Archive for August, 2014

There has been a lot of talk since the release of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes about the possibility of Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell receiving Oscar nominations.  But what form should this take?  A best actor or supporting actor nomination, or a new category?  I’m not sure the ultra conservative Academy is going to nominate a motion capture performance.  It is unlikely that a new category will be created now, but maybe in the future.  What exactly would it be?Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

New categories or splitting existing categories isn’t a new thing.  between 1939 and 1967 the cinematography category was split between Black & White and Colour.  In 1940 the writing category was split between original and adapted screenplays.  Most recently in 2001 the Animation category was introduced.  Defunct categories include Academy Juvenile Award, Best Assistant Director and Best Dance Direction. If a Motion Capture category was added, who would be honoured?  The actor or the animators and technicians?  The simple answer would have to be both, otherwise there would be no point in the new category.  If only the actor were nominated, this would be covered by the existing acting categories.  The same goes for the animators, if they were nominated alone this could be covered by the existing visual effects awards.

polar express

So what does all this mean?  A new category Best Motion Capture Performance would need to combine a great achievement by both the actor and the animators as seen in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.  In the event of a fantastic performance by an actor were combined with shoddy dead eye animation this would be pointless.  Equally, if an actor was merely providing a framework for movement with no emotional involvement this would not work either.  Then comes the question of what is eligible.  There have been two distant versions of motion capture.  Animated films like Polar Express and The Adventures of Tintin, and live action films with animated/motion capture elements like Avatar and the Planet of the Apes movies.  There is also the question of dialogue. Silent performances aren’t excluded from the acting categories as seen recently by The Artist so they should not be in a new category, however it would clearly be harder for a silent performance to make an impression.The Adventures of Tintin,

Then comes the real issue, how many performances within a year will be suitable and how many will be making up the numbers. At the moment there probably aren’t enough suitable performances, but there will come a time when they are more common and it will surely then be time to create a new category.  But it isn’t that simple, every year the Board of Governors meets to discuss the possibility of adding new award categories. Best Stunt Coordination has been proposed and rejected just about every year since 1991.  What will happen? Only time will tell!


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Over the weekend I didn’t know what to say about the sad and untimely death of Robin Williams.  The TV schedule gave me a certain prospective when I watched Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) for the first time in twenty years.  It was the first Robin Williams film that I had seen when I was around twelve or thirteen years old, I have seen it a couple of times since but not for around twenty years.  I actually remember the movie best from the sound-bites that intersperse the soundtrack album.

Robin Williams Good Morning Vietnam

Robin Williams (1951–2014)

loosely based to a true story; Saigon in 1965, as the Vietnam War heats up DJ Adrian Cronauer ( Robin Williams) is drafted in to liven up Armed Forces Radio.  He quickly becomes a hit with the troops and his co workers but clashes with the Lieutenant and Sergeant Major (Bruno Kirby & J.T. Walsh).  The realities of the war soon become clear.

The film is very much as I remember it, filled with funny moments but with the sad and harsh realities of war. The thing I had forgotten, or more likely was unaware of at the time was what a good Vietnam movie it is, in fact it is amongst the best.  I didn’t see Apocalypse Now (1979) and Platoon (1986) until a couple of years after I had seen Good Morning, Vietnam, I would now say they are my three seminal Vietnam movies.  Fans of Robin Williams are often divided between is comic and dramatic roles (with or without facial hair!), Good Morning, Vietnam is the film that combines both sides of his ability.   We see the improvised comedy moments as well as pure acting performance.  Williams was nominated for an Oscar, the first of four nominations, he lost out to Michael Douglas for Wall Street, he finally won ten years later for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in Good Will Hunting (1997).

Whatever happens now, I don’t expect to ever understand why Robin Williams took his own life, all I can do is enjoy his best films, and Good Morning, Vietnam is certainly one of his best films.

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The Machine posterI haven’t posted under the heading DVD Gems lately but the low budget (less than £1million) British Sci-Fi thriller, The Machine is a worthy addition to the series.

In the near future we are in a mist of a cold war between the west and China.  Working for the ministry of defence, Vincent (Toby Stephens) is the head boffin in a project to create super soldier.  He enlist the help of Ava (Caity Lotz) who has created AI that could be the final part of the jigsaw.  It soon becomes clear that everyone has their own agenda.The Machine Toby Stephens Caity Lotz

Comparisons to The Terminator (1984), Splice (2009) and Frankenstein are inevitable, however it probably has most in common with Bride of Frankenstein (1935), not least for Caity Lotz’s fantastic duel role reminiscent of Elsa Lanchester.  Like so many of the other similar themed films about creating artificial life the film asks all the morel and existential questions you would expect.  The fact so few of the questions are answered could be considered a weakness, it is actually the films greatest strength.   To ask the questions without answering them gives the film an extra dimension and treats the audience with a little more intelligence than you would expect.  It isn’t that there is any great an mysterious subtext of subplot, the film merely asks questions that it lets it audience answer.The Machine Caity Lotz

Written and directed by Caradog W. James with imagination and vigour.  The effects are simple but effective making good use of the small budget.  The direction and editing are taught keeping filling the 90 minute runtime with ease.  The film also has a great dark and brooding visual style that is perfect.  The cast is good particularly the charismatic Toby Stephens and Caity Lotz who shows great range.  The great shame is that a an interesting British film didn’t receive a wider release.  Like most people, I had to wait for the DVD release.The Machine

Don’t expect an all action film, or a thoughtful thriller, but the film has elements of both of these ideas, and that is why you should watch the film, ideas!  The film is full of ideas.  I will certainly be looking out for what Caradog W. James does next.

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“People don’t believe in heroes anymore”

With all the coverage received by the new trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road I thought it was time to look back at the original 1979 movie.  Many people associate Mad Max with the sequels Mad Max 2 (1981), subtitled The Road Warrior in America, and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) and have forgotten the original movie. 

“A few years from now” in a unspecified place the MFP are the traffic police who maintain order on the streets.  Cop, Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) becomes the target of a biker gang after he is involved in the pursuit of an escaped killer calling himself The Nightrider (Vince Gil).  When he  loses everything, Max goes out to seek revenge.Mad Max

As described in the opening title card, the film is set “A few years from now”, it isn’t the apocalyptic world where the desert has reclaimed the world.  A lot of Mad Max is set in relatively lush green scrubland.  It is the beginning of the “maelstrom of decay” described in Mad Max 2.  The world isn’t going out with a bang, humanity is slowly giving up as the gangs take over and the world is tearing itself apart.  Is the film set in a dystopia on fringes of society or in a future on the brink of collapse?  This is never really made clear, but in many ways the film is all the better for it.  In a vast landscape filled with nomadic motorists the traffic cops are the only thing keeping the world in check and hanging on to civilisation, they are the heroes that Fifi (Roger Ward) refers to.Mad Max

So the film isn’t an apocalyptic nightmare, that’s the second and third films, but is it the violent revenge thriller that it is labelled?  It does have its violent moments but most of those aren’t actually shown, they are surprisingly off camera, probably for budgetary reasons.   I am not convinced if released now it would receive the 18 certificate it got on its original release.  Is it then an observations on the effects of the 70’s oil crisis’ on Australian motorists? Is it an existentialist look at what people do to cling to their humanity and the idea of society?  The film is less than ninety minutes long but still manages to devote more than ten minutes to the opening chase scene. Only the final twenty minutes makes up the revenge story that the film is known for.  Any meaning we may be looking for is most clearly observed in the scene where Max wants to quit, he admits to Fifi that he is scared, not scared of what could happen to him, but scared that he may start to enjoy it, scared that he is going to become a “terminal crazy”, this is kind of what we see.    As Max, the innocent and good man gives up on society in favour of revenge, society itself gives up and we see the results in Mad Max 2.  So does that make it a cautionary tale against lawlessness?  Am I reading too much into it, at it is merely a visceral tale loss and revenge designed just to entertain on the most base of levels?Mad Max opening chase scene

Director, George Miller claimed the films budget was around $400,000.  Made in a pre CGI time this resulted in a very inventive movie that makes the most of its money.  This is what I love so much about the film, it’s a genre film like Roger Corman and early Walter Hill, it’s a film that is improved by its limitations not constrained by them, it is a film directors like Michael Bay, McG and James Cameron should revisit, they could learn something.  The real draw for the film is Mel Gibson, at 23 he was an unknown, with one movie and a couple of TV credits behind him.  Given the baggage he now carries with him, it is easy to forget what a charismatic and likeable star Gibson was back then.  Demonstrating the lighter and comic part of the film with the same ease as the more hollow shell of a man set on a path of revenge.  He manages to bring a sense of despair and melancholy to the part.The Rover and Mad Max Posters

The legacy of Mad Max and the apocalyptic movies set in sand covered landscapes that have imitated and been inspired by it probably belongs to Mad Max 2 and not to this film.  In the 35 years since its original release there hasn’t been another film quite like Mad Max, not even its sequels.  With David Michôd’s The Rover just opening and Fury Road due out next may, now is a perfect time to remind yourself of the original Mad Max. 

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When I first watched Boyhood, I found myself looking out for the charges from year to year.  After a couple of transitions I forgot all about it and just watched the film.  On a second viewing I made a mental note of them with a view to this article.  You can plot the passage of time by Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater’s aging process, or by the changes in Patricia Arquette’s hairstyle and Ethan Hawke’s facial hair.

What I have tried to do is list the key events from each year and put them into context alongside other projects for director Richard Linklater  and stars Arquette and Hawke.  I have also mentioned key world news stories and other significant movies released each year. The dates are based on the start date of 2002 with a few songs and Barack Obama’s 2008 election campaign to check its progress.  All descriptions are from memory of my two viewings of the movie so I cannot guarantee they are totally accurate, the same goes for the dates on the photographs.



Introduces Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) and their mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette).  Young Mason sees his mom fighting with her boyfriend.

Other Projects – Ethan Hawke doesn’t appear in the early part of  film, in 2002 he published his second Novel Ash Wednesday.

In the News – In his first State of the Union address President Bush labels Iran, Iraq, and North Korea “an axis of evil”.

Significant film of the year – City of Godboyhood 2002


Olivia moves the family to Houston to be closer to her mother so she can go back to school.

Other Projects – Richard Linklater  looked like he was taking a step towards the mainstream with the Jack Black comedy School of Rock.

In the News – US space shuttle Columbia crashes. The United States launches war on Iraq and Saddam Hussein is captured.

Significant film of the year – Oldboyboyhood 2003


Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), the kids farther is introduced when he returns from Alaska.

Other Projects – Ethan Hawke joined the cast and also appeared in Linklater’s Before Sunset, a sequel to Before Sunrise.  Hawke and co-star Julie Delpy both received writing credits on the film, the pair shared the Adapted Screenplay Oscar with Linklater and Kim Krizan. Linklater also make the TV Movie $5.15/Hr.

In the news – Al Qaeda takes responsibility for terrorist attacks in Spain that keeled more than 200 people.

Significant film of the year – Million Dollar Babyboyhood 2004


We and Mason Jr. are introduced to Olivia’s professor and future husband, Bill Welbrock (Marco Perella).

Other Projects – Patricia Arquette started a six year run on the TV show Medium (2005–2011). Director Richard Linklater  remade the kids baseball movie Bad News Bears with Billy Bob Thornton in the Walter Matthau role.

In the News – Hurricane Katrina  devastated America’s Gulf Coast. The 7/7 terrorist attacks killed 52 people the day after London had won the bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games.

Significant film of the year – Sin Cityboyhood 2005


Olivia and Bill marry, we are introduced to Bill’s kids Randy (Andrew Villarreal) and Mindy (Jamie Howard). We learn Bill is a dick!

Other Projects – Ethan Hawke directed The Hottest State based on his own novel of the same name. Richard Linklater released two films, A Scanner Darkly and Fast Food Nation.  The latter features both Patricia Arquette and Ellar Coltrane.

In the News – Tony Blair announced that he would step down as prime minister the following year.

Significant film of the year – Pan’s Labyrinthboyhood 2006


Bill’s  alcoholism becomes clear.  Bill forces Mason Jr. to get a severe haircut.

Other Projects – Ethan Hawke appeared in Sidney Lumet’s final film Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead while Patricia Arquette was busy with season three of Medium.

In the News – The credit crunch begins.  Tony Blair steps down as British prime minister as planned.  Gordon Brown takes over. Madeleine McCann disappeared from her family’s holiday apartment in Portugal, she is still missing.

Significant film of the year – No Country for Old MenBoyhood 2007


Bill becomes violent and abusive.  Olivia leaves and takes Mason and Samantha and but can’t take Bills kids.

Other Projects – Richard Linklater  made two films, Inning by Inning: A Portrait of a Coach, Documentary about University of Texas baseball coach Augie Garrido.  Me and Orson Welles is a fictionalised version of Orson Welles’ 1937 stage production of Julius Caesar.  Notable as Zac Efron’s first grownup role.

In the News – Barack Obama elected US president.

Significant film of the year – The Dark Knightboyhood 2008


Mason Sr. takes Mason Jr. on a camping trip.  We discover Samantha has a boyfriend resulting in a awkward but amusing conversation about contraception.

Other Projects – Patricia Arquette was still busy with Medium now in its fifth season.  Ethan Hawke appeared in three movies, the most significant being original vampire movie Daybreakers.

In the News – Barack Obama sworn in as America’s 44th President. A pilot landed an airliner on New York’s Hudson River after birds disabled its engines, all 155 passengers and crew were rescued. Fandango Groovers Movie Blog goes live.

Significant film of the year – Inglourious Basterdsboyhood 2009


After another move Olivia now teaches psychology at a local college.  At a Thanksgiving party we meet Jim (Brad Hawkins) and first learn of Mason’s artistic side when he talks to one of his moms students about graffiti.

Other Projects – Patricia Arquette’s time was still taken up by her TV work, no one else released anything significant.

In the News – An earthquake hit Haiti killing approximately a quarter of a million people.  The worst oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry  hit the Gulf of Mexico.

Significant film of the year – Inceptionboyhood 2010


Mason Sr., now married to Annie (Jenni Tooley)with a new baby and having sold his Pontiac GTO, picks up the kids and takes them to visit Annie s parents.  Mason receives various birthday gifts and we learn of his interest in photography.

Other Projects – Richard Linklater reteamed with School of Rock’s Jack Black for the true story Bernie.  In an interesting post script to the story, the real life Bernie Tiede is currently out of prison, and living in an apartment above Linklater’s garage.

In the News – US forces kill the al-Qaida leader, Osama bin Laden in a raid on the house in Pakistan where he had been hiding. Future monarch Prince William marries Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey.

Significant film of the year – Driveboyhood 2011


Mason meets future girlfriend Sheena (Zoe Graham).  When Mason arrives home late he is confronted by a drunk Jim.

Other Projects – Richard Linklater made a six part TV show, Up to Speed.

In the News – Barack Obama is elected for a second term, the Supreme Court upheld the key elements of his health care overhaul.  The London Olympics are hailed a huge success.

Significant film of the year – Skyfallboyhood 2012


Mason and Sheena drive to Austin to visit Samantha who is attending collage there. The pair intend to go there the following year.  It also becomes clear that Olivia and Jim have separated.

Other Projects – Hawke and Linklater made the third part of the “before” series Before Midnight, one of my favourite movies of the year.

In the News – NSA-contractor Edward Snowden leaked hundreds of thousands of documents containing classified intelligence resulting in a debate over modern communication and the boundaries of surveillance.

Significant film of the year – Stokerboyhood 2013


Mason graduates from high school, by this time he has broken up with Sheena who cheated on him.  Olivia sells the family home and moves to a small apartment.  Mason leaves for college having been awarded a scholarship for his photography.  Mason has his life in front of him, but Olivia feels she has nothing left to look forward to.  Like so many Linklater movies the final scene is perfect.

In the News – Renewed unrest in Iraq, crisis in Ukraine, Ebola virus ravaging West Africa.  The world sometimes feels like it is on the brink, if history and these stories have taught us anything, humanity’s ability to survive has thus far been the only thing that out-ways our ability to fuck things up.

Significant film of the year – Boyhood is the most significant movie of the year so far.boyhood 2014boyhood 2014

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There has been a lot of talk over the past week about the soundtrack from the movie Guardians of the Galaxy.  All the songs come from the 70’s and feature on two mixtapes ( Awesome Mix Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) owned by the character Peter Quill (Chris Pratt).  There are a few questions being asked: how has the tape survived being played over and over for 20 years? Where does he get his walkman batteries from? how has a 1980’s Walkman (particularly  the headphones) lasted all this time?  Probaly best not to think about it!  This isn’t the first time a film not set in the 70’s has had a great 70’s soundtrack, the music from Reservoir Dogs (1992) comes from a radio station “K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies”.  Interestingly both films feature “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede.awesome-mixtape-1-guardians-of-the-galaxy-soundtrack-104187

I decided to list my own 70’s mixtape.  I set a few parameters: It has to fit on a 90 minute tape (45 minutes on each side, check the length, they do fit).  I have to own all the songs so could actually make the tape (if I still had a cassette recorder). One song per artist (I have very nearly stuck to this).

I threw this together by listening to the records and picking the ones that I felt fit together, it isn’t a definitive list of the best or my favourite records of the time.  Every time I hear a 70’s song for the next week I will be kicking myself for not including it!peter quills walkman

Side One

  • Joni Mitchell -California
  • Derek and the Dominos – Layla
  • The Rolling Stones – Tumbling Dice
  • Bobby Womack – Across 110th Street
  • Stevie Wonder – Living for the City
  • Janis Joplin – Me & Bobby McGee
  • Blind Faith – Had To Cry Today
  •  Aerosmith – Sweet Emotion

Side Two

  • The Wailers – Get Up, Stand Up
  • Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run
  • The Doors – L.A. Woman
  • Bob Dylan – Idiot Wind
  • Patti Smith – Because The Night
  • The Who – Won’t Get Fooled Again
  • AC/DC – Highway To Hell
  • The Clash – London Calling
  • The Undertones – Teenage Kicks

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“all romantics meet the same fate someday, Cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark café, You laugh he said you think you’re immune, Go look at your eyes they’re full of moon”

Joni Mitchell – The Last Time I Saw Richard

What If has been pigeonholed as a Comedy/Drama/Romance, the same three genre’s as When Harry Met Sally… (1989), this and the main protagonists being Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan, the stars of Harry Potter and Ruby Sparks respectively is the reason for my flippant title.  But when we look a little deeper, have we got anything new to say after 25 years?What-If-Movie-Poster

Wallace (Radcliffe) is a burnt out cynical shell of a man after a failed relationship.  He meets Chantry (Kazan) at a party and forms an instant bond.  After walking her home at the end of the night she tells him she has boyfriend but wants to be his friend.  They quickly become best  but it is clear to everyone that he is in love with her.what-if-daniel-radcliffe

The film has its funny moments, but it tries just a little too hard to be truly funny.  There are enough laughs along the way for this not to matter if not for my initial question.  The answer, the film has nothing to say that When Harry Met Sally… didn’t say quarter of a century ago, and the Rob Reiner/Nora Ephron film is funnier.  That said, in a world full of remakes and reboots is an original story that that reworks old ideas really that bad?  Given the fact that many viewers of What If won’t have seen When Harry Met Sally… the new film does have a place.  To add to this, with the inevitable comparisons it may steer a few people towards the older film.  It is also worth mentioning the some great supporting performances particularly from Mackenzie Davis and Rafe Spall. what if

It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, but if you are looking for an inoffensive sometimes funny Comedy/Drama/Romance you could do a lot worse.  Make sure you stay for the fantastic animated closing credits that conclude the story.

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I haven’t seen many movies this month but with just one exception I have liked them all, I have also seen my favourite movie of the year so far.

Transformers: Age Of Extinction – Michael Bay has replaced Shia LaBeouf with Mark Wahlberg, he has also changed most of the robot characters.  In the process he has failed to deliver anything we haven’t seen in the previous movies, and it is soooooo long.   Stanley Tucci’s comic relief is the only bright spot in the movie.Transformers Age Of Extinction

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Ten years after the events of the previous movie.  A well told story that is elevated by the stunning effects and use of motion capture.Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Boyhood –  Richard Linklater not only set his coming of age story over twelve years, he shot it over twelve years.  Nothing out the ordinary happens, it is all the better for this. It’s about the same length as Transformers but never feels long.Boyhood

Begin Again – Treads a similar path to writer/director John Carney’s earlier film Once.  It isn’t as engaging or endearing as Once but is well worth watching largely for likeable leads Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo.Begin Again with Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley

The Purge: Anarchy – Sequel  to last years The Purge takes the story from the confines of a house and moves thinks onto the streets.  As much a satire as a horror thriller, they wear their B movie credentials with pride.  While the first film owes a debt to John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) this sequel has more in common with Walter Hill’s The Warriors (1979).The Purge Anarchy

Hercules: Starring the actor formally known as The Rock, this sword and sandals movie attempts to strip away the fantasy and mythology.  On the whole it works, the movie is dumb, but lots of fun and surprisingly entertaining.Hercules

Guardians of the Galaxy: If you have seen the previous Marvel/Avengers movies you will be familiar with the Infinity Stones, the items that are shaping up to be the central MacGuffin of the series.  A disparate group of outlaws, The Collector (as seen in Thor: The Dark World) and a new “big bad” are all after said macguffin.  Reminicent of 70’s and 80’s sci-fi, it’s the best space adventure since Serenity (2005).Guardians of the Galaxy

Not only Movie of the Month, but my favourite movie of the year so far:boyhood-poster

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