Sunday, 27 November 2011

My Week With Marilyn (Simon Curtis, 2011)

"You are a great movie star who wants to be a great actor while he is a great actor who wants to be a great movie star"


I have seen Some Like It Hot and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I know the shot from The Seven Year Itch and have seen the Andy Warhol iconic image of Marilyn Monroe throughout my life. Marilyn Monroe is a woman who oozes sexuality and femininity. Christina Hendricks 'Joanie' in Mad Men has recently become the latest incarnation of Marilyn whilst Madonna pushed Monroe further to the obscene and controversial side of the spectrum in the eighties. My Week with Marilyn portrays one specific moment in Monroe's life whereby she is filming opposite Lawrence Olivier in The Prince and The Showgirl. The story is told from the perspective of Colin Clark, son of famed Art Historian Kenneth Clarke/ Colin is a 24-year old who becomes Monroe's confidant and friend when her husband, Arther Miller, leaves for a week.

The Best Film of the Year?

The opening act of this film fully immersed me into the world of British cinema in the fifities. Like Colin (Eddie Redmayne), I looked in awe at Marilyn as she walked off the plan in England. Like Colin, I was excited and keen to see what was going on behind the closed doors and sets at Pinewood Studios. I could relate to young Colin and I fell for Marilyn Monroe as soon as she appeared on screen, incredibly played by Michelle Williams. A far cry from 'Jen' off Dawson's Creek. The thought crossed my mind that this could be one of my favourite films of the year. Even  the supporting role of Dame Sybil Thorndike (Judi Dench) thoroughly engaged me - I wanted Sybil to look after young Colin as he got further involved in the industry whilst Emma Watson's costume-hand was equally playful and flirtatious, taking me back to the games I played when I was a teenager. The clear separation between the production and the 'stars', the drama and conflict between Olivier and Monroe and the play for power in Paula's direction against Olviers own direction of the film. Everything seemed to be in place and, right up until Colin walks in on Monroe stepping out of a shower, everything seemed to be a clear recollection of an exciting time of a passionate filmmakers life.

Based on a True Story

As the film progressed into the second act, it attempted to establish a relationship between Colin and Monroe. The brilliant supporting cast established in the first act, are now ignored: Judi Dench never seen until a small moment in the closing act; Emma Watson walking across the set throwing dagger-eyes at Colin as he becomes more besotted with Marilyn. The progression of the story, ultimately doesn't ring true. The whole idea of Marilyn Monroe confiding in a fan, six-years younger, with no clout - nothing akin to the power and success Arthur Miller, Joe DiMaggio, John F. Kennedy and Marlon Brando had - borders on complete fantasy.

Though not as volumptuous as Monroe, Michelle Williams captures the beauty, vulnerability and savvy attitude to the media that Monroe had. Toby Stephens - another brilliant actor wholly underused - in one press-interview, throws in a question about what she wears in bed. The crowd goes wild, the male journalists hanging on her every word, despite the fact that Stephens is placed there as part of Monroe's staff. It is he who handles her publicity. My huge love for the film changed dramatically in this second act and I am still at pains to work out why. So, the supporting-cast suddenly disappeared - the entire story becomes a three-way tryst between Olivier, Monroe and Clark. The context of the story crossed from nostalgic-memories of British film-productions to complete young-mans-fantasy. I think that I felt the performance of Marilyn changed early in the film as [ridiculously] Colin manages to witness Marilyn breakdown after an argument with Arthuer Miller about his writing. Colin -and teh audience - see Marilyn, crumpled on the floor, in tears, as Miller coaxes her back into the bedroom. We realise how vulnerable she is - and maybe I was so lost in her beauty and iconic status, I simply didn't want to see this side of her so early on in the film.


I throughly enjoyed the film, despite my concerns regarding its authenticity. Taken as a glimpse into a world I have never known, I enjoyed the journey and I would happily revisit it in future. Williams does deserve the inevitable recognition for her portrayal of Marilyn, but I doubt the film will become anything more than a brief, fleeting week capturing a moment all men desperately want to experience. The most iconic woman in the world falling for the most unimportant, wet and awkward man on set. Unlikely, but fun. I only hope that a film about Marilyn Monroe is made with more truth and realism in it - rather than My Week with Marilyn which is a fantasy of a rich-boy who desperately craves something he ultimately can't have.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Rocky III (Sylvester Stallone, 1982)

"See that look in their eyes, Rock? You gotta get that look back, Rock. Eye of the tiger, man"


Rocky II was a huge success financially, dictating that Rocky III is quickly put on the cards and put into production. Again, Stallone directs, writes and stars bringing the whole cast together again with a surface-story of 'a new contender fights against Rocky' ... but the subtext is obvious. Stallone and Shire both look shinier and thinner - new models for the latest film. Though this is not Apollo Creed fighting for respect and to uphold an image which garners him financial wealth and success. This time, Rocky is up against Clubber Lang - a man who only holds hatred towards his opponents. This is a man whose aggression and anger defines him - and this is the only way he gets what he wants: through violence. It marks a turning point in the franchise. The previous two films had a strange depiction of boxing in terms of ethnicity: We are watching a white man fight a black man - and the white man wins. I think, from my previous posts, it is abundantly clear that the films are much more complicated than this: Rocky is from poverty, Apollo Creed has already won and has lost his focus because of his financial success. He has lost the 'hunger' to fight as well as Rocky. It is about someone from poverty rising up and 'fighting' his way out. I do not believe race in Rocky and Rocky II is a subtext or theme. Whereas in Rocky III, I believe it is.

Rocky and Racism

Ironically enough, despite the epic failure of Rocky in Rocky II advertising, in Rocky III the opening ten minutes depicts Rocky rising through stardom and earning money through fights and advertising. We see this as we also see Clubber Lang (Mr. T) watch every fight Rocky is in, we see him training harder and stronger and call out Rocky as the champion he is going to fight. We also see Mickey see Clubber Lang fight - and realise how dangerous he truly is. The jacket Rocky buys in Rocky II is now the Oscar-nominated song "Eye of the Tiger" as this sequence progresses - finishing with the recurring theme of the alcoholic Paulie remaining envious of Rocky's success. Some things never change.

The truth is that Clubber Lang is a better fighter - his hatred also pushes him harder and ensures complete focus. He has no distractions and his complete attention is on the prize of becoming World Heavyweight. It is Apollo and Rocky's friendship which clarifies how situations are solved - Apollo is personally insulted and disrespected by Clubber Lang in the ring. The lack of respect for the sport and for the nature of boxing, as a parallel to a destructive and aggressive attitude towards others, is what Apollo despises. Apollo and Clubber Lang have nothing in common - Clubber Lang actively wants to hurt people in the ring and prides himself on the pain he inflicts on other sportsmen. His arrogance in defeating Rocky initially equally highlights that even outside the ring, Clubber Lang continues to be hateful. Apollo and Rocky work together to solve the problem that is Clubber Lang. I think if you needed further evidence for this subtext and parallel you need to look no further than when we visit Apollo's roots in LA. We see Paulie's ignorant attitude to others, we see the hunger in the eyes of the young men desperate to fight their way out of poverty - this hunger is what Clubber Lang has but, more importantly, this hunger is fuelled with anger and hatred.


I always think that when we get to a third film in a franchise, the filmmakers often consider this to be the final film. The neatness of a 'trilogy' must be tempting and so we see constant parallels to the first film in the trilogy and the idea of closure. Rocky dominates the poster, echoing the god-like stature of Michelangelo's 'David' ensuring that this film (despite providing a wealth of strong supporting actors in Mickey, Apollo, Paulie and Duke amongst others) is firmly focused on Rocky's journey. Mickey's death marks the end of Rocky's connection to Philadelphia - the training at Mighty Mick's, the old traditional values potentially representing old prejudices dying out and being replaced by a new ethos and a new capitalist and nationwide perspective through the assistance of Apollo Creed.

The passing of the baton takes place at Mighty Mick's, Creed stating "I thought I mind find you here...". The scene is steeped in shadow and creates a moody, reverential atmosphere. Even the revival of fashion in leather and motorbikes, equally give the film a darker edge with a nostalgic-element harking back to the fifties whereby motorbikes and leather jackets were modelled on icons including James Dean and Marlon Brando.

The Challenges of Life

Like all of the Rocky films, the film is accessible to all and the continuing, important theme of challenging yourself is highlighted in the nature of Rocky's training. We spend a long time watching Apollo getting more and more frustrated with the lack of effort Rocky is applying in preparation of his fight with Clubber Lang. Mickey complains to Rocky as they train in a gym surrounded by fans who kiss him and take pictures with him mid-training. You cannot achieve the success you crave if you are doing it for the wrong reasons - you cannot rest on your laurels and assume that each fight in life can be easily won. You need to constantly challenge yourself. You cannot train and work solely for someone else - you need to do it for yourself. 

The final fight not only thematically closes the film effectively, but also shows stellar writing from Stallone himself. We do not see merely a challenge "whereby Rocky wins", oh no. We see the whole strategy of taking the hits and taking the blows, in order to wear the opponent down. Apollo cannot believe his eyes, but then it is clear that Rocky is chipping away at Clubber Lang.

Like life, it is a long road and you you have to take it slow and steady and keep chipping away. That is what achieves success. Patience, determination and perseverance - harking back to the themes of the first film whereby Rocky stood 15-rounds, not to simply win - but for himself, to prove he could do it.
Large Association of Movie Blogs

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A-Z #104: The Italian Job

You can pick up hundreds of DVDs for a round-pound each - it doesn't matter. It's never about quantity, it's about quality. A-Z is my way of going through my collection, from A-Z, and understanding why I own the films ... or you can tell me why I should sell 'em

#104 - The Italian Job

Why did I buy it?

Only a fiver. And its 'a British classic!'. So they say. I had not seen it at the time and seemed like as good a time as any to purchase it.

Why do I still own it?

I've only watched it a couple of times, and I like it: Michael Caine is brilliant, Noel Coward in his final acting role and even Benny Hill! I always feel like I'm not as obsessed with it as others. The only thing I ever watch is the mini-chase at the end leading to the flawless cliffhanger ending. I guess, the fact that I want to watch a single sequence time and time again means it is worth keeping on that point alone.
Large Association of Movie Blogs

Monday, 21 November 2011

Proms 2011: Prom 38 - Film Music Prom

I originally wrote this post on 13th August 2011, but never got round to publishing it. Finally I found the YouTube videos that show what I managed to see, so that you can watch them too. Better late then never ...

Last night I 'prommed' for the first time. I have never been to the Proms and this year I was informed of a 'FILM MUSIC PROM' that was taking place. I 'prommed' and paid £5 to stand in the gallery to watch. It was incredible.

Act 1: Herrman, Morricone and Walton

Prom 38 began with Bernard Herrman's unforgettable music from The Man Who Knew Too Much. I was not alive when Hitchcock created his first version in 1934 with Peter Lorre and nor was I alive for the second version, in 1956 - but both ended with a climactic murder in The Royal Albert Hall. To think that, in the new millennium in 2011, I stand in the gallery watching an Orchestra perform the same music - heading towards the inevitable crash of a cymbal is incredible. This led to music from Citizen Kane and then a flawless rendition of Herrman's string-only-score for Psycho. This was amazing as the music literally felt like it was reaching out to the audience and then moving back into the orchestra. When the strings play the 'Knife' sequence it looks as if the orchestra themselves are stabbing their instruments all in unison. The faint pluck equally takes you back to the bathroom Marion Crane was killed within.

Morricone's stunning Cinema Paradiso theme followed and, to finish the act we had an arrangement by Muir Mathieson of Henry V. I have not seen the film but I was well aware of the popularity this score has within 'classical' circles. I visited a friends house only recently and her Father had collected every issue of the publication 'Gramophone'. He showed me an article on Film scores and Henry V was noted as one of the best film scores created. To see it live was a great precursor to watching the film itself.

Act 2: Williams, Greenwood, Bennett and Barry

It was inevitable that John Williams would pop up at some point at a Film Music evening. More Oscars to his name than anyone in the world, he has produced some of - if not the - Best Film Scores in the world. He is the most famous composer - well known by anyone who loves cinema and music. We heard a little Star Wars, providing a brilliant start only to then be gently led to hearing a live rendition of the theme from Schindler's List. The fact that Williams composed both scores simply adds to my amazement that it is the same person. I was told many years ago that the Jurassic Park theme was the last brilliant John Williams score - I would argue that Hedwig's Theme from the Harry Potter films are equally memorable.

We listened to a few pieces by Jonny Greenwood (Norwegian Wood) and Sir Richard Rodney Bennets Murder on the Orient Express, but it was the finale which blew the doors off.

James Bond often gets mentioned multiple times in conversations - and I have a personal love for the music. John Barry and David Arnold are the two strongest composers for the franchise - despite good efforts from Eric Serra (Goldeneye), Michael Kamen (Licence to Kill) and Eric Serra (For Your Eyes Only). David Arnold not only knows the craft, but he knows Barry's scores - and this was so clear in the final piece of the evening. A suite that shows a clear link between John Barry and David Arnold's scores - the classics are obviously there: Barry's 007 theme, You Know My Name, Goldfinger, On Her Majesty's Secret Service but it was a great parrallel between a theme from You Only Live Twice and Quantum of Solace that really strikes a chord - David Arnold is the natural successor to John Barry, and this suite proves it.

A brilliant evening I shall never forget! To think it cost £5!!!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The Wallace Collection

I initially planned on visiting Speaker's Corner today near Marble Arch and, when I arrived only one speak was there. Due to this, I had a little bit of a wander and stumbled across The Wallace Collection. I have never visited this gallery and, upon walking into the front door, it was clear that the art housed within the building was 18th Century, with Art dating further back...

To think such a stunning gallery existed and I never knew! I am going to write a couple of notes on three pictures which I specifically enjoyed and are housed in this stunning building.

Fragonard's The Swing (1767) - A tour discussed this picture and the information was simply fascinating. The painting is deemed a boudoir painting. It depicts a woman on a swing, the light emerging from ... the centre. Notice the vicar pulling the swing and the man on the bottom left looking directly up the girls dress. Even cupid puts his finger to his lips - we are see something saucy! It also firmly depicts an example of painting during the Rococo period as the painting has a strong use of nature and is completely unsymmetrical in the composition. I love the painting, and the fact that it is 'dirty' makes it that much more appealing.

Titian's Perseus and Andromeda (1554-1556) - This painting, for a long time, was not attributed to Titian and hung in the bathroom of the Wallace household. The taps resided beneath the very centre of the painting so you can imagine the damage the steam from the use of those taps had on the painting. Tragically, when it was accurately attributed to Titian, the damage was already too much and it has not been adjusted. Due to this you can see how the painting was not executed as successfully - the left-arm of the falling Perseus you can clearly see has changed its place and there are many other alterations which were made during the execution of the painting. Not Titian's finest, granted, but definaetly an interesting back-story with a nice example of Titian's accuracy in depicting flesh.

Frans Hals' The Laughing Cavalier (1624) - Unfortunately, not much information given on this painting. A brilliant portrait, it clearly provides a great contrast between pattern and texture as the 'Cavalier' wears expensive, decorative robes. His slight-smile even recalls the smile of the Mona Lisa.

For posts on Modern Art, I have written posts on exhibitions at The Saatchi gallery (The Shape of Things To Come and British Art Now) and on Christian Marclay's The Clock

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Three Film Blogs I Thoroughly Recommend

In the past week I was exceptionally busy. I was leaving work late and getting in at a silly time in the morning - the weeked ended on a high as many things in the world of Art teaching were looking good.

The thing is, when I get home, I then think about blogging. I have to write something don't I? Anyone who has followed this blog will know that I am temperamental. Unlike some writers, I physically cannot write a post every day. I try, but I can't do it comfortably. And when I do, the typo's are appalling and show that I clearly haven't re-read the text before hitting publish.

This forces me to set myself challenges. Specific goals I'm working towards to ensure that I keep improving my writing and understand cinema on a larger scale.

This leads me to contribute to other sites. Contributing ensures that I manage a more work-ethic approach to film-writing. That doesn't mean I don't like it of course, it just means I need to prioritise and prepare on a weekly basis and this, in turn, ensures my approach is more professional.

Armond White highlights the difference between Film Enthusiasts and Film Professionals - and I could write a whole post about the definitive difference between the two. I aspire to be a Film Professional because I love cinema and, like any profession, it requires dedication, commitment and perseverance.

The following three sites are not in any particular order and are just a way for me to explain why I respect and admire these blogs - and are proud to contribute to their sites.

Flickering Myth - Back in the days of The Simon and Jo Film Show I first noticed this blog. Amongst other writers, Luke Owen wrote extensively on different franchises - Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th - and, most recently, writing about trilogies such as Scream and Jurassic Park. The site is UK-based, which means the films discussed are much more in line with my own interests and preferences. The site wrote extensively on the London Film Festival and, only in the last week, my first post was added to the site. My articles will be exclusive to Flickering Myth and are 'Comments on the Commentators' whereby I will be commenting in response to articles in the press. Thanks to Gary for taking me on board!

The Matinee - Ryan seems to listen to alot of podcasts. Whenever I tune into Reel Insight or Frankly, My Dear there is always a mention of Ryan's letter during the week. Ryan became the only guest on The Simon and Jo Film Show when we reviewed Green Zone and then, again, reviewed the film on his podcast The Matineecast. Following the end of my own podcast, Ryan approached me to co-host a short 12-part series on different directors and I gladly accepted. This ensured a more analytical approach to directorial styles, approaches and interests in my favourite medium of podcasting. Suffice to say, we enjoyed the first bunch and are in the process of creating a few more episodes so stay tuned for that ...

Man, I Love Films - Six months ago, Dylan of Blog Cabins and Kai of The List joined forces to create the blog Man, I Love Films. Dylan was one of the first listeners and supporters of The Simon and Jo Film Show podcast - indeed, I am sure that his praise and highlighting of the podcast on his own blog is what garnered us The LAMB following we eventually built. Suffice to say, Dylan asked me to write Classic Film Reviews and initially providing an opportunity to explore context of films pre-1975 and then analyse a films meaning, recently over the last two months, I have taken the same analytical approach to Classic Film Franchises - specifically Star Wars and Rocky. My continuing interest in film-analysis is cemented in this regular writing and I always look forward to watching - and then writing - about films for the Classic Columb.

These are great sites that I am proud to place on the site and support where possible. I am sure that if you read this blog, you must be aware of a few of these sites but make sure you check out the others.

For me, and now my writing, they all offer different focus-points on cinema that will ensure you learn and become more literate in the world of cinema.

Nb - It seems that The Simon and Jo Film Show is what links all these eventual connections ... maybe its a sign...

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Rocky II (Sylvester Stallone, 1979)

"Except for my kid bein' born, this is the greatest night in the history of my life."


I complained about Rocky, and how (as a boxing-movie) it only had two fights in it. Rocky II has two fights in it ... but the first fight is the one we've already seen at the end of Rocky! Indeed, Rocky II is more an example of the difficulties of setting up a family, topped off with a fight. I did not initially plan on writing about every film in the series - and I was worried that the second film would be such a dismal sequel that there would be very little to discuss any way. I am happy to say that, so far, there is something interesting to write about and, indeed, some significant issues the sequel raises.

The Follow-Up to an Oscar Winner

Very few Oscar Best Picture winners spawn sequels - The Godfather Part II is the only one that comes to mind when I scan through the list of winners. Rocky is the other. And indeed, it was worth it, becoming the 3rd highest grossing film of '79 behind Kramer VS Kramer and Moonraker. In fact, it was the highest grossing sequel until The Empire Strikes Back. It received generally positive reviews and it is worth noting at this point that Stallone not only wrote the script but additionally directed the film.

Indeed the directing is top-rate. Unlike Avildsen, Stallone became more expressive in his use of camera and editing. The editing in the final fight slows to show the real impact of each punch whilst the decision for the film to follow directly after the fight in Rocky ensured that the film didn't leave people in the dark about the end of the previous film - so you know, Rocky lost the fight at the end of the film. Crucially, Rocky ends as Creed tells him "there ain't gonna be a rematch" and Rocky replying that he "doesn't want one". This is directly changed at the start as Creed asks Rocky for a rematch "Any time, any where!" - Rocky is confused, Creed is displaying an image of himself, but Rocky sticks to his guns and decides to retire from boxing. This is fascinating - despite the advertising campaign clearly depicting Rocky back in the ring and stepping up to re-fight Creed, the entire film is about how Rocky tries not to do this. In fact, a whole plot is based on the fact that Rocky has damaged his eye and "could go blind" if he takes another beating. A slight structural issue resides when Adrian tells him to "win"; suddenly this blindness threat is no more ... and the state of Rocky at the end of the final fight really looks like he will have difficulty with his sight in the future. I've yet to see Rocky III so who knows if this will be addressed in that film.

Challenges of Married Life

The film attempts to explore multiple themes, but fails to clearly stick to one. In the first instance we observe Rocky going right back to his roots and trying to earn honest money. He works at the meat-factory (in an interesting switch of roles with his Adrian's brother Paulie) and refuses to go back to his criminal job with Gazzo. The confusion I feel is the progression of the story - Rocky spends his money on cars, clothes, watches and buying a new house but then has to sell his car because he cannot hold down a job. It is almost as if we are supposed to pity him, rather than support him whole-heartily. Maybe it is attempting to highlight short-term success - and how he should've though about the future, rather than spending the money so quick. Indeed, poor Adrian (Talia Shire) has to go back to work in the pet shop.

Our lack of support continue as Adrian's health is even affected by Rocky's apparent selfishness. I have a feeling that it is a simple case of how both Adrian and Rocky's initial actions following his success were short-term and not thought-through. The consequences were inevitable. The depiction of the working-man and the struggles seem to be at odds with themes laid out in the first film. Especially as their relationship is so beautiful - subtle glances that show such a tender relationship.

Image and Identity

One single scene raises an acute awareness of image. Apollo Creed has had his image destroyed after the fight in the first film and his marketing agent tells him that, if he insults Rocky in the press, then he will appear as the "bad guy", implying that clearly he is not. There is a business man in Creed - the fight may have physically shown a weakness, but his image and reputation as a sports star is affected and that does affect business. He was aware of this when he retracted his comment about how "there ain't gonna be a rematch", when his image dictates that there is.

Rocky on the other hand does not concern himself with image - he is honest. So much so, that he will reveal his to-do list at a press-conference. His image represents who he is and, through that, he gains support. The loyalty Mickey has for him, is because of how honest Rocky is. He is not trying to just be the 'tough guy' - the fight means more to him than that. Rocky is a born fighter and it is what he is destined to do. An interesting scene as Rocky speaks to Adrian, he tells her: "I never asked you to stop being a woman, don't ask me to stop being a man". This is who he is and as a Father, he cannot lie to his Son. He is boxer who is a southpaw from Philly - not a cleaner at Mighty Mickey's.

The support of his friends and - in the training against the backdrop of Philadelphia - the children of America, Rocky wins. True support and love from his family and friends. Apollo has a media-created identity and a fanbase that writes letters to tell him how one negligible-win is simply 'not good enough'.

Faith and Finish

Rocky II also clarifies Rocky as a Catholic. I guess his Italian roots are highlighted from the outset, but the fact that Rocky wears a crucifix throughout the film - often dangling into the centre of the frame - indicates a regular nod to God himself (even recalling the young Italian Father Karras in The Exorcist)- . Rocky asks for a blessing from his priest prior to the match and he thanks God following the match. Maybe there is a little more meaning in the idea about guilt - the guilt Rocky feels for letting Adrian down, and not supporting her better when she was pregnant may be the driving force behind his success. The idea that the guilt combined with love is a balance that ensures you live a good, Catholic, life? Maybe we are all attaining to reach the higher realms and 'beat' life, making it to Heaven? People can go through life living a lie (working in a meat-factory) or even 'doing our part' by going to Mass every week (Rocky working at the gym) but what we need to do is actually get in the ring and challenge our life, and be honest about our faith. We should face the challenge of faith and actually attempt to be Christ-like. Maybe.

I can appreciate the frustration people have in the angle it approached the story but I still rate Rocky II as a good follow-up. The Rocky franchise seems to challenge expectations rather than simply deliver the same story again - or merely 'up-the-ante' with multiple fights. It makes the film much more profound and crucially, the final fight is much more engaging and involving. In fact, I didn't know the outcome of the final fight and I was cheering him on throughout. And isn't that the point?
Large Association of Movie Blogs

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Face-Dubbing is always worse than Voice-Dubbing

Xan Brooks writes for The Guardian about a dubbed star in Andrea Arnolds Wuthering Heights:
"On first seeing the film, Howson noted with dismay that his performance had been dubbed. "I felt really hurt," he said this week. "All the things I had to do in the film – the cold mornings, the difficult scenes – and then they use someone else's voice." 

I think it is funny to think that such a traditional problem - harking back to the days of new-talkies dubbed in post-production - is still used and, crucially, only mentioned to the actor after-the-fact.

As bad as Howson feels, it is nothing in comparison to the absolute tragic phonecall Josh Pence recieved whereby, not only was his voice going to be dubbed - but his entire face! Armie Hammer is due to star in The Lone Ranger and J.Edgar but Josh Pence only has upcoming projects in Battleship and ... wait a sec ... The Dark Knight Rises. Seems Pence has it all figured out.

Then we have the ongoing debate regarding mo-cap technology. Despite Zoe Saldana's acting in Avatar, she recieved little celebration for it. No nominations at The Golden Globes, Emmys or Oscars - despite the film casting her in the lead-female role and winning, or being nominated, for all three. This is something that Cameron believes is a tragedy and proves how little the acting world has embraced the new-technology. Andy Serkis would agree I'm sure.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

James Cameron asks "What's wrong with commerce?"

James White, for the Empire Blog and in Off the Wire writes about James Cameron dicussing the upcoming Titanic 3D April 2012 release:
And if you’re a sceptic when it comes to 3D films, Cameron has words for the doubters, too. “I don't care about them. If you could wave a magic wand and give everyone in the world an orgasm simultaneously, there'd still be cynics looking for a way to criticise that. First of all, what's wrong with commerce? What's wrong with making jobs for people in movie theatres around the world? What's wrong with entertaining people? If people don't show up, then we were wrong. If people show up, we're giving them what they want and if they show up again? We're really giving them what they want, because they're willing to pay for it twice. So it's really just a gamble that the film has the same impact on audiences now. And that's an experiment. Every movie is. It's business. It's art and business put together and I have no problem with that whatsoever.”

The irony to all of this is what Cameron believes is 'first' - namely, commerce. I understand the business model of studios and how making money is the priority but the fact that Cameron is so blatent about his intentions makes me feellike a mug if I paid for the viewing. The fact that Michael Bay could say the same thing - Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen was released, rushed and not properly executed because the first priortity was 'commerce'. The priority was not equality of sex's - with Megan Fox pretty much playing a porn-star-who-keeps-her-clothes-on and the priority was not sensible script for clearly-African-American robots ... it was a simple case of Make Film, Make Money. Unfortunately, it did, and therefore set in motion other films that will continue to misrepresent races and gender and crucially, producers will not see the neccessity of a good script for a film. Bottom line is that it made money and thats the 'first' priority.

I'm going to throw something out there - I don't thing James Cameron is a good filmmaker. Granted Aliens is alright, but it hardly has the artistry of Alien and the characters within the film are completely 2D - knuckle-head marines who hold big guns. Big Deal. The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day are similar affairs, lots of special effects but hardly anything more than eye candy: Big guy with gun ... shoots people. Avatar, in terms of story, was nothing new... and simplified a potentially-interesting story about patriotism and identity. Other than the special effects, Cameron has very little. In fairness, he can shoot Special Effects too ... but in terms of telling an interesting story? He clearly understands the priority of commerce being the 'first' priority - but to what extent. Does he know - or care - that his own lack of story and lack of characterisation is devaluing scriptwriters? Does he consider the knock-on effect of his filmmaking 'prioritisation' and how it damages cinema in the short term (Consider all the awful 3D conversions...) The fact that the whole model of converting films into 3D is actually stopping people going to the cinema?
A quarter of the survey's respondents cited 3D as something that put them off going to the cinema. Other reasons for not going to the cinema included ticket prices, the constant glut of remakes and reboots and other people playing with their phones during films.
Read the full article by Stuart Heritage on The Guardian:

Yes, we know that the business of cinema is the business of product - creating something that will sell. But I think Cameron is simplifying the concept of money-making-cinema to a point that it is damaging cinemas integrity and, ultimately, the quality of the product. He is the man turning the restaurant into a McDonalds whilst cineastes and film-lovers are desperate for the restaurant to be 5-star - serving high-quality, meaty food that takes time to prepare and is delivered by outstanding-service. We want to remember the experience and think about what was in the food - we don't want to wolf it down and worry about how bad it is for your health.
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Friday, 11 November 2011

A-Z #103: In The Name of the Father

You can pick up hundreds of DVDs for a round-pound each - it doesn't matter. It's never about quantity, it's about quality. A-Z is my way of going through my collection, from A-Z, and understanding why I own the films ... or you can tell me why I should sell 'em

#103 - In The Name of the Father

Why did I buy it?

I watched this years ago during my Film Studies and Media Studies AS/A-Level Education. I remember vividly enough how much I liked it as I purchased the film on VHS to watch with my parents. But, like many films, it fell off the radar when the DVD's hit and I only re-bought the film when I was in Ireland and I was keen to get to grips with some incredibly films from Irish Cinema - including Michael Collins alongside my 2 for 20E offer.

Why do I still own it?

Sarah and I watched the film shortly after the purchase and the second-watch reinvigorated me. Daniel Day Lewis is incredible, whilst Pete Postlethwaite is a stand-out success. Emma Thompson is good enough and provides the thread between the non-linear storyline and the back-and-forth between her recount of the cassettes Gerry has sent her and the flashbacks we see as viewers. It is a brilliant account of a story that should never be forgotten - and indeed, in the Oscar-Nominated film, I only hope that many more people see the film in the future.

I even managed to write an analysis which you can read by clicking here ...
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Thursday, 10 November 2011

Rocky (John G. Avildsen, 1976)

"Stay in school and use your brain. Be a doctor, be a lawyer, carry a leather briefcase. Forget about sports as a profession. Sports make ya grunt and smell. See, be a thinker, not a stinker."


I often read the ideas titled 'How to make your blog better'. They always say "make sure you update on a regular basis", etc. I think of Rachel at Rachels Reel Reviews and her daily focus points, then there is A Life in Equinox with, amongst other regular features, he has 'The Monday Corner' every Monday. I should have something like that put in place but I know I would get behind. One thing I enjoy writing is Art Gallery reviews - but they take up a lot of time and, though they bring up great parallels with cinema, I think the fact that it is modern art, people are probably put off from the outset. I have recently purchased the Rocky Blu-Ray box set. This first film is truly brilliant - and even watching it in the Film Club at my school, many boys thoroughly enjoyed it. But it is more, much more, than a boxing film ...

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

With Eddie Murphy going ...

Controversial? Worldwide viewing figures? Repeated viewing via Social Networking ...

It has to be Gervais.

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Brett Ratner is a Moron

Curtis M. Wong for The Huffington Post writes:

"The gaffe, made during a Q&A session following a "Tower Heist" screening, seemed questionable even for the sharp-tongued Ratner, who is the producer of this year’s Oscar telecast and is said to be in talks to direct an adaptation of the Broadway musical "Wicked." One audience member is said to have been so upset by the reference that they immediately left the session."

Everyone seems to be writing, so I might as well chime in. The fact that one audience member walked out doesn't surprise me. I think if I was in the room, I would walk out on the basis that I was offended by the state of X-Men: The Last Stand. Ratner's success seems to be  a case of choosing projects that can't fail: A Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker Live Show, just the two of them on a stage fighting and joking, would sell. A film depicting this in multiple scenarios is a sure-hit. The prequel to Silence of the Lambs and the third X-Men film are going to get easy-money with the right marketing. At any rate, it is probably a good thing that he has been pulled from the Oscars because he needs to think about whether he is an artist (which I don't believe he is) or whether he is a money-making businessman (which I do think he is) ... at any rate, the latter does not use the term 'fag'. Ironically, artists who are convicted and alleged criminals: Roman Polanski, Mel Gibson, Michael Jackson. They will always say the wrong thing, at the wrong time, but their art is what defines them. Bottom line is The Pianist, The Passion of the Christ and Thriller will never be forgotton ... whilst I have a funny feeling people would be happy to forget The Family Man, Rush Hour and X-Men: The Last Stand.

So - what was Brett Ratner's response?

"Everyone who knows me knows that I don't have a prejudiced bone in my body. But as a storyteller I should have been much more thoughtful about the power of language and my choice of words."
Storyteller? Storyteller? He has written one film. A short. In 1990. He doesn't tell stories. He makes money for the studio system. He might as well work in accounting or advertising. Storyteller my ass.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Not So Smug Gervais

Emma Brockes interviews Ricky Gervais for The Guardian:

"He had tossed out a reference to "mong" on Twitter and, when challenged, defended and aggressively reused it on the basis that the word had evolved from its original meaning and was no longer a term of abuse for disabled people. After he was corrected by Down's syndrome groups and a mother of two disabled children, he backed down. But the scale of the outrage, and his defiance in the face of it, was stoked by a lurking sense that he was in any case overdue for a kicking. "Someone even suggested it was a PR stunt," he said. "Amazing."  
Read the full interview by clicking here:

I am a pretty big fan of Gervais. I am in no way a fan of Karl Pilkington mind you, but Gervais' relentless mockery of virtually everything is almost on a par with South Park ... except there are no fictional, animated characters here. It is the celebrity himself who presents The Golden Globes and, in his new TV series Life's Too Short, he plays himself. Puts a whole new meaning to the excuse "its just a joke" and what it is when "making light of a situation". But it seems that this twitter incident was a little bit too far - even by Gervais' standards.

I recently watched a pre-release Making Of... documentary about the series and it seems that Ricky is almost making a cross between The Office and Extras. On the one hand, like The Office, it is very-much a documentary as Warwick is happy to ensure that he gains any publicity possible - we see his home life, his office, his working life, his interests and hobbies - everything. But it is worth noting that Warwick Davies plays a character who bears no parallel to himself - his character is divorced, out-of-the-job, is desperately looking-for-love, has a small-man complex and though supporting many dwarf societies, he has his own issues that often foil any attempt to do good. But, akin to Extras, it is set within the media world with many-a-cameo from A-list celebrities such a Johnny Depp, Liam Neeson, Sting and Helena Bonham Carter.

It is easy to categorise both the offensive remark 'mong' and what appears to be mocking Davies for his height as the same thing, but it is clear that this is not the case. Chaplin was funny because of his mannerisms and the way he presented himself - and this is the reason Davies is remarkable in this role. How he looks to camera when something embarrassing happens, his constant struggle to merely be accepted into a celebrity-clique and desperation for fame - these are character traits, much like Keaton's no-smile face and Lloyd's glasses. Not to mention how Gervais is decent enough to apologise once he realised the contemporary use of the word.

I have a feeling that Gervais and Merchant spoke long and hard about how best to pitch this TV series before writing it. Personally, I am looking forward to it and I have a feeling that they have pitched it just right: awkward enough to be embarrassingly funny and semi-controversial for publicity, but good-natured enough that it doesn't aim to offend people and there will be a solid-defence from those who enjoy it.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Beautiful Girls with Darker Shades of Grey

As part of The Guardians 'My Favourite Film' series, Michael Hann selected Beautiful Girls -

"The pepper in Beautiful Girls is Natalie Portman, playing Marty (not for Martha, as she sadly explains,but for Martin, the dead grandfather she never met). She's one of the unattainable girls, specifically the kooky but great girl we're meant to fall in love with. This perfect girl, all wit and shy good looks, is 13 years old. And the cool but not too cool guy we're meant to identify with? That's 29-year-old Willie Conway (Timothy Hutton), the apathetically unhappy Manhattan lounge pianist drawn by his high school reunion away from his New York girlfriend back to his snowy hometown of Knight's Ridge, where he falls in love with his next-door neighbour. Which is Marty. Really, what kind of set-up is that for a date movie?"
Read the full article here:

In fainess, I haven't seen the film and Hanns description of it does interested me greatly - but within his post he notes how Natalie Portman had only just come off Leon when the film was made, making this the second film whereby she plays a young-teenager who is, on the one hand, seen as attractive by and older man but, crucially, she is atttracted to the older man herself.

I have watched distasteful (The Human Centipede, anyone?) films, but watching Leon forced me to consider the wider implications of a film whereby depicting this type of relationship between a likeable-lead with a child, almost bordered on unacceptable.

The fact that someone, upon watching Leon thought that it would be fine to cast her in such a role a second time strikes me as deeply worrying. Why Portman again? At her age, despite her skill as an actor, what gave the producers and casting agents the idea that audiences would be keen to see her again as the object of a peadophile's gaze a second time? I can understand being typecast as a character-who-is-the-cheeky-best-friend or a creepy-nervous-guy but a child? as a target for older, mentally-unstable men? That strikes me as a bit odd - and it doesn't bode well for children in the acting-game. Then again, Natalie Portman has hardly failed at the profession.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Sunday, 6 November 2011

A-Z #102: In The Mood For Love

You can pick up hundreds of DVDs for a round-pound each - it doesn't matter. It's never about quantity, it's about quality. A-Z is my way of going through my collection, from A-Z, and understanding why I own the films ... or you can tell me why I should sell 'em

#102 - In The Mood For Love 
Why did I buy it?

I bought the film as part of losing the Oscars challenge against Jo. I was expected to watch In The Mood For Love and My Blueberry Nights. I watcehd both ... My Blueberry Nights will not get a mention on the A-Z as once watched... there was no purpose to watch again. This on the other hand topped the Time Out Best Film of 2000's poll and, though I would not rate it so high, it is indeed a stunning film.

Why do I still own it?

One thing about ownership, is that I would be expected to return to the film multiple times. In the Mood For Love shows us two characters who are both in unhappy relationships, but the way that they pass each other by and their longing-looks, are what keeps you interested. The world they inhabit is beautiful and haunting and it urges you to revisit the film multiple times. I was hooked and, upon watching the film briefly, I was keen to show the film and rewatch it with Sarah who has not seen the film. To top it off, Umbayashi creates the waltzs which provide the soundtrack - these add so much atmosphere that you almost feel like you are weaving in-and-out of the conversations as a ghost haunting the two characters ... what is haunting them is their love for each other, because you know it will never leave them.
Large Association of Movie Blogs

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Change of plan for Tintin 2?

Tim Masters writes for BBC News about a change of plan for the next Tintin film -
Horowitz said earlier this year he had penned a script based partly on Herge's Tintin story Prisoners Of The Sun. 

"That was true a few months ago," Horowitz told the BBC, "but I can tell you that I think the second film is not going to be Prisoners of the Sun". 

"What it is going to be is still under discussion."

He added: "I've had meetings with the directors and producers and we've talked about ideas and action sequences.

"At the moment I'm trying to put together a story that will please everybody. It's a very difficult one to do." 
Read the full article here.

I remember thinking it was strange to go from The Secret of the Unicorn to Prisoners of the Sun. Don't get me, wrong - all great stories - but considering where the film finishes it feels like it would go much more smoothly moving into Red Rackham's Treasure. Albeit, slightly adapted to suit the change in story. Horowitz does note that Prisoners of the Sun would inevitably be the third film if the second film is changed - therefore, utilising the Red Rackham 'brand' as it directly connects to The Secret of the Unicorn. I cannot imagine, after three films going back to the Red Rackham character...

Reality is, like the James Bond books, they have a wealth of material to work from and they can easily shuffle it around and keep everything still very much Herge-esque. If I was to pick where they go next - I would say the action from Prisoners of the Sun and The Seven Crystal Balls would be brilliant... and I think this piece from Empire is what confirmed why.

But, at any rate ... I cannot wait for an adaptation of Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon ...

Friday, 4 November 2011

Film Critic VS Film Blogger

Quentin Falk on MovieScope, interviewed leading film-reviewers about the state of the Film Critic Industry - a must-read for all film-bloggers and anyone who writes about film:
While the distributors will gleefully appropriate those stars for their newspaper, poster or TV campaigns, there is at least some acknowledgment of their shortcoming. Duncan Clark, executive vice-president for international distribution at Universal Pictures, who spent years at the coalface of ad/pub promo for various European and Hollywood companies, describes them as an “inevitability. That instant soundbite-style gratification is just a sign of the times.
“It’s like when you sometimes get a mini-review, rather like a précis at the top of the review itself. If it’s poor then you probably won’t read any further. It’s a shame you’re effectively reducing things to just a thumbs-up or thumbs-down especially when there’s so much material that kind of slips into a greyer area than that.”
You can read the full article - a must-read for Film Bloggers - by clicking here

I do believe that everyone has an opinion on Art, but like any opinion, it has to backed up by experience. Film Critics watch countless films on a daily basis, whilst also pursuing their own interest in cinema and writing about the business itself multiple times on a weekly basis. My idea of heaven.

I would like to think that this credability is what will separate the men from the boys. Is blogging a hobby? Or are you going out of your way to refine and improve on your trade? Are you reading your contemporaries and your competition - are you learning from them?

I know I have on my Google Reader multiple critics - Derek Malcolm, Peter Bradshaw and Jason Solomons to name a few. These are people that, though I may disagree with, I whole-heartedly respect and it would be a tragedy if these writers became redundant - uder the asusmption that any opinion matters. Informed-opinion matters, passionate-opinion matters and, dare I say it, educated-opinion matters. And, if I am honest, I still feel I am a long way off ensuring that my opinion is of such a standard. But then, I hope I always think that even if I am working in the best-paid film-critic position in the world. I will always seek out more ... and there will always be more.

All the other opinions, I may be interested in, but I don't think you should be paid to give it.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (Richard Marquand, 1983)

"Your over-confidence is your weakness"


Like The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas funded it himself and was keen to look to a range of directors to helm the final film in the trilogy. He considered David Lynch and David Cronenberg and, had Lucas not left the American Guild of Directors, even considered Steven Spielberg. He settled on Richard Marquand, a young director from Wales. Time's had changed since The Empire Strikes Back. Harrison Ford was now a worldwide star - the role of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark secured him of that success, whilst the merchandising on the previous Star Wars films continued to be widely sold. Lawrence Kasdan was brought back on board to adapt Lucas' story - but certain decisions Kasdan and Marquand initially made were shut-down immediately by Lucas: Han Solo due to be killed off at the start of the film as a form of self-sacrifice; the Millenium Falcon assisting on Endor; the finale would see our heroes meet the Wookies civilisation. Whether due to a business-mind on Lucas's part - creating new teddy-bear-like characters called Ewoks - or having a passion for the story itself, these ideas were rejected.

At any rate, much like Han Solo himself, the audience were frozen since The Empire Strikes Back but were well aware that a concluding chapter would arrive. Question is, would it fulfill all the expectations people had...

Luke has become a Jedi...

One year following The Empire Strikes Back and it seems we are back to square-one. R2D2 and C3PO wander the desert of Tatooine, much like A New Hope, searching for Jabba The Hut's palace. In a long sequence, one by one, it seems that everyone gets captured: Han Solo is already trapped in carbonite; C3PO and R2D2 engage in comedy sequences as we see robots torn apart and C3PO act in horror. Even Princess Leia, in disguise, finds herself turn into a slave for Jabba the Hut. An iconic image that will remain in the minds of Star Wars fan-boys for the future - parodied countless times in Friends and How I Met Your Mother amongst many other programmes. As I noted in The Empire Strikes Back, it is as if the filmmakers wanted to see how low these characters could fall. The situation is bad enough at the end of The Empire Strikes Back without having to start off the next film with the characters all becoming captured or turned into slaves - even Luke, when he arrives, fails to stick-to-the-plan and finds himself fighting a rancor beast.

From the strength of The Empire Strikes Back, it is a real shame that the film dramatically drops in quality. A sequence that seems to drag on too long, reveals nothing new and devlops the story in no way at all, with appalling music to boot (apparently, the new music and creatures on the special edition is superior to the original music, but that can't be saying much...). Shockingly, we even finish the sequence by completely robbing Leia of her female independence and reducing her to a slave sex-object. The only redemption is in the devlopment of Luke himself.

His entire demeanour is a far cry from the teenager we first met during A New Hope. He appears stronger, calmer and almost like Vader himself in his cloak and confidence. You can see, merely by Hamill's acting, that he has completed his Jedi training. As the film rests firmly on Mark Hamill's shoulders, it is his role in Return of the Jedi that places this film ahead of the weaker films in the franchise - no other Star Wars film has Luke exude so much confidence. It also prepares us for the finale as we know that it is not a case of the underdog attempted to "win", the question is whether Luke will be able to resist tempatation.

Change of Perspective

"Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view."
Obi-Wan tells Luke as he returns to the franchise for his final "words-of-advice" sequence. The vast majority of the conflict between the prequels and sequels was discussed in the previous post on The Empire Strikes Back, except this time, Obi-Wan explains, in detail, what happened. On the one hand, his retracting of statements he made in the previous films seems a little forced: even Luke seems confused at the change in the 'galaxy'. But as Lucas has expertly shown us so far, rather than have this a merely tacked-upon measure to clarify the plot, the whole idea of persepctive is in fact ingrained within the story. Indeed, a change of perspective is what we are expected to clearly observe in the film - Darth Vader turning to the Dark Side shows us how a change in perspective is made, with huge consequence. The tension lies in Luke himself and whether he will even consider a change in perspective on The Empire. As he witnesses the trap the Empire has created to ensure the defeat of the Rebel Alliance, you can see the final option becoming that much clearer. Darth Sidious reminds us that his anger is what leads him to the Dark Side. He teases him and taunts him - the thin line between good and evil is becoming dangerously close to Luke. A thin line between the perspective of what is good and evil - and what defines the abuse of power and control.

Now we combine the two themes - an obsession with power and control the Sith seek, whilst both Vader and Sidious hold completely differing perspectives on the purpose of Luke ... if he was to join the force. Sidious tells Luke as he fights Vader -

"Good! Your hate has made you powerful. Now, fulfill your destiny and take your father's place at my side!"
But Vader tells Luke that he has a different purpose - 
"Luke, you can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this. Join me and together we will rule the galaxy as father and son."
It is clear to us, and Luke, that at its most powerful, the Empire is at a conflict with itself and to how it can continue. The lack of perspective and desire for power comes full circle.

What is more interesting is the further parrallels to the prequels as Anakin ultimately turned to the Dark Side himself as he couldn't trust Obi-Wan. Luke has the same struggle as Obi-Wan has lied to him also (when will Obi-Wan learn?) and only through seeing the contradictions within the Dark Side, does Luke realise what is right. The theme of over-confidence is also brought up again. We know that Anakin's fatal flaw was his arrogance and pride - his expectation to become a Jedi Master and assumption that he could save Padme. His over-confidence is what destroyed him - so Luke's awareness of this vice becomes a major asset as he confronts the Emperor with the statement "Your over-confidence is your weakness". Ironically, the Emperors' response that his "faith in his friends" is his, recalls a lack of perspective on The Emperor's part. Cast your mind to Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Anakin ignored advice and instructions off everyone who attempted to help him - ironically, Anakin's over-confidence and lack of faith in his friends and the Jedi, is what destroyed him.

Calclus in the centre, confused as someone to be worshipped
Influences and Recalls

I am aware that a further connection to Tintin may appear false, but it strikes me as too similar to be completely ignored. C3PO, especially in Return of the Jedi seems to recall Professor Calculus from the Tintin comic strips. Calculus, like C3PO, is incredibly intelligent and additionally a little dotty and clumsy. Both characters have a similar figure - slim build, tall - and, in both Return of the Jedi and Herge's Prisoners of the Sun, both characters are mistaken for a God to be worshipped within a leafy, rainforest-like context: South America in Prisoners of the Sun, Endor in Return of the Jedi. It strikes me as more than possible that, as Spielberg - and Lucas - prepared Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the reference to Tintin following Raiders of the Lost Ark, assured both filmmakers read the comic books. Inevitably, ideas from the books - Tintin in Tibet in The Empire Strikes Back (assuming the comics were read by Lucas prior to production on Raiders) and Prisoners of the Sun in Return of the Jedi - managed to creep into the script choices.

The very idea of influencing and recalling the past is touched upon as C3PO tells the story - or legend of Star Wars - to the Ewoks (who, in this instance, represent children). At this point in 1983, Lucas wants closure on the franchise, and he wants us to do the same by showing this sequence. As we have followed C3PO in the original trilogy, we also are expected to continue to tell the story to our own children and continue the fascination in the saga. Lucas is proud of the films created - but the stories are expected to be told and retold rather than built upon further, time and time again. But, ironically, the speed racers that appear in the same section of the film closely resemble the podraces in The Phantom Menace. On a thematic level, it is as if Luke has his fathers knowledge of podracing in the closing chapter of the franchise. Strange to think that Lucas was oblivious to the connection this sequence would have to his filmmaking decades later.

Filling that Hole...

To close these essays, it is worth highlighting how the final film reveals a recurring theme of incompletion. The Death Star itself is incomplete, both Vader and Luke are physically incomplete as they both have missing hands whilst Luke is expected to only "complete" his training as a Jedi by defeating Darth Vader.This could relate to a number of interpretations - the idea that everyone has a spiritual and emotional need that requires 'filling'. It could be filled with the force - with God and faith - as Luke attempts, but it could equally be filled with love or evil. Han Solo, at no point, learns the power of 'the force', but his need is filled by his love for Leia. Vader and the Emperor both crave power and control - and manage to fill this need by turning to the Dark Side. The closing statement I believe Lucas is saying - and all six-films connect to this - is regarding our own morals and outlook on life. Everyone wants to lead a fulfilling life - but how they do this, is dependent on the influences, experiences and support by people around them. Whether they will turn to the 'Dark Side' and lead an immoral life or whether they lead a moral and 'Jedi-like' life, it is worth noting the fine line between what constitues good and evil - and how easy one can turn when tempted by power. Luke is challenged and nearly turns, whilst Anakin is seen to become one of the most dangerous villains the galaxy has ever seen - despite his good intentions.

I do believe that the finale of Return of the Jedi is brilliant. Connecting all six films by seeing the entire galaxy celebrate - Corsucant, Cloud City, etc - is recalling the entire six-film journey you have been on. Even Hayden replacing Sebastian Shaw as the ghost of Anakin I believe is well-suited. No offence to Shaw - he was fine - but as an actor, cleaned-up, he has no connection to the scarred-Anakin Luke speaks to - he is so damaged that you can barely make out the actor himself - or the many versions of Vader we have seen up until this point. At least Jake Lloyd didn't show up.

The last line shared between Luke and Anakin are Lukes ever-optimistic "I will save you" as Anakin responds "you already have...". It is unfortunate that this feeds so nicely with a Christian interpretation of the films. As if to highlight that his final moments will ensure his 'saving' in the afterlife perhaps? At any rate, ignoring this interpretation, the hole everyone has needs to be filled with love - love for each other, love for you enemies and the love for your friends. Throughout Return of the Jedi and, one of the twists [that still works in the context of the Saga] at the end of The Empire Strikes Back is the connection telepathitically between Vader and Luke. It is not an external consciense Vader has - it is his responsibilities, his child, who taunts him and slowly chips away at his armour. Rather than arguing with a heavenly - or messianic figure - who directs Vader and/or Luke. It is their awareness of each other than forces them to face each other again. Luke has a responsibility to support his Father, whilst very slowly, Vader realises his duty is to protect his Son.

This is what concludes the Saga. Not an automatic-saving through grace or faith, but rather an awareness of love and responsibility for each other. Luke forgives his Father and stands by him - it is only the Emperor who feeds both characters hatred by taunting them both in the final duel. This is the never-ending battle - the choice to listen to your heart and 'save' those you love from harm and danger. A theme that we know from the very start - Qui Gon Jin saving Anakin from a life of slavery in The Phantom Menace, Anakin and Obi-Wan protecting Padme in Attack of the Clones, Obi-Wan's protection and saving of the baby's Luke and Leia in Revenge of the Sith - and Luke's protection and love for his friends since A New Hope. This is what continues our own existence and our future.