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Posts Tagged ‘Darren Aronofsky’

While researching an article on film certification I came across the BBFC podcast.  In one of their episodes they mentioned the highest number of complaints they have received in recent years was for Black Swan (2011).  The most interesting thing was how few complains and what they were for;  The number was around 40 and the reason, parents complaining that their daughters who were expecting a nice film about ballet. It was clearly a case of expectations.  The trailer makes the film look like the giallo inspired psychological horror/thriller that it is.  As someone who grew up watching films on video with a certificate beyond my age I may not have the best judgment on the subject, however I do think the 15 is about right.black-swan-movie-1

A look at the BBFC website gives a interesting insight into how they came to the decision “Black Swan presented the BBFC with a whole range of classification issues when it was submitted for an advice viewing in 2010”.  It appears the reasons the film received the 15 certificate and was considered for an 18 include: Sex, language, drug use, self harm and bloody images as described in the BBFCinsight (BBFCinsight is aimed particularly at parents. It offers a summary of how and why a film was rated at any given category). The film’s director Darren Aronofsky previous made Requiem For a Dream (2001) that received an 18 certificate for “strong drug use, language, violence, sex and medical gore”.  Everything in the film stems from the drug use, and if there ever was an anti-drug film this is it.REQUIEM FOR A DREAM

As mentioned, it’s all a matter of perspective.  Black Swan is a psychological thriller about the breakdown of an emotionally fragile young woman.  On the other hand the seminal Ballet movie Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s THE RED SHOES (1948) is actually a darker movie.  When you strip away the stunning photography and fantastic score you are left with a story of a woman who is forced to make an impossible choice between love and the job she loves.  It’s a fairytale with all the sweetness and happiness removed.  A movie that is as devastating as it is beautiful.  Without the sex, language, drug use, self harm and bloody images the film has a U rating meaning anyone of any age can watch it without any warning that they are going to have their heart and hope ripped from them.the red shoes moira shearer

I’m unsure what conclusions we can draw from this other than to say films aren’t always what you expect and the written guidelines such as BBFCinsight are probably more relevant the simple number or letter of the certificate.

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When visiting my parents or talking to then on the telephone they often ask what movies I have seen, if I respond with the name of a film they haven’t heard of my mom, knowing I watch a lot of foreign language movies will ask “is it foreign”. On more than one occasion I have given the somewhat flippant and slightly rude response “yes, American”. It is funny that a movie made five thousand miles away in Hollywood is familiar and not foreign because it is in something similar to “The Queens English”, and yet something made across the channel in France, still on the same continent as England, is in some way foreign and exotic. Maybe we are two nations joined by a common language and not divided by it as George Bernard Shaw quipped. Whatever the reason, as we step below the surface of these idea we find an interesting thing, filmmaking does exist beyond the bright lights of Hollywood, both in Europe and in the rest of America.Mean Streets The Terminator Blood Simple Memento

When I talk about American independent cinema it isn’t just the obvious and seminal movies like Easy Rider (1969) (Dennis Hopper) or Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) (Monte Hellman) or the small no budget movies that you have never heard of. Think of some of the biggest name directors working today: Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Ethan and Joel Coen, Christopher Nolan, then look at their independent films Mean Streets (1973), The Terminator (1984), Blood Simple (1984), Memento (2000) . Sam Raimi may be making money movies for Disney now but it all started with Evil Dead (1981) and Evil Dead II (1987). Would George Lucas have made Star Wars (1977), if he hadn’t already made THX-1138 (1971) or the hugely profitable American Graffiti (1973)? Then there are directors like David Lynch, Quentin Tarantino and Darren Aronofsky that are just more comfortable outside or on the edge of the system. There was a time before he started believing his own publicity that Kevin Smith was the darling of the indie scene thanks to the cult status of Clerks (1994), but before that came Richard Linklater’s Slacker (1991). A day in the life of various social outcasts and misfits held together by loose strands and an even looser narrative, the style and the realistic dialogue became a blueprint for a generation. Linklater wasn’t seduced by Hollywood instead he remained in Austin and two years later he came up with Dazed And Confused (1993).Dazed And Confused Clerks THX 1138 Evil Dead

The same can be said for foreign language cinema, it isn’t all about weird esoteric art house movies, there are many accessible movies not in the English language. Not that the weird esoteric art house movies are a bad thing, they are just not the best place to start. The test as to if a movie is accessible and worth seeing is simple, would you watch it if it were in English? If the answer is yes, it is worth a look. There were two movies that seemed to cross the language barrier that came out within a year of each other just over a decade ago: Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie (2001). Many of the people who watched and enjoyed them wouldn’t normally have seen a movie in another language. There have been some interesting examples too; the French thriller Tell No One (2006) is very American in its style, no great surprise, it is based on an American novel (of the same name) by Harlan Coben. A Hollywood remake was supposed to have been made but it doesn’t appear to have materialised yet. The same can’t be said for Anything for Her (2008), it took just two years for the American remake The Next Three Days to hit cinema screens. Both Tell No One and Anything for Her benefited from the presence of actresses familiar to English speaking audiences Kristin Scott Thomas and Diane Kruger respectively. On the subject of remakes the terrible Queen Latifah movie Taxi (2004) is a remake of a great French movie also called Taxi (1998). It has spawned three sequels (the first of which is also really good) the movies are notable for lots of things including significant early roles for Marion Cotillard.Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Amélie Tell No One Anything for Her

When I first saw Oldboy (2003) it immediately became one of my all time favourite films. I didn‘t expect it to have gained the following that it has, I also didn‘t think Hollywood would dare to touch it, but they have the American remake of Park Chan-wook’s vengeance movievis in production and is set for release later this year, it is directed by Spike Lee. The other movie that plays well to British and American audiences is Run Lola Run (1998). It put its German star Franka Potente and director and Tom Tykwer onto the international stage both have worked in American and their native Germany many times since. But I can trace my first experience of a foreign language movie back a little further than that. In 1990 I read a review of a film I really wanted to see Nikita (1990). At fourteen years old I didn’t have a chance of getting into see it at the cinema to see the eighteen certificate movie, but a couple of months later (when I was fifteen) renting the video was surprisingly easy. Its impact in America was such that it spawned a Hollywood remake and two television series. Its director Luc Besson’s next two films Léon (1994) and The Fifth Element (1997) were in English.Oldboy Run Lola Run Nikita Taxi

I have done little more than scratch the surface of independent and foreign langue movies, but I hope I have inspired at least one person to look below the tent-pole blockbuster and popcorn movie and towards the smaller films that don’t get all the publicity. Many of them will get limited runs in big multiplexes but others are harder to find, but if this means you are also helping to support your local independent cinema’s it’s an added bonus. As you grow to love them as much as I do you will look deeper and further back at older movies and a whole world of cinema will open up to you. I know that I am to a certain extent preaching to the converted as many readers are film fans and bloggers themselves and are far more cineliterate than me.

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As previously mentioned, a new Batman movie is inevitable but how will it live up to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight vision of Batman, the answer make it very different. One option is to follow the silly or the camp versions that went before it, but I have a different idea. Until I started researching a article a couple of months ago I didn’t know that there was a Batman serial made in 1943. Set at the time it was made during World War II “The Batman” had become a government agent and was pitted against Japanese agent Dr. Daka. Are you starting to see where I am coming from? Firstly a little background: Batman’s first appearance was in May 1939 in The Case of the Chemical Syndicate, published in Detective Comics #27. Six months later his origin (variations of which have been retold many times since) and motivation were revealed. He received his own solo title in 1940 and Robin, Catwoman and The Joker were all introduced.

Like all good stories Batman could exist in any era, the 40’s set Captain America and the 60’s set X-Men: First Class have proved that setting a comic book movie in the past has proved that it can work. Set in the mid 30’s in a Gotham City full of gangsters rich from profits made during prohibition. Falling somewhere between a noir detective thriller and an action adventure it will give a great chance to reinvent Batman. This isn’t as strange as it sounds, not only was Batman created in the 30’s but it’s original style was inspired by pulp novels of the time. I would probably avoid World War II, that would probably stray too far into Captain America territory. Rather than an actual reboot from day one this new Batman should jump straight into the story as an established character with a little exposition as we go along, we all know enough about the characters mythology now to negate the need for an origin story.

The key to a movie like this is getting the right director, given what he did with The Rocketeer (1991) and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Joe Johnston could be the man for the job. I loved Zack Snyder’s Watchmen (2009) but given the fact he is currently making the Superman movie Man of Steel, it is unlikely he would make a Batman movie. Then there is my go to director for action with a little depth, Kathryn Bigelow. I would love to see a Quentin Tarantino Batman movie, but not this one. But all these would be a second choice at best, the next Batman movie should be the one who missed out when Nolan made Batman Begins, Darren Aronofsky. I would expect Aronofsky’s Batman to b darker even than Nolan’s, pushing the boundaries of right and wrong and how far a Batman should go in his fight against crime. Next we need a credible Batman, there are two options, a complete unknown or a huge star. Of the stars a few ideas that have been kicking around that I like are: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbinder (who could probably play any part he likes) and Jake Gyllenhaal. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy could also do a good job but their presence in the Nolan movies probably negates this.

I don’t see this movie ever being made, for one simple reason, money. A 1930’s set movie won’t fit with the inevitable Justice League movie without a Superman movie set in the same era. Whatever happens a suitable gap should be left before the franchise is rebooted, the eight years between Batman & Robin and Batman Begins should be a minimum, however I don’t see them waiting that long again because of money! Christopher Nolan has turned Batman into Time/Warner’s most bankable commodity.

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Following last weeks thoughts on where the Batman franchise may go from here, I thought I would take a look how we got to where we are now. The Dark Knight Rises didn’t just happen, a comic book movie this big and epic but also this dark could not have been made in the 80’s or 90’s. Is the world in a darker place making such filmmaking a product of its time? Probably, but there is more to it than that. The billion dollar gross of The Dark Knight (2008) ensured that there would be a third film but things were very different before that. Batman Begins (2005) had a reasonable but unspectacular profit (it grossed around two and half times its budget). A few years before that would a big budget comic book movie have been made especially after Batman & Robin (1997).

When I started getting into movies as a kid the only comic book or super hero movies that had any credibility were Superman (1978) and Superman II (1981). Batman was best remembered for the Adam West/Burt Ward TV show from the 60’s that although it has gained a cult status now it something of a joke for a long time. Then things changed in with Tim Burtons Batman (1989). Although it is a long way from Christopher Nolan’s (very dark) Dark Knight version of Batman it was a million miles from the camp TV show. Gotham City became stylized Art Deco world that didn’t know if it belong to the future or the past. Futuristic gadgets existed alongside old cars and villains carrying Tommy guns. Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne is a gloriously awkward character, only just the right side of sanity and probably closer to Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark than Christian Bale’s Batman. The big name and star turn is Jack Nicholson as the Joker who has been unfairly forgotten in the shadow of Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. Batman Returns (1992) offered more of the same, it didn’t expand on the first film or offer anything new or different the way The Dark Knight did after Batman Begins but did boast an unforgettable Michelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. But then it all went wrong when Joel Schumacher took over.

Before all of that Frank Miller wrote two seminal comic book series The Dark Knight Returns (1986) and Batman: Year One (1987). As well as introducing characters and storylines that their way into Nolan’s films, both books had a dark tone and themes of rebirth and redemption that we have come to associate with Batman. It also popularised the name “The Dark Knight”.

Then in a true comic book way, an unlikely hero came forward to save the genre, Blade (1998). After years of the rights to Marvel comics being sold off for TV shows and rubbish films (often with a tiny budget) Marvel studios first film was a co production with New Line Cinema. Not risking one of their big name comic books their first film and in some ways their most important was Blade. The character originated in the 1970’s as a supporting character in The Tomb of Dracula comic book. He went on to star in his own comic book as well as making appearances in various other Marvel Titles. Released in 1998 written by David S. Goyer (who also has writing credits on all three Nolan, Batman films), directed by Stephen Norrington and starring Wesley Snipes. Snipes is perfect in the lead role giving the right blend of stone faced killer, brooding hero and a little deadpan humour. The production had a relatively modest budget of around $45million and produced worldwide Gross revenue of $131million. This does not appear to be much when compared to the near $600million Iron Man took or the or the $2.5billion the three Spider-Man movies have made however without the relative success of Blade these films and the X-Men may never have been made. The sequel directed by visionary geniuses Guillermo Del Toro is even better and also introduced comic book audiences to a darker more melancholic view. Like many of his movies, there is an underlying question of who the monsters really are, and more importantly who are the real monsters.

So these are the films that created the environment that made The Dark Knight trilogy possible but what about its director. Christopher Nolan’s first feature Following (1998) is a low budget, low key affair that is well worth a look. He really made his name with the innovative and brilliant Memento (2000) before making Insomnia (2002) a remake of a Norwegian. Both films made a decent profit received critical praise. Between the first two Batman movies Nolan made The Prestige (2006), another financial success that received largely positive reviews. After the success of The Dark Knight he embarked on what appeared to be an expensive vanity project, Inception (2010), but that too was a runaway success taking over $800million and appearing at the top of many people top ten movies of 2010 (including mine). The net result of each of these movies is the same, they prove Nolan to be a bankable director that studios what to work with.

This leads to the part Warner Bros. played in the production of Nolan‘s Batman trillogy. Ultimately they hired him to make A Batman film. Prior to that, there was always going to be a Batman film but which Batman film? Early ideas involved a fifth film in the existing series and a return for director Joel Schumacher. Schumacher preferred the idea of a reboot bases on Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One he was reported to have said: “[I] owe the Batman culture a real Batman movie. I would go back to the basics and make a dark portrayal of the Dark Knight.” This is the first suggestion I have heard of for both a reboot and a darker movie. Lee Shapiro and Stephen Wise pitched an idea to Warner called Batman: DarKnight. It involved the character Man-Bat as well a plot centred around Dr. Jonathan Crane and his experiments into fear (sound familiar). This idea didn’t get off the ground, the studio instead deciding to hired Darren Aronofsky to write and direct and adaptation of Batman: Year One. He quickly brought Frank Miller in on the project as a co-writer and approached Christian Bale for the role of Batman. This idea fell by the wayside along with Clint Eastwood’s The Dark Knight Returns and a Wolfgang Petersen directed Batman vs. Superman.

I’m not necessarily saying all of these movies or events had a direct influence on Nolan and his trilogy but they are all the building blocks that made the movies possible.

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