A struggling actor, writer, bibliophile, self-confessed coffee addict, lover of European and Oriental Cinema, confirmed bachelor and wannabe blues guitarist.
Rebuilding The Future
The year 1960 saw the release of George Pal’s imaginative production of H.G.Wells’ ‘The Time Machine’, considered by many to be a classic. At the end of the film, the main character ‘George’ returns to the distant future to help the newly liberated yet child-like Eloi build a new society, taking just three books with him to aid his venture. As his friend comments to another character ‘…which three would you have taken?’. Considering the wealth of knowledge we have access to in the 21st Century, which three books (factual or fiction) would you choose and, more importantly, why?
The Appeal of The Road Movie
"It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes; it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses" (Elwood Blues)
"Hit it!" (Jake Blues)
That legendary quote from ‘The Blues Brothers’ (1980) introduced the viewer to arguably one of the funniest and most notorious car chases in cinema history and exemplified the road movie as a metaphor for the desire for freedom. Freedom from oppression, freedom from authority and the freedom of self-expression. The comically manic, self-destructive joyride of ‘Goodbye Pork Pie’ (1981) saw the protagonist taking a thousand mile trip across New Zealand, in a progressively disintegrating mini, just to reconnect with his girlfriend, whilst David Lynch’s gentle perambulation that was ‘The Straight Story’ (1999) was based on the true story of Alvin Straight’s 240 mile trip on a lawnmower across Iowa and into Wisconsin to see his estranged brother. In more recent years we’ve had the eccentric British film ‘Driving Lessons’ (2006), the Bonny and Clyde-esque ‘God Bless America’ (2012), Inmtiaz Ali’s loosely scripted and superb ‘Highway’ (2014) and the somewhat off-kilter ‘The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun’ (2015)…to list but a few examples. What connects all these films is that each is ultimately a life-affirming experience, even if the journey ends in disaster. It is the process of self-discovery, but in these modern times of ultra high-tech surveillance and ever encroaching self-driving vehicles, will we lose that chance to push the peddle-to-the-metal and engage with our thirst for a fleeting moment of automotive freedom?
The Evolution of The Bank Heist in Cinema
Whatever happened to the good ole’ bank job? A small team of dedicated villains who cased the job, drew up meticulous plans and (sometimes) got away with the loot. These days we are used to seeing technological spectaculars with the villains often touting hardware and computer systems equal to, or even superior to, that of the Police. The Bank Heist has been a popular movie theme since the days of silent film making, but times move on and so do the brains and specs behind the operation. ‘Bonny and Clyde’ (1967) showed the simple, violent approach to robbing a bank; ‘The Italian Job’ (1969) had a more lighthearted spin and instantly made the Mini car into an icon. In more recent years we’ve had ‘The Bank Heist’ (2011) a Canadian comedy and the Las Vegas-style showmanship of ‘Now You See Me’ (2013), whilst the British films ‘The Bank Job’ (2008) and ‘The Hatton Garden Job’ (2016) both harked back to old school techniques. Of course the list is endless and these are just a few examples. Explore the evolution of the bank heist and not just in terms of the advance in technology over the years, but also look at the characters involved, what their motivations are and why we, the international viewing public, retain a fascination for such villainy. It’s not always about the money!
Red Dwarf - Growing old disgracefully in Space.
The British science fiction comedy TV series ‘Red Dwarf’ (1988-1999)(2009-Present) has gained a cult status and follows the misadventures of what are essentially four less than intrepid blokes stuck in Space. With the main characters frequently exhibiting flaws such as cowardice, laziness and downright incompetence, the stories provide a welcome, humorous antidote to the morally upright characters typically found in many science fiction series. The latest series is due to appear in October 2017 and the fact that the lead actors are no longer the spring chickens they once were has not gone unnoticed by the show’s main writer, Doug Naylor, who has already started to include jokes at the expense of his ageing characters. Could this perhaps lead to the birth of a new comedy genre that would playfully examine the inevitable encroachment of advancing years and a second childhood in a Sci-Fi setting?
Advertising and the Art of Selling...Stuff.
The world of TV Advertising has become ever more sophisticated and devious as the public has become more media-savvy. From the early days of a product being pushed in front of us and a cheery female voice or a man in a white coat suggesting we buy it, we’ve moved on – through an era of dancing bunnies high on battery power and roller skating young women extolling the virtues of certain feminine sanitary products, to a period when the product was rarely seen on screen and we were bombarded with imagery that seemed to bare no relation to the product being advertised. These days some TV adverts are like mini movies whilst others are projected deep into our subconscious and intended to make us feel slightly inadequate if we don’t continue to play the consumer game.
However, is the advert break still a convenient excuse to nip to the loo or make a cup of tea? Is the Scientist in the white coat still regarded as an authority figure? Are we, the viewing public, too wise for our own good? Can we still be tricked into buying something we really don’t need and, most likely, will become obsolete within a year? The artifice of advertising will always remain exactly that and yet there have been advertising campaigns that have gained a life of their own and even garnered artistic respect and admiration. Could advertising truly be considered an artform in itself?
Extras: The Unsung Heroes of Film and Television
From the unfortunate Stormtrooper who banged his head on a door in ‘Star Wars – A New Hope’ (1977), to the brave souls who survived the ‘Helm’s Deep’, three months of night shoots in ‘Lord of The Rings. The Two Towers’ (2002), the Support Actor or Extra is a vital element of film making, but often overlooked by the cinema going public. These days ‘extras’ are big business, with a myriad of agencies offering almost any size, shape and range of looks that any production may require. Yet it’s not often that these loyal and hard working bodies even receive an end titles credit. The British sitcom ‘Extras’ (2005-2007), attempted the redress the balance, but still focused on the improbable rise to fame of the lead character. Perhaps it’s time that our unsung heroes of film and television were recognised and rewarded for their professional skills and dedication to the art. An Oscar or similar for ‘Best Featured Extra’ perhaps?
The Role of the Sacrificial Hero in Cinema
From Jean Reno’s portrayal of Léon (Léon. AKA: The Professional. 1994) to Shin Hyeon-jun’s portrayal of Hyun-jun (Kiss Me, Kill Me. 2009), the Hitman who rediscovers his humanity through self-sacrifice and atonement is a familiar theme. Are these characters merely bad men turned good or do they represent a convenient scapegoat for the ills of Society in general? Perhaps more importantly, do we learn anything from them as anti-heroes or damaged role models?
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