that Neo goes by that name, his hacker alias, seemed to reflect an understanding of the Internet, a place where you could be whatever you wanted to be.

Storytelling

Keanu Reeves as Neo (source: maxim.com)

In many ways, the storytelling aspects of The Matrix were rooted in old ideas. Robot tyranny, virtual reality, sinister but vague government agencies had all been done before. The idea of Neo being The Chosen One again is nothing new but perhaps they made it their own, in an episode of South Park there is a search for a chosen one they refer to as “The Keanu Reeves child”. By the Wachowskis’ own admission the film is heavily indebted to Japanese anime and Hong Kong action films. But I think the Wachowskis deserve huge plaudits for pulling all of these aspects into one film whilst at the same time combining an over-the-top action-sci-fi blockbuster with an intelligent hard sci-fi drama. Apparently the Wachowskis had the main actors read relevant books on philosophy and science so they could comfortably explain the ideas thrown around in the film.

Culture

Neo & Agent Smith (source: variety.com)

The cultural impact was huge. Like A New Hope or The Dark Knight The Matrix launched a thousand copycats and its influence can be felt in many more. The Simpsons and Spaced both parodied it while The Onion could write about something being “Matrix-y” and people knew what you meant. Anyone who wore a long black leather coat was imitating Neo. The term “matrix” has been used a lot in sci-fi (in Doctor Who it’s the repository of Time Lord knowledge, it’s the name of a DC superhero and is the name of a 90s fantasy tv show) but if used today would only refer to the film. The choice of red pill or blue pill has become synonymous with choosing fantasy over – an often painful – reality and people can talk about odd events and coincidences as “glitches” in the Matrix, a moment where a person can see something is not right in reality. One such glitch is that the aforementioned Matrix tv show starred Carrie-Ann Moss, one of the stars of the film The Matrix. Weird.

The Matrix 4

The world recently learned that there will be a fourth film in The Matrix franchise. After the huge success of the first film, the two sequels were not well-received but there is already a lot of interest in this new film. Crucially Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Ann Moss and Lana Wachowski are all part of the film. I think the years have been kind to The Matrix, with the sequels being forgotten about and the delight of the original still has a hold over people. I recently rewatched the film and despite knowing every twist, betrayal and cliffhanger still thoroughly enjoyed it, immersed in an interesting world that was glorious to watch.

Also Read: Horror-ibly Funny Movie Titles

Editorials

Harrison Ford: Nerf Herder or the Grave Robber?

September 3, 2019
Harrison Ford

When I was a child my favourite actor was Harrison Ford. I mean, how could he not be? This was before I knew of Blade Runner, Frantic or any number of great Ford performances. My opinion was based on two sets of films: Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Star Wars was the huge monolith of space opera sci-fi perfection and Indiana Jones was the ultimate hero from the past – fighting Nazis, battling evil cults and outsmarting his enemies. It is rare than an actor gets such an iconic role, Harrison Ford has two (let’s leave Rick Deckard for another article). Such was the cultural might of these characters both were brought back for more adventures but which is the more iconic character?

SPOILER WARNING – It’s hard to imagine someone reading this who isn’t fully up to date but there will be spoilers for Star Wars and Indiana Jones films.

Han Solo

Harrison Ford as Han Solo (source: comicbook.com)

Han Solo is the lovable rogue of Star Wars. Luke Skywalker may have been the lead character but Han Solo was cooler, funnier and far more handsome. Introduced as little more than a dodgy freighter captain with a bad-ass best friend he becomes one of the heroes of a rebellion and wins the love of a princess (and senator, general and many other awesome things). I think for a lot of people Solo is the most identifiable character in Star Wars – he doesn’t have magic powers, he’s not a princess or emperor and he’s not an alien. He was an ordinary guy trying to make the best of living through a bad time but couldn’t just do nothing when confronted with evil.

Indiana Jones

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones (source: thewrap.com)

Dr Henry “Indiana” Jones is a prominent archaeologist and professor known to be popular amongst his students. He is also a ravine-jumping, Nazi-punching, evil-defeating hero. I always loved the combination of intellectual and action-hero and while it has been done before and since nobody did it better than Indiana.

Iconic Moments

Both have a plethora of iconic moments, ranging from the funny to the brave to the romantic. Han Solo’s frantic conversation on the Death Star intercom trying to explain away a gun battle is hilarious but does it beat Indiana posing as a ticket inspector who promptly throws a Nazi off of a zeppelin?

Han Solo dressed as a Storm Trooper (source: youtube.com)

The moment where Han shows up to save Luke at the end of A New Hope is the defining image of the hero riding in at the last minute to save the day. For romance, Han wins easily – he has a moment that is arguably the most well-known in all of Star Wars: Leia- “I love you”, Han- “I know.”

Indiana Jones has at least two of the greatest action sequences of all time – the first is in Raiders of the Lost Ark where he races after the truck carrying the Ark and takes it over. He jumped on vehicles, fought soldiers and at one point was hanging onto the front of the truck while the metal he was desperately holding onto snapped off. The second being Indiana rescuing his father from a tank in The Last Crusade which is another all-round amazing sequence.

Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Arc (source: youtube.com)

Han Solo also has something Indiana doesn’t have (not yet anyway) – an iconic death. Being murdered by your own son while you try to reach any goodness still within him is brutal and heartbreaking. Han already seemed to feel like he had failed his son and there was no way he was going to try and fight him (I do love that just after Kylo Ren kills Han, Chewbacca shoots him, as he had no qualms about fighting him).

The Look

(movieweb.com)

Both characters are instantly recognisable and have surely been used millions of times as cosplay and fancy dress. Han Solo’s simple black trousers, white shirt, black waistcoat is so good that when everyone else wore full camouflage on Endor he chose to wear his normal stuff with a camouflage coat. As for Indiana, again simple but it’s the hat that makes it and because of Indiana Jones, the fedora is officially the world’s coolest hat. What’s amazing about Indiana is not only the default treasure seeker outfit, he also has the default old-fashioned professor look too.

Harrison Ford in his iconic Indiana Jones attire (source: bbc.co.uk)

The Character

There are a lot of similarities between the two – both are charming risk-takers who like doing things their own way. Both started out as mainly being concerned for themselves but their innate goodness takes over. Both are people who fight the bad guys, even when they outnumbered and almost certain to lose. They differ in background – Indiana’s parents were both academics and had a better life than young Han Solo, who even before his past was filled in a bit more in Solo was safely assumed to be fairly tough. Indiana has a respectable side – as well as an adventurer he is an esteemed academic, while Han does become a general this is part of a rebellion and as The Force Awakens showed he fell back into his old and more questionable life.

The Winner Is…

Which is the more iconic role? And which did more for Ford’s career? It’s an incredibly tough choice but I’d have to go for Indiana Jones, the clinching argument is the film isn’t called Han Solo and the Return of the Jedi. In acting terms, the success of the Indiana Jones films rests entirely on Harrison Ford.

Also Read: Star Wars: Course Correction

Editorials

Five Great Films About Filmmaking

August 27, 2019

Filmmakers love making films about filmmaking and while there may be some self-aggrandisement going on, many of these films are brilliant. Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood is the only the latest.

Spoiler Warning – contains mild spoilers for A Cock And Bull Story, Hail Caesar!, Adaptation, For Your Consideration and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

A Cock and Bull Story (2005)

A Cock And Bull Story (youtube.com)

This is one of my favourite films and one that should be far more famous. Directed by Michael Winterbottom and starring the wonderful Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden, the film is part adaptation of the supposedly unfilmable book The Life and Opinions Of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman and a fictional glimpse into the making the film. Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden play versions of themselves (as well as characters from the book) and the comic chemistry between the two is amazing. Whether it’s Steve demanding his shoes be built up so he will tower over Rob or the argument between Steve and Rob about what they should call Rob’s part (both agree it’s not a cameo) the battling of egos is endless. We see the annoyed experts brought in for their expert opinion only to be ignored, Gillian Anderson whose part in the film expands or contracts depending on Coogan’s insecurity and Winterbottom himself makes an appearance discussing with others what the “point” of the film is, or perhaps what is the point of any film.

Hail, Caesar! (2016)

George Clooney in Hail Caesar! (IMDb)

The Coen Brothers loving tribute to the Golden Age of Hollywood is perhaps not their best film but is certainly lots of fun. Studio fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) constantly runs around sorting out problems ranging from poorly timed pregnant starlets to kidnapped leading men. It is an exhausting job.

Despite having a strong ensemble two actors particularly shine. First, there is Channing Tatum as Burt Gurney, an all singing and dancing musical superstar (I couldn’t help but think Tatum’s talents are wasted in 21st Century Hollywood). Then we have Alden Ehrenreich as Hobie Doyle – an actor who is brilliant as a cowboy but has to turn his hand to more subtle acting, leading to one of the funniest scenes in Coen Brothers history as Hobie struggles to get his words right.

While there are numerous stories going on in the film Mannix has several meetings with a potential employer – Lockheed, offering him more money and more opportunities but would involve him working for a company who spends a lot of time building stuff to end the world. There is an interesting struggle in Mannix about not only what is the right job but what is the right thing for him to do.

Adaptation (2002)

Adaptation (rogerebert.com)

It’s easy to forget that there was a time when Nicolas Cage was considered a great actor and this, in my opinion, might be his best performance. Cage plays both Charlie Kaufman and his twin brother Donald Kaufman and is essentially about Charlie struggling to write a movie. It’s important to know that Adaptation is written by the real Charlie Kaufman (there is no real Donald) about his struggle to adapt the book The Orchid Thief. Charlie is a successful writer but Donald is more laid back and enjoys life more, fitting in easily whereas Charlie struggles in social situations.

Charlie’s problems with writing the screenplay goes so far as to stalking the writer of the book, played by Meryl Streep, and taking the famous Robert McKee story seminar- only to be lambasted by McKee. These attempts at improving the screenplay have mixed results at best.

For Your Consideration (2006)

For Your Consideration (IMDb.com)

After going after rock music, folk music and…dog grooming Christopher Guest turned his eye to Hollywood. For Your Consideration is the bizarre story of the film Home For Purim and how “Oscar buzz” turns attention on the film and its actors. Guest assembled many of his regulars with great performances from Parker Posey, Fred Willard and especially Catherine O’Hara.

This slim possibility of success throws the production into chaos as egos begin to grow and changes start to be made to the film to make it more accessible.

Not only does the film focus on the myriad problems of making a movie but also the ghastly world of Hollywood entertainment journalism and reminds you that the people who will celebrate you one day will laugh at you the next.

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004)

Bill Murray in The Life Aquatic (hobbydb.com)

Bill Murray plays aquatic explorer and documentary filmmaker Steve Zissou who lives in a typically eccentric Wes Anderson directed world. The film focuses Zissou following on from the death of his close friend and colleague at the hands of a “jaguar shark”. Zissou’s next film will be about him hunting down and killing the shark and by his own admission is purely for revenge.

Zissou is down on his luck and the glory days of his films are far behind him with many people seeing his own new as nothing more than cashing in on the death of his friend. Thrown into the mix is the son he never met, Ned (Owen Wilson) who suddenly enters his life, and journalist Jane Winslett-Richardson (Cate Blanchett) as well as annoying money men, pirates and an extremely irritating rival explorer the far more successful Allistair Hennessey (Jeff Goldblum).

So, why make a film?

Most of these films show filmmaking as an exhausting, frustrating and difficult enterprise with the possibility of making something good or that bears any resemblance to your original idea as remote. So, why bother? Because you just might make something great.

Also Read: Androids And The Actors That Play Them

Editorials

The Internet Picks the #BestMovieLineEver

August 16, 2019

Sometimes I feel I could have whole conversations and never be required to actually think of something to say and instead I can draw on the thousands of movie quotes running around my head. After seeing #BestMovieLineEver trending on Twitter let’s see what some of the best lines are:

“You make me want to be a better man”

via GIPHY

Film: As Good As It Gets (1997)

Delivered by Melvin (Jack Nicholson) to Carol (Helen Hunt), Melvin has insulted her and she demanded a compliment and after a short speech about working on his OCD he delivered this line, suggested by @Speechyspeeches.

“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here this is the War Room.”

via GIPHY

Film: Dr. Strangelove (1964)

As delivered by President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers) to one of his generals and the Russian ambassador fighting, a perfect line for a great anti-war satire. Put forward by @JohnErikHanson.

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat”

via GIPHY

Film: Jaws (1975)

Jaws, delivered by Brody (Roy Scheider) after he first gets a good glimpse at the shark, suggested by @Bracey452 and considering what happens later in the film he was right.

“In case I don’t see ya, Good Afternoon, Good Evening and Goodnight”

via GIPHY

Film: The Truman Show (1998)

The Truman Show, delivered by Truman (Jim Carrey) what starts as a catchphrase for a hapless dupe by the end of the film is a great cry of freedom, suggested by @sadzzilla.

“Not me. I’m in my prime.”

via GIPHY

Film: Tombstone (1993)

Tombstone, delivered by Doc Holliday, as @brenenshur pointed out any line by Doc Holliday deserves to be on this list but I chose the witty retort to being asked if he is retiring – it’s important to bear in mind he’s clearly dying of tuberculosis at this point (this is what I say whenever questioned about my health).

“I’m going to cut your heart out with a spoon!”

via GIPHY

Film: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

Delivered by the Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman), overall a terrible film that is someway redeemed by the best villain performance since Hans Gruber, picked by @KathleenKriel.

“You talkin’ to me?”

via GIPHY

Film: Taxi Driver (1976)

Delivered by Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) to…well, his own reflection. Really it’s his whole little monologue that shows just how far gone he is, suggested by @DongBao9.

“As you wish.”

via GIPHY

Film: The Princess Bride (1987)

Delivered by Westley/The Man In Black (Cary Elwes). Basically, this whole list could be quotes from this film but I went with this one (as did @kredenbarger) for meaning so much using so few words.

“I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”

via GIPHY

Film: Apocalypse Now (1979)

Delivered by Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore (Robert Duvall) as suggested by @fraulot. An insane line from an insane film about an insane war.

“If you’re good at something never do it for free.”

via GIPHY

Film: The Dark Knight (2008)

Delivered by the Joker (Heath Ledger) to a room full of mobsters, even scarier when you realise he’s talking about killing people. Scarier still when he burns all the money he got paid – suggested by @shubham_hadole

Also Read: Five Great AudioFction Podcasts To Listen To

Editorials

Five Great Audio-Fiction Podcasts To Listen To

August 9, 2019

There are many ways to tell a story -films, plays, books or something I’m involved with – podcasts, to be exact audiofiction podcasts. They run the gamut from shows disguised as genuine broadcasts (like Alexandria Archives) or radio plays (Steal The Stars). My own podcast, At The End Of The Line is the former, supposedly a travelogue podcast of someone journeying through post-apocalyptic England.

But aside from my own podcast here are five great audiofiction podcasts:

1. My Neighbors Are Dead

My Neighbors Are Dead

This is a weekly improvised podcast where the host, Adam Peacock, interviews a character from the periphery of a horror film, usually this character is not even in the film. So there has been the episode about Scream, where they interview the other guy who wanted to kill Sidney Prescott, or the estate agents who sold the Freelings the house in Poltergeist. In the episode the universe of that film is real, these things are meant to have really happened, as such in the episode on The Road the host and guest are living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

The show is very funny and very cine-literate and has some very talented comedians and actors playing these characters. The show is always good but occasionally it does hit sublime moments of comedy.

If You Listen To One Episode Make It – Episode 16 – Psycho. This is one of those sublime episodes as one man talks about the local amateur taxidermy contest he entered.

Listen: https://www.myneighborsaredead.com/

2. Victoriocity

Victoriocity

Perhaps the best example of world-building I’ve come across in audiofiction, an alternate-history of Victorian England where Even Greater London covers half of the country, the Tower of London provides energy and Queen Victoria is an unholy mess of human and machine. The show of full of brilliant ideas and concepts and does an amazing job of conveying these to the listener. The show follows Archibald Fleet and Clara Entwhistle as they struggle to solve crimes of great ingenuity and importance.

While the plot of both seasons revolves around grisly murders the show is a comedy full of jokes and wonderful turns of phrase.

If You Listen To One Episode Make It – Victoriocity won’t make much sense if you don’t listen to it in order but Season 2 Episode 4 The Circus is a great example of their world-building.

Listen: https://www.victoriocity.com/listen

3. The Magnus Archives

The Magnus Archies Podcast
The Magnus Archies

The horror and supernatural genres are fertile grounds in the audiofiction world and one of the best examples of that is The Magnus Archives. Each episode is a recording of a statement of a member of the public about a supernatural encounter. Most episodes are simply one person, the head archivist, reading someone’s statement. At the end of each episode is a little summing up by the archivist as he explains the research they have done to verify the story (while they certainly believe in the supernatural The Magnus Institute seems to believe most reports are unlikely to be genuine). What starts off as simple episodic tales begins to take shape, very slowly, of a bigger plot. This is not a humorous show and can be very grim and there are vivid descriptions of some rather nasty stuff, so bear that in mind.

If You Only Listen To One Episode Make It – Episode 9 A Father’s Love, a particularly grim episode where the daughter of a notorious serial killer explains the possible supernatural nature behind her father’s crimes.

Listen: http://rustyquill.com/the-magnus-archives/

4. We Fix Space Junk

We Fix Space Junk
We Fix Space Junk

A glorious sci-fi adventure in the mould of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, following the adventures of two “employees” of the distinctly evil Automnicon (whose motto is “We Own You”) as they are sent on various missions across the galaxy. The main characters Kilner and Samantha are joined by a whole host of interesting and original characters – particularly Marilyn but I won’t spoil her origins story.

If You Listen To One Episode Make It – Season 2 Episode 5 A Cure For Bindweed – brilliant sci-fi and surprisingly emotional

Listen: https://battlebird.libsyn.com/

5. Welcome To Night Vale

Cecil Baldwin playing Cecil Palmer, the voice of Welcome To Night Vale

This show is probably the most famous audiofiction podcast in existence and my favourite. It purports to be a local radio show for the town of Night Vale where host Cecil Palmer brings news and updates to his listeners. The idea behind WTNV was that it’s a town where every conspiracy theory is real – there are vague, yet menacing government agencies, UFOs, and any number of monsters. Nothing is quite right in Night Vale – librarians are vicious creatures but who also promote summer reading programmes, the mysterious dog park is banned to both humans and dogs, and the editor of the local newspaper constantly attacks people with hatchets. The show easily goes from creepy to funny to emotional easily and you soon become deeply involved in the lives of the residents of the town.

If You Listen To One Episode Make It – Episode 26 – Faceless Old Woman – an early example of how creepy WTNV can get as we learn about The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home and her name pretty much sums her up (she is played by Mara Wilson, probably best known for playing Matilda in the 90s film).

Listen: http://www.welcometonightvale.com/

Enjoy these five audiofiction podcasts and if you would like to check it out here is the link to my show: https://attheendofthelinepodcast.squarespace.com

At The End Of The Line – Audiofiction Podcast

Also Check out Big Picture Film Club’s: In Reel Life Podcast

Editorials

The Unlikely Success of A24

August 2, 2019
A24 Film Collage

What do Hereditary, The Witch, Locke, Green Room and Free Fire all have in common? I’ve seen them all. But perhaps more importantly is the film distribution and production company A24. For a company who has only been around since 2013 they have a staggering success rate – they were involved in Room, Moonlight, Lady Bird, The Disaster Artist, Amy (the Amy Winehouse documentary), Ex Machina and more. Their shelves are already struggling with the weight of awards and their films are considered essential viewing for those interested in cinema.

The Odd Beginning

A Glimpse Inside The Mind Of Charles Swan III (npr.org)

The first film the company produced was A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III back in 2013 and seems to be as odd as the title suggests. It’s not a film I’ve seen but it starred Charlie Sheen, who to put it mildly, is not the most reliable of actors. The film has an IMDb rating of 4.8 and an appallingly low score of 16% on Rotten Tomatoes and had a near-universal drubbing by film critics. The film did not lack for talent, directed and written by Roman Coppola, and aside from Sheen featured Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Patricia Arquette but seems to have not been a good film. I can’t help but feel it was a mistake to cast Sheen, who according to distribution executive, Nicolette Aizenberg, didn’t show up to the premiere. Sheen landed this role after his very public firing from Two and a Half Men. So an inauspicious beginning but it didn’t hold them back for long.

The Founders

Co-founder Daniel Katz already had a lot of experiences in the film industry, being the head of the film-finance division of Guggenheim Partners (they have lots of money and invest in stuff). Katz was involved in Zombieland, The Social Network and the Twilight franchise, showing a grasp of everything from cult hits, critical smashes and hugely successful franchises.

David Fenkel’s background is a little odd, before A24 he was a co-founder of Oscilloscope Laboratories, a film production and distribution company. The other co-founder was Adam Yauch best known as a member of The Beastie Boys and as can be imagined it was an odd company. If you google Oscilloscope the little blurb beneath the website says that only work in the film industry to raise money for their time machine. Similarly interested in independent film, Oscilloscope Laboratories has not shared the runaway success of A24.

Three Important Films

Hereditary (Empireonline.com)

I am going to look at three key films in A24’s story, Spring Breakers, Hereditary and Moonlight. Spring Breakers is often seen as the start of their success, a very unusual film that tested very badly with audiences and that no one thought would succeed. Not only was the film a huge success it helped make their name. A24 were the distributors of this film, rather than the production company, making the notorious “Consider This Sh*t” Oscar campaign for James Franco.

Consider This Sh*T

Second, we have Hereditary. a film considered one of the best horror movies of recent years and said by at least one critic to be this generation’s The Exorcist. It is A24’s second most financially successful film. And it is one of the most unnerving films I have ever seen and in the era of horror film franchises and endless jump scares it felt new and original.

Finally, Moonlight. This is not A24’s only Oscar success but winning the 2017 Best Picture award was incredible. For a company that makes – relatively – small films winning that Oscar is probably the clear sign that they’ve made it. Moonlight was adored by critics and because of its subject matter of huge cultural importance. It also won two other Oscars that year, for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali and was nominated for five more. You could say Moonlight won the Oscars that year.

The Secret Of Their Success

Lady Bird (npr.org)

An article in GQ interviewed many of the directors, writers and actors A24 had worked with and the founders received nothing but praise. Again and again, the message seems to be – these guys are not in it for the money. Now I personally don’t believe anyone who runs a company can completely shut out financial concerns, but it does seem like they think the best way to be successful is to let talented filmmakers do what they want to do. Their most financially successful film is the still the very niche Lady Bird which made around $50,000,000 and with IMDb estimating the budget at $10,000,000 that is a very successful film. While to many pretentious indie film fans – i.e. me – the directorial debut of Greta Gerwig was something very special it was hardly a sure-thing success. Another success story was The Witch (estimated budget of 3,500,000 box office of $25,000,000) and while it is a great film it must have been a hard film to pitch. It’s the story of one family, living alone in the 1630s while odd things, possibly magical/satanic things, happen around them but maybe nothing happened at all.

This strategy is by no means always going to be successful. A Glimpse Inside The Mind of Charles Swann III was directed by Roman Coppola, a long-time collaborator of Wes Anderson and clearly someone with a lot of talent but the film was a failure. And we can all think of pet projects of extremely talented people that go completely off the rails.

I think the surest sign of their success is that I would go to see a film purely based on it was made by them and I can think of no other studio where that is true. A24 is becoming synonymous with brilliant and original films.

Also Read: The Formula for a Successful Film

Editorials

The Human Brain Is Hard-Wired To Think In Genres

July 25, 2019
oCcgu

When scrolling through streaming services or wandering around Blockbuster Video if you’re from the past, what are your go-to genres? Science-fiction is usually my first choice but there’s something good in every genre. But why do we have these genres, and why do they exist in the form that they do? Danish film and media professor Torben Grodal might have the answer.

Evolution

Professor Grodal makes a case for evolutionary psychology as to why we have the genres we do and why they have persisted. While The Iliad (an ancient Greek Poem) is thousands of years old and written in a culture drastically different to our own we can see that it has many elements that would overlap with modern storytelling – action, fighting, love, revenge etc. Grodal argues this is because evolution has made us susceptible to these sorts of stories and essentially we’re the same people we were when The Iliad was created – a few thousand years is nothing when compared to evolution.

For Grodal there are three basic emotional structures that help make-up, and then react to genres

  • The Reptilian Brain – fear, anger, lust, seeking
  • Caregiving – love, pair-bonding, family
  • Separation/Grief – dealing with death and loss

These three systems are not mutually exclusive and often overlap, this is particularly true of Caregiving and Separation/Grief but you can find films that hit all three systems.

Humans Are Weird Animals

The Lion King (123tix.com)

Unlike many animals, humans care for their young for years as human infants are essentially helpless and utterly dependent on caregivers. If we want our DNA to continue in future generates, which the Theory of Evolution says we do, then we must protect our children. Evolution has hammered into humans that caring for their offspring is of paramount importance, so many films also have this message. Films are full of parents making sacrifices, up to and including dying, to protect children. Sophie’s Choice is considered so heart-wrenching because the choice will lead to the death of a child.

For most animals it is only the female that bears the burden of caring for children, humans are different in that males continue to provide for them, they will protect them and hunt or gather food. Due to the huge cost of raising children in terms of resources this makes evolutionary sense. This lead to a very strong pair-bond between parents and a successful pair bond is very important. So we have romances, where finding true love is amongst the most important things in all of life. There are few films that lack any romantic component, with “love interest” being a familiar description of a character. Hot Fuzz is one of the few films I can think of that has no romantic component and with this film, there was a lot of focus on the “bromance” between the two lead characters.

Saving Private Nemo

Finding Nemo (cornel1801.com)

What is the defining moment of the film Bambi? I’m sure most people will think of the moment when Bambi’s mother dies. Finding Nemo is entirely about reuniting a parent and child. The film Aliens add a whole layer of emotion and drama by introducing a child for Ripley to bond with and then protect. Separation and loss in films can be emotionally devastating because these are terrible evolutionary outcomes. How will Nemo survive without his father? How will Marlin survive without his son? This is already after the genuinely horrific deaths of Nemo’s mother and siblings. When the two are reunited there is absolute joy. Sometimes the sacrifice of parents for children can be widened to a whole tribe, and today that could mean your country, and again, nobly sacrificing yourself for others who are part of your “tribe” is a staple of films and is the entire premise of Saving Private Ryan.

The Reptilian Brain

Then there is the influence of the “reptilian” brain, the part of the brain that developed first, that we share with reptiles. The four emotional systems we share with reptiles are anger, fear, lust and seeking – as in looking for food, for a mate, for a predator etc.. At least three of these factors are integral parts of action films – and often lust gets thrown in as well. Seeking, basically looking for what you want/need is present in action as well as crime and mysteries.

Action, crime and mysteries are also important in what Grodal calls HTTOFF Scenarios – Hiding, Tracking, to Trap, being Trapped, Observing, Fighting and Fleeing. In these scenarios, the protagonist is constantly working out the interactions between themselves and the world and other agents within it. Grodal points out that while few people watching films in the modern world will have to regularly fight, flee etc., those mental processes are still within us. A lot of children’s games involve HTTOFF scenarios, so Hide and Seek or play-fighting, it is enjoyable to recreate these situations in a safe way.

Rituals

Films can act as shared, ritualistic experiences, so that seeing death, grief etc on screen prepares us for when they happen in real-life. This can also be true of comedy, a lot of comedy consists of bad or embarrassing things happening but in a film that’s okay, we know it’s not real, and in a sense is a form of playing and pretending.

An Alternative View…

The Godfather (padrino.fandom.com)

A little while ago on this site was published an article “The Formula of a Successful Film“, which looked at a different study which analysed thousands of films and found that they tend to fall into distinct categories like Rags to Riches, Cinderella and Icarus, describing how they handle emotion and the protagonist’s journey. So an Icarus film builds to high positive emotion and then drops down with a sad, or sort of sad ending. The most successful financially was found to be Man In A Hole. This is where a person falls at the beginning, leading to success/triumph at the end, the classic example being The Godfather. Michael starts happy, faces disaster and ends up winning. This research suggests something different going on to Grodal’s, here it is the journey of the character(s) that is crucial and evidently seeing someone triumph over adversity is very satisfying.

Taken (Empire.com)

Looking at all of this research I think potentially the film that should have been the most successful and critically acclaimed was Liam Neeson’s Taken. For Grodal it satisfies all three emotional systems – action, caregiving and separation and matches The Man In A Hole dynamic. While successful enough to spawn two sequels and a whole genre of older action hero films I don’t think Taken managed those heights.

Also Read: The Formula For A Successful Film

Editorials

Brexit: How Will It Affect The UK Film Industry?

July 14, 2019

Whatever your feelings on Brexit it is bound to have a big impact on many aspects of the UK, but what will the impact be on British film? I’ll be upfront from the beginning and say I voted Remain in the referendum and think leaving the EU will have a negative impact on the country. Will we cease to get any funding from the EU and will that hamper creators? Will a Britain freer to trade with foreign countries provide more opportunity? Is this a golden opportunity or a terrible disaster for British film? The unfortunate answer is it’s complicated. There are numerous different scenarios depending on what deal, if any, the UK government reaches.

The Current State of Affairs

For the time being Britain remains a member of the European Union, the European Economic Area and various other treaties and organisations. These agreements have reciprocal benefits and obligations and while the UK pays a substantial sum of money to be in the EU proponents would argue the benefits to the economy and country make it worthwhile. Some of this money goes into a central pot from which citizens or organisations from that area can make applications, for example, the film Paddington received over £300,000 in funding from the EU.

One of the founding principles of the EU is the free movement of people, goods, money and services across participating countries, this basically means it is as easy as possible for people to work, goods to be bought and sold, access and provide services and invest money. Whilst in the EU a UK citizen could easily work in Spain, Italy or any EU country and their citizens do the same. This is based on the belief that these freedoms will lead to increased trade, a stronger economy, more opportunities and more for those involved and will benefit the member countries and EU as a whole.

After Brexit

To be blunt, we don’t know what the situation will be. We could leave the EU but continue to be in the EEA. We could still be involved in funding cultural programmes. We could still give access to EU citizens to work in the UK and vice versa – although admittedly ending free movement of people seemed to be one of the cornerstones of Brexit. There was no clear definition of what Brexit meant and this has been one of the central difficulties of negotiating with the EU.

Brexit As An Opportunity

The British Film Institute conducted an extensive report on the effect Brexit would have on UK film-making, raising many potential problems but it did highlight three areas of opportunity after Brexit:

  • Depreciation of currency – since the referendum the value of the UK currency has dropped and, in a nutshell, has made it cheaper for places like America to do business in and with the UK. However, there are negative consequences of having a lower value currency that a government may want to avoid.
  • Opening new markets outside the EU – one of the features of the EU was many trade agreements were made with the EU as a whole rather than by individual countries and there were a lot of criteria that had to be met. After Brexit, the UK would be free to negotiate any free trade agreement they wanted with non-EU countries. This could create new markets or mean expanding existing ones.
  • Outside of the EU, the government could offer more tax incentives for film production in the UK.

The report also states that as the UK would not automatically be subject to new EU rules that might make the EU a less attractive place to do business with.

Working

It is hard to imagine a Brexit where it will not be harder for EU citizens to work in UK. Some have suggested that EU citizens will have to meet certain criteria around skills and be sponsored by their employer. A big drop in non-UK citizens being allowed to work could be a significant blow to British film-making, an article in Forbes stated that “In terms of post-production, visual effects and animations sectors, up to 40% of personnel are non-U.K. citizens”. Whilst some of those jobs will be taken by qualified UK citizens I doubt there are enough to make up that shortfall, the Forbes article goes onto say, the UK simply does not have enough people who possess these skills. And that is just looking at one area of filmmaking.

Funding

Films need money and the EU has put a lot of money into the film industry across Europe, for example, there is the Creative Europe programme which, essentially, could give you funding to make a film or help fund a cinema. Now regardless of what deal is reached, or no deal, the UK government has signalled it wants to remain part of some of these programmes. There is also the possibility that any EU funding that is lost could be matched by the British government, which is what has been promised in the case of Creative Europe in the event of no deal.

Co-Productions

Co-productions are when companies from more than one country work together to make a film. Sometimes this could be because the film takes place and is filmed, in two countries or it could be that there is a cultural message of the film the brings together relevant countries. The main reason, especially in recent years, is financial, as it allows more money to be raised from more people. Sometimes minority co-producers may have some creative control and sometimes they don’t. In recent years co-productions have become a smaller part of the UK film industry with the major exception being Ken Loach. Since 1990 Loach has released nineteen films of which fourteen had European co-productions, it is not a stretch to say co-production has been essential to his film-making.

Loach’s relationship with co-productions goes back decades, and creative control of his co-producers have waxed and waned. Sometimes a cultural input from a co-producer is extremely useful, Loach’s film Land and Freedom which was about the Spanish Civil must have benefited enormously from co-producer Tornasol, a Spanish company. Recently Loach has had to sacrifice very little, if any, creative control to co-producers, having many small backers dilutes their potential power.

Looking at the numbers Loach’s more international feel seems to be good for him, 87% of ticket admissions for Loach’s films come from outside the UK, a significant increase on 55% for most British films. What seems the most important factor in Loach’s success with co-production is that this method allows him to raise significant sums of money whilst sacrificing little, if any, creative control.

It is likely after Brexit the UK would not be part of the European Convention on Cinematographic Co-Production (ECCC) which was specifically designed to encourage European co-productions. To be part of this scheme would be to allow people working on the film to, well, be allowed to work on the film. The ECCC allows co-producers to claim the lucrative tax relief given to British film-makers and so make them keener to invest.

Barriers

There is one definite thing that will be true after Brexit, making films in Europe will be a lot harder and a lot of barriers will go up. Filming in Spain, Poland, France – any EU country will get a lot more complicated. Something as basic as moving filming equipment through countries could become far more difficult.

The Future…

Essentially there is very little we will know for certain, possibly there will be good and bad aspects to it. I think the best thing for British film-makers, and everyone really is to get a clear picture of what will happen and make decisions on solid information.

Also Read: Silence Is Golden: Great Scenes With No Dialogue