BIGLENS THE KENT FILM MAGAZINE | VOLUME 6, ISSUE 2 | SPRING 2010
Adaptations and remakes HARRY POTTER SHOWDOWN ADAM SANDLER: GO AWAY GUILTY PLEASURES AND MUCH MORE
COVER: HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE | WARNER BROS
REMAKES, REIMAGININGS AND REHASHINGS THEY DON’T MAKE ‘em like they used to. Which is, in fact, what we call progress. Imagine a Tarantino film without sound and dialogue, or a Fight Club rated PG and removed of any blood, sweat and immorality. Both technology and taste have evolved over the last hundred years and cinema is all the richer for it. Yet with all the remakes, reimaginings and rehashing of old ideas, sometimes history provides much worthier creations that could never realistically be bettered. Lethal Weapon is a case in point. I’ve only recently become acquainted with them, and even though they’re full of 80s (and then 90s) glory, I’d much sooner watch them again than sit down in front of any 21st century action nonsense. Nothing could ever compare to Mel Gibson’s mullet. It just couldn’t. Films like Airplane! and the Naked Gun series are other examples of a type of cinema that simply isn’t made anymore: innocent and relentless comedy, one liner after one liner, pummelling you with relentless sight-gags and funny looks. Give me Leslie Nielson over Judd Apatow any day. I suppose that the tastes of the populace have changed, and I should probably start to change with them. But that’s the wonderful thing about film. Unlike theatre, film isn’t transient. Even while the medium evolves we can still sit back and enjoy little bubbles of cinematic history from whenever we choose. And that’s fine by me. Because there’s no way I’m ever, ever going to sit down and watch an Adam Sandler film. Tom Brown
SMALLPRINT Editor in Chief: Tom Brown Proof Editor: Linzi O’Brien Designer: Hannah Charles
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WALL-E | PIXAR
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ADAPTATION HANA STEWART-SMITH
FANS POUR OUT OF THE CINEMA on a wave of disgruntled complaints. ‘It wasn’t as good as the book,’ someone announces and gets a murmur of agreement. Considering that a high majority of films are adaptations of other mediums at the moment it’s unsurprising that this is a common occurrence. There’s a big problem with adapting anything: you have to market it to both the people who have read the novel/played the game/ faithfully watched the television series, and also Joe public who’s never even heard of it until now. The problem is that you can’t please everyone all the time and more often than not this leads to someone being disappointed. You have to ask the question: how faithful do I have to be before this alienates people? A good person to ask would be Zack Snyder who has directed both a very successful graphic novel adaptation in 300 but also a very disastrous one in Watchmen. Both films pay a huge amount of attention to detail, trying to recreate the visual style and narrative of the Graphic Novels that they come from. Any fan of the Watchmen comics would probably happily agree that visually Zack Snyder’s film was up to scratch. It’s just a shame that he decided to use a soundtrack that was beyond ridiculous and committed the ultimate sin of any adaptation. He changed
the ending. This is common practice in the film industry. 2008s The Golden Compass, an adaptation of the first of Philip Pullmans ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy, happily shaved off about half an hours’ worth of plot from the end simply to make the ending a little more ‘upbeat’. Changing the ending is not always a sin in film, as notoriously proved by David Fincher’s Fight Club which changed the ending of Chuck Palanhuik’s novel quite significantly... and wouldn’t you know, Palanhuik went on record saying that he actually preferred Fincher’s ending to his own. It doesn’t always stop at the endings being changed. Some adaptations happily dispense of half of the plot line until the idea that it is even an adaptation at all becomes very slim. A good
WATCHMEN | WARNER BROS
“YOU HAVE TO ASK THE QUESTION: HOW FAITHFUL DO I HAVE TO BE BEFORE THIS ALIENATES PEOPLE?”
example of this would be Silent Hill. A film adaptation of the very popular cult game series that was highly anticipated until it became very clear that huge changes had been made to the story of the games. The problem here was that the film changed the details but was not significantly deviated to be considered a ‘loose adaptation’. In the end the film was not a great success in cinemas and received a great deal of hatred from the fans of the series. A lose lose situation in this case. Adapting Graphic Novels, television series and computer games could be argued to be a somewhat easier task than that of adapting the written word as the looks, style and sometimes even individual shots are already there for filmmakers. However, when approaching the difficult task of adapting a novel there is the added level of personal interpretation. You will often hear phrases such as, ‘he’s not like I imagined he’d look’. With that taken into account and the vast volumes of information included in some novels, it’s amazing that there are so many films adapted from them. Most of the time the easiest way to get around these problems is to take adaptation loosely. Some of the best adaptations of books achieve it by simply recreating the feeling and tone of the novel whilst happily skirting around the details. This is especially helpful in books that do not particularly lend themselves to the medium of film such as Jeffery Eugenides ‘The Virgin Suicides’ or Peter Suskinds ‘Perfume’ (a notoriously ‘unfilmable’ work) which were both adapted successfully into film by focusing on the style rather than the content. Probably the most miraculous of all successful adaptations is Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. The novel was considered a cornerstone of fantasy literature and an absolute must read. It was also ludicrously long with a backdrop that required appendices to be understood. Requiring a running time of around 9 hours, a budget of millions a cast of thousands and a completely rabid fan base to please, how could this have ever looked like a sensible project? Despite this, Peter Jackson’s vision of Middle Earth was a colossal success. It is not a faithful adaptation as such in that details, plot lines and characters were changed considerably to make it watchable and shorter, but the attention to the sets, styles and races of the novel made this easily the most faithful adaptation of Tolkein’s work to grace the big screen. It also brought thousands of new readers and fans to the trilogy. This brings me to one of the most faithful novel adaptations to date, the Coen Brothers’ adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men. Notorious for being as close to the book as possible, including aspects of the novel that were anti-cinematic like long trailing monologues that don’t seem to be connected and the off-screen murder of key figures that leave you scratching your head. Despite being this loyal it was still a good film that succeeded critically and in the cinemas. It seems it’s not impossible to make the perfect adaptation, as long as the public is willing to see that this loyalty becomes both the best and the worst aspects of the finished film.
BEDTIME STORIES | DISNEY
THIS ARTICLE IS IN NO WAY IMPARTIAL. I make no attempt at any kind of reasoning, tact, or fairness. But there are some things you just honestly and truly believe with all your heart; some things that you feel so strongly about, you would be willing to shed pints, nay, gallons of blood for. Such is my hatred of Adam Sandler. I simply can’t stand the man. I can’t really explain it: he’s never done anything to me, he hasn’t run over my cat or ruined my credit rating. I’m sure in the real world he’s probably a very nice guy (is he really though? Really?) but I don’t know him in the real world: I only know him from his films. And his films are awful. Life-threateningly terrible. Little Nicky is truly the stuff of nightmares, a terrifying window into how horrendous the world could be if it was written by a senseless moron drunk on his own ignorance and hell bent on turning existence into some sort of humourless, repulsive zoo. It was written by Adam Sandler, by the way. It’s not really a justifiable loathing. I mean, it’s not like he’s in the papers every day, he’s not an overly prolific actor when it comes to starring in films (about one a year, which admittedly seems a bit much) and so it would be easy enough to avoid him if I wanted to. But just knowing that his rectangular, idiotic, vacuous face is out there in the world is a thought that fills me with a magnificent combination of rage and disgust. Knowing that someone somewhere is probably sat at home right now watching Adam Sandler and laughing... I despair. He’s just not funny. Comedy is subjective, of course, and everyone’s taste differs, but it would take a palate stripped of all sensibility and dignity to laugh with Adam Sandler. I can understand if you want to laugh at him. Look at him. He’s got a face that looks like a spade attacked a chipmunk and its hangdog remains are still smeared tragically all over it and won’t come off. Google him, seriously, I’m right. But laughing with him requires you to share something on a human level with him, and once you’ve done that, once you’ve conspired with the antichrist, it’s a step down desolation row and they don’t do return tickets. Mr. Deeds? No way. Click? It made me bleed from my eyes. I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry? I’d sooner be pronounced dead – although when I got to hell I know it’d only be a waiting game until Sandler caught up with me and forced me to watch 50 First Dates on loop. I remember my first ever exposure to him in much the same way someone remembers their first fight: it wasn’t pretty, I felt sick afterwards, and I had the distinct feeling that I’d lost. It was Happy Gilmore, and I was young and full of impossible hope. A friend of mine, Jamie (we’re no longer in touch) insisted we watch it, so he brought it round and I sat down in anticipation. An hour and a half later I emerged from some kind of strange coma. I can no longer remember what happens in Happy Gilmore; my brain, as some kind of defence mechanism, has blurred the memory – if only Eternal Sunshine was reality and I could erase Adam Sandler completely from my head. Incidentally, my brother was also at that fateful viewing. He was two years younger than me, and sadly, he didn’t make it.
“JUST KNOWING THAT HIS RECTANGULAR, IDIOTIC, VACUOUS FACE IS OUT THERE IS A THOUGHT THAT FILLS ME WITH RAGE AND DISGUST.”
THE ASSASINATION OF ADAM SANDLER BY THE COWARD TOM BROWN I just don’t understand it. How, in any sane, intelligent universe, could Don’t Mess With The Zohan make over $200million at the box office? It defies logic that so many people would willingly part with their hard-earned cash to put themselves through two hours of visual viscera and auditory assault. Maybe it’s me; maybe I’m alone in this. But surely I’m not. Maybe the problem’s bigger than Adam Sandler. Any industry that fosters such mediocrity must be fundamentally flawed and in dire need of revolution. Violent, bloody revolution, with Sandler’s the first head to roll. Then Keanu Reeves. Then William Shatner, not because I particularly dislike him, but because he was standing next to Keanu and I got carried away. I could go on and on, but I won’t. For all the satisfaction I get from complaining, it doesn’t change the fact that he still exists. He still breathes the same air as me; he still occupies that tiny, annoying bit of space in my head. The very process of writing this has made me angry, which can only mean one thing: he’s won again. Damn you Adam Sandler. Damn you.
CHILD’S PLAY SUSHAN MANSLEY
HOME ALONE | TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
ANYONE WHO’S HAD THE MISFORTUNE of watching the first Harry Potter instalment will find themselves recounting the familiar saying “never work with children or animals” for obvious reasons. Some kids just can’t act. “But… I can’t. Be a. Wizard. Hagrid.” “Well that’s a shame,” I find myself thinking every time I’m faced with this winceinducing performance “because you sure as hell can’t act either, Radcliffe!” Even at the tender age of eleven I was cringing on his behalf, wondering how with open casting calls all over the UK he’d managed to con his way into the leading role (he doesn’t even have famous parents!). I can’t help but assume the requirements sheet for the auditions consisted of three main categories: Right age? Check. Right hair colour? Check. Read the book? Who cares? Hired! Under these conditions I can’t understand why I’m not earning Emma Watson’s bank balance right now. On the other end of the scale, you have the over-acted theatrics of Macaulay Caulkin. Now, I’m a fan of the Home Alone films (if purely for nostalgic reasons) but there is no denying that the kid can grate. The poster image alone accurately sums up his talent: he’s cocky, he’s whiney and he screams a lot. I remain unconvinced that it was an accident his parents left him behind. Despite him being a vulnerable eight year old, I always find myself hoping the little shit will fall prey to one of his own mini death traps. Now fear not, this article isn’t just a nonsensical rant about underage
thespians. I’m here to praise as well as name and shame those who should henceforth be banned from film (Star Wars: Episode 1’s Anakin is top of the list). I should note at this point, during my search for the crème de la crème of youngsters, I decided to skim over youth swamped movies like Bugsy Malone and The Little Rascals. As impressive as I find children who run around in funny hats and pretend to drive go-karts, I wanted to seek out the finest in (what I’m condescendingly going to label) ‘proper’ films. i.e. films that weren’t made with kids, for kids, seemingly by kids. Our first port of call for future stardom is Catinca Untara in Tarsem Singh’s The Fall (which if you haven’t seen, is a must watch). Catinca is the bumbling but endearing Alexandra who’ll have your heart melting faster than the icecaps; the decision to have her improvise scenes with actor Lee Pace means she gives a performance cuter than that picture of the two baby otters holding hands. Her obvious fumbling over lines makes for an innocent performance far more genuine than Hollywood’s unrealistic ambition for children to capture adult emotions. It also doesn’t hurt that her Romanian accent would make a rendition of Mein Kampf sound adorable. So maybe this is the key? Never work with animals or children, unless those children are unbelievably
“I REMAIN UNCONVINCED THAT IT WAS AN ACCIDENT MACAULAY CAULKIN’S PARENTS LEFT HIM BEHIND.”
cute. It seemed enough to launch Drew Barrymore’s career from her brief appearance in E.T, but it was perhaps this flawed reasoning that allowed the Olsen twins to continue acting past the age of five. How about simply not giving under-twelves lead roles? If this were the case then Where The Wild Things Are star Max Records wouldn’t have been able to showcase his worthy talent. Not that finding him was an easy task; Spike Jonze reportedly spent months searching for the right actor to play emotionally unstable Max, but there’s no denying the wait was worthwhile. Thanks to Catinca and Max, I no longer believe that all child actors are less talented than Howard from the Halifax ads. [Leave Howard alone! – Ed.] Their ability proves directors needn’t avoid using kids, provided they are willing to spend time seeking out the hidden prodigies. If they put in the effort they can uncover a performance as memorable as Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense. And if not, well I hear Dakota Fanning has a younger sister…
HARRY POTTER | WARNER BROS
IT’S UNDENIABLE THAT the books are fabulously written, but the films have proven to be on a completely different level. Whilst books are open to the readers’ interpretation, allowing them to create their own ideas about the wizard world, the films capture Rowling’s original intentions in an incredible manner. With the modern uses of technical effects and a huge budget, the Harry Potter films were bound to be an inevitable success. We have seen the main characters grow up on screen, and with a chunk of the target audience being around Harry’s age when the plot first begins, we have in some ways grown up with them. This bond between the real world audience and the on-screen characters has grown in unity as the series of films have progressed. Some argue that the films actually made the story successful, rather than the books themselves. If we consider there to be some truth in this, there are many possible reasons: for instance, the growing market of fantasy genre films around the same time, or the obvious fact that children seem to be getting more adventurous in this generation, therefore a potentially frightening world of dark magic and sorcery is a lot more appealing now than it would have been a couple of decades ago. The directors have effectively bought Rowling’s fantasy world to life, with a casual mix of family humour, tragic losses, and exciting duelling scenes with impressive effects automatically enables the films to appeal to such a vast audience. The somewhat absurdity of Rowling’s choice of language, words, names and titles of things in Harry’s world creates a kind of escapism for its viewers. No one can deny being drawn in by the seemingly normality of Harry’s home life with the Dursley’s and the opposing (relative) ridiculousness of his world at Hogwarts school. Yet the juxtaposition of the everyday dilemmas Harry still faces in the wizard world, such as simple friend or relationship troubles, or difficulties with his studies, or simply finding out his true identity through age and maturity can surely relate to everyone on some level. Anyone who cannot appreciate the magic must be deprived of, or have a very limiting imagination, which is unfortunate for them. I can safely say that while I like a variety of genres, the series of Harry Potter films never fail to amuse and entertain me, as well as allowing me to forget about the ‘muggle world’ for those few hours, which I think is definitely a sign of a brilliant film 10
– when you can forget about everything else that’s going on around you and get completely sucked in by it, the filmmakers are doing their job. With the anticipation growing for the hugely awaited final film, tension and excitement rises among all ages, it is undoubtedly an ever-popular series of films. I for one will have graduated by the time The Deathly Hallows is released but can safely say I’ll still be looking forward to it by then.
HARRY POTTER | WARNER BROS
FIRST OF ALL, I want to begin by stating that I’m not one of those rabid and possessive fangirls, completely opposed to the mere idea of a film adaptation in the first place. Like most Harry Potter fans, I originally relished the idea of seeing J.K Rowling’s bestselling series played out on the big screen. This excitement was, and continues to be, met with disappointment. Arguably, the ‘magical’ element missing from the adaptations is in fact the greatest strength in Rowling’s novels: character development. I am fully aware that film, as a completely different medium, has to be visually stunning and impressive. Expanding dramatic action and ‘blockbuster’ scenes for the sake of the original story, however, is foolish. A clear example of this can be found in the fourth installment, Goblet of Fire, in which crucial scenes are skimmed over and replaced with a long-winded and CGI-laden dragon chase sequence that adds nothing to the plot whatsoever. This lack of development results in a bland cast of characters, in which villains are purely villainous and the heroes are sickly do-gooders. And, as most Potterheads are aware, the wonderfully complex and morally-ambiguous characters, such Severus Snape, appear somewhat underdeveloped and one-dimensional compared to their novel counterparts. Alfonso Cuaron’s contribution to the series, The Prisoner of Azkaban, is often considered the strongest of the series, especially among fans of the novels. This is perhaps because he closely examines the interpersonal relationships between several key characters, something that the third novel established as being crucial to the overall story arc, whilst upholding the darker tone of the original novel. My argument is not that the Harry Potter film franchise is an abomination that never should have been created. Rather, I believe that it was just a lack of patience on the behalf of Warner Brothers and J.K Rowling, that has prevented the movies, so far, from reaching their full potential.
If the films had been delayed until Rowling was finished with her series, they arguably would be more exciting and coherent. Instead, the movies appear disjointed, a feature not helped by the arrival and departure of a new director every two years or so. The arrival of director David Yates seems to have been a welcome breath of fresh air to the series. With the last two films due in November 2010 and July 2011, one wonders how the scriptwriters can possibly get themselves out of the monumental hole they have dug for themselves. Splitting Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows into two parts may allow the writers to explore ideas that have previously been scrapped in favour of blockbuster-worthy action, but is it enough to save the series? I would argue that no, it isn’t. The damage has been done and the emotional impact and depth that the books had can never possibly be replicated by an overabundance of CGI, excessive merchandising and one-dimensional characters. 11
NO COUNTRY FOR BAD FILMS MING KOAL JANUARY AND FEBRUARY is the perennial awards presentation period. Big events attract celebrities to join the race in order to get their efforts in the past year recognised. The final award winners do not merely receive golden statuettes, but also often enjoy additional publicity and a subsequent rise of salary. At events like Sundance, the films sometimes pick up distributors who see awards as a boost for the potential box office. Serious film bluffs often do not take the Oscars very seriously because the Best Picture winners do not necessarily correlate with their real artistic merits. The awarding body is rather concerned with the declining rating of the ceremony. It desperately needs some blockbusters coming out every year and not getting bashed by critics. It is suggested that if a certain film has already grossed more than at least 100 million dollars and is widely tipped to sweep at least 5 awards, the show will have more audience. This happened in 1998 and 2004, when respectively Titanic and The Lord of the Rings were the big winners. No Country for Old Men was, however, snubbed by the lowest rating of the show in history. Ultimately, award presentation is a part of the business. It aims to represent public choices, which are usually the lowest common denominators. Ask yourself, do you really think the 1977 Best Picture winner Rocky is better than its fellow contenders Network and Taxi Driver? And then we have varieties of film critics’ circles giving their annual reviews, and various columnists listing their own versions of the best of the year (and also the best of the decade in late 2009). So last December we were surrounded by double numbers of ‘The Best’ lists. Suddenly there are too many bests. But most of us are not members of elite critic circles or occupants of any newspaper comment page. Nowadays there is such a thing as de-centralised democracy. We are in (or after) the age of Web 2.0. We can vote for anything wherever and whenever we like. 12
“FILM BUFFS OFTEN DO NOT TAKE THE OSCARS VERY SERIOUSLY BECASUE THE WINNERS DO NOT NECCESARILY CORRELATE WITH REAL ARTISTIC MERIT.” The biggest global online poll IMDB reflects that fans favour The Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather 1&2, The Dark Knight and Pulp Fiction. If these are the films to represent over a hundred years of film history, or post-19th century Western civilisation in general, what would be the reception? Certainly many will instantly jump in and shout, “Come on, What?”, “Whose civilisation is that?”, “Why all Hollywood?”, “What kind of dumbing down of culture is that?” You can imagine loads of different objections to this ‘misuse’ of the lists. Nevertheless, what is it that these people are actually against? The items in the lists or the nature of the lists? What if the chosen best are 8 1/2, Citizen Kane and Tokyo Story? It is simple to do a test: randomly pick 10 facebook friends and ask if they have seen those recognised masterpieces. You may already know the result. What is good may not be widely recognised. What is the widely considered good often generates a lot of dissidents. Although the lists are simplistic, there are various sophisticated intentions of creating them. Undoubtedly anyone creating their own list wants to demonstrate their own taste and articulation. This is arguably the major function of any list. Historian Umberto Eco suggests that the anarchistic nature of the
JOEL AND ETHAN COHEN
lists may not be easily noticed if we do not look at every list deeply. We count and list things in order to refute the authorities and the past definitions given by them. The act of excluding and including bears meaning. He believes that listing is an important way of creating culture, rather than simplifying or even destroying it. This culture-creating thesis may be true for the updated rankings by expertises of Sight and Sound and the American Film Institute, but don’t forget there are many more popular lists and awards like The Teen Choices and The MTV awards. They do summarise our film culture: Hollywood domination, visual-intensive entertainment, marketing calculation. Subsequently all the non-English low-tech films are branded ‘World Cinema’. What we are witnessing is globalisation unites the movie tastes of people of different nationalities. In this sense, the lists are actually creating orders. People in Chile, China and Lebanon discuss and rank their favourite Hollywood
films online but not their local productions. So the question is: how do this order and that anarchy coexist? Eco would reply that the act of listing is an attempt to rationalise the world. And behind each list is the sense of ineffability. All lists reflect individualistic choices. But they are made according to our reception of the prevalent public order. This is conflicting and antagonistic. Some people plan to finish viewing a list of Best 100 of the decade but eventually hate 30 of them. They are always curious about how the films are ranked but end up rubbishing all the lists. They disagree to re-define. The Oscars have decided to feature 10 nominees for Best Picture this year. They are responding to public request of including some impossible winners because last year there was a discontent of not including The Dark Knight as nominee. Is the authority listening to public voice finally!? Yes, or No. They still mourned that last year fan boys and girls did not stay in front of TV all night to expect The Batman being crowded as Best Picture winner. Film is industry. It is business. If you don’t agree with the final 10 nominees, create your own list! 13
HELLO AGAIN, MY DEAR READER, I hope you had a very exciting and eventful time watching and discussing films since the last time we talked. Unlike my last article, which concerned science-fiction, I would like to talk to you about something quite different this time - Film Remakes. More importantly, why do we, movie-lovers, with all the modern energy and ideas emerging arts and genres, still prefer to go over the same old stories and moments from various world film-industries? Let’s face it - if we did not like watching them, they would no longer be made. The aspect of modern and classic remakes that I desire to discuss in this article is whether these films are made because we love them, or because we have thought of everything possible and the film-makers are finally out of ideas. The tendency of remaking old films appeared a very long time ago and I’m not just talking about Hollywood film makers. The majority of us must surely agree that, as Hollywood has already covered so much over its history, other cultures and film industries sometimes have no other choice but to re-enact a similar idea. Well, first and foremost, we should probably ask ourselves why we do love watching remakes of things we have already seen. Some of you may argue that the main reason or purpose of remaking films is to allow the viewers to re-visit, or perhaps ‘re-experience’, those short, little, emotionally-rich moments from our pasts. Speaking to other film-lovers, I have also heard a second theory: the advancement in technology. Modern technologies, particularly CGI, of course, may improve our experi-
ence of watching something from the past - making older times look brighter, louder and more energetic. And, finally, the third and the last answer is the actors. Simple as that. Perhaps, another reason why we want to see a remake of something is that we want to see a different talent, a different person play the same old role. If you would like to know my personal opinion, the so-called remake genre, so far, did not work out very well for me; so far, I have not been impressed by much. To be more precise, The Taking of Pelham 123, The Day The Earth Stood Still and The Last House on The Left were quite dry for me, and I think I would actually prefer the originals. On the other hand, the one thing we should never forget is that different minds and talents may always have something different to offer to the viewing public. Tim Burton may soon be able show us how and what he sees in Alice In Wonderland, through his own imagination and fantasies. Oh, by the way, just out of interest, would you like to know some of the up-
“DIFFERENT MINDS AND TALENTS MAY ALWAYS HAVE SOMETHING NEW TO OFFER THE VIEWING PUBLIC.” 14
THE ART OF REMAKING
ALICE IN WONDERLAND | DISNEY
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET | NEW LINE CINEMA
VADIM A. MILEVSKIY
coming classic film remakes we can expect? Apart from the one mentioned above, of course, Korea’s Oldboy is now a very likely option to be re-filmed and has already been confirmed by multiple sources. Another Asian classic that Hollywood is planning to get their hands on is Battle Royale. Finally, just throwing it out there, our beloved film industry will soon present to us new versions of The Thing, The Evil Dead, Dune and many, many others. I could go on, but I think it would be best not spoil the fun for you, readers. Quite frankly, some of these I am expecting with a great deal of passion, even though I’m not a great fan of remakes. For example, the classic film The Blob is soon to be a remade by my personal favourite horror/gore director Rob Zombie. Another remake that I would happily wait for and watch is the new Nightmare on Elm Street, which Freddie’s fans can thank Michael Bay for [Sacrilege! -Art Ed.]. Apparently, the main reason why they want to remake this classic is to use CGI to improve the nightmares - a nice touch. In conclusion, apart from just informing you guys of some new things in the movie industry (as I usually like doing!), my main task was to give your imaginations a little push; stop and have a good think about the modern remaking trend and decide for yourselves if you are really getting something out of these films. I would like you, dear reader, to really ask yourself this question: Do YOU find anything new and fulfilling in modern remakes of already successful films? Or you are just waiting for them to come up with something new, something greater...just like me?
FROM WEST TO EAST ROB SHARP JAPANESE CINEMA, in the period between 1950 and 1970, arguably bears many similarities to the cinema of the Hollywood studio system in the 1930s and 1940s, whilst retaining an authentic style of its own. Yet I feel the ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’ was defined by genre and big name actors and actresses, whereas ‘50s and ‘60s Japanese cinema was defined by the individuality of the director. The key difference in these early Japanese films is that genre acts not only as a means of classification, but as more a basis on which the director can expand upon. One of the key films that portrays this opinion is Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon. Rashomon, though one of the first Eastern films to be successful in the West, breaks many Hollywood conventions. One of Kurosawa’s greatest successes in this film is that he manages to portray a visual lie to the audience; the story of a murder is told by three different characters point of view and we never find out which impression of the event is the truth. This idea of relative reality, and that what we are watching is not the truth in relation to the story, is genius and displays relative reality in a way that no Hollywood film of the time could. Rashomon is classed as a ‘Jidai Geki’(a historical drama) yet it is wrong to constrict this film to a genre as we would with a Hollywood film. Films such as The Sea Hawk or Angels With Dirty Faces bear blatant iconographic themes, characters and story-lines and each can easily be considered an actionadventure and a gangster film respectively. But Kurosawa’s Rashomon is composed of stylistic sequences, such as ‘the dead man’s story’, and the use of cinematography represents Kurosawa as an auteur. Another film that shows the stark con16
trast between Eastern and Western cinema of the period is Tokyo Story by Yasujiro Ozu. It is defined as a ‘Shomen Geki’ film, a genre comparable to a modern day soap opera such as Eastenders, yet this film blends hard-hitting realism with cinematic innovation. To a Western audience, this film may appear monotonous and very slow-moving. Yet, for me, this was Ozu’s aim: to create a sombre and morbid atmosphere to the film. The film deals with the transition of Japan, post WW2, into the modern era and depicts the grandparents of the focus family being ‘out of sync’ with their grandchildren, and even loathed by their own children. In terms of cinematography, this film conveys the Japanese theatrical art of ‘Mu’: objects and people will cross the screen from left to right, and space is given more focus than the actual narrative of the story. This is in total contrast to Hollywood cinema of the ‘30s and ‘40s, where the viewer is somewhat spoon-fed the story and little is left unknown. Similarly, Branded to Kill, by Seijun Suzuki, once again relies on visual imagery over the use of dialogue. Branded to Kill, however, is a film that bears closer relation to those of the Hollywood studio system than Rashomon or Tokyo Story. The fact that Suzuki directed forty-two films for the studio Nikkatsu (the majority of these being of the ‘Yakuza’ gangster genre), suggests he was restricted by outside elements in relation to his film making. Throughout most of his films there are common themes and stock characters; Branded to Kill, however, to an extent, represents Suzuki’s attempt to break away from the studio constrictions, with the use of surreal imagery and time manipulation. Branded to Kill is not a stock genre film, however and, for me, some of the very surreal and strange scenes and themes (such as the rice-sniffing fetish of lead character Hanada) make this film quite inaccessible to a mainstream Western audience. In conclusion, I feel the three Japanese films I have discussed are not bound by common generic conventions. Japanese films use genre as a starting point, but in production sway a great deal to a more experimental approach. It seems, therefore, that Hollywood directors in the Golden Age were more limited in regards to their creative freedom and that ‘50s and ‘60s Japanese cinema would have been alien to Western ideals and viewing.
RASHOMON | DAIEI MOTION PICTURE COMPANY
GUILTY PLEASURES HANNAH CHARLES
GUILTY PLEASURE FILMS are those (usually embarrassing) discs in your DVD collection that are about a million miles away from being cinematic masterpieces, yet never fail to put a smile on your face and a spring in your step. They are the DVDs that you keep off the rack, so that anyone who inspects your anthology won’t judge you because of it. As a film student, I always end up judging people based on which DVDs they own... and I know it’s not just me that does this. For me, my guilty pleasures are normally linked to nostalgia: films that, as a child, I couldn’t get enough of, and annoyed my parents to hell by demanding we watch it again, and again, and again. For instance, when I was younger I loved Disney films (sorry Tom, as awesome as Pixar is, Disney will always get my vote for my childhood’s sake). My absolute favourite was, and still is, Beauty and the Beast (a rather controversial choice of preference, I tend to find most people prefer the Lion King). Something about the story called out to me at the age of 6 and continues to entice me god-knows-how-many-viewingslater at the age of 20. Whenever I’m feeling sad or ill, Beauty and the Beast never fails to cheer me up. Whenever I go back to my parent’s house, I find a pile of Disney VHSs my mum picked up cheap from the dump: Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Jungle Book. Old school viewing heaven. Something else that will always make me feel better is a Harry Potter film. This is a bit more embarrassing than my thing for Belle’s encounter with a really hairy man, because I can at least still justify to myself that Beauty and the Beast is a good film. The Harry Potter films, how18
“I’VE HAD TO BECOME A FILM STUDENT, OF ALL THINGS, BECASUE THAT BLOODY HOGWARTS LETTER STILL HASN’T AR RIVED.”
GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE | DISNEY
ever, are not. Never have been and never will be. But that’s ok. The reason I like them so much is because I grew up loving the books. Unfortunately, a 700+ page book takes a lot longer to read when I could consume a story in 2 hours. Watching a film - even a bad one - to immerse myself in Harry’s world and the depressing fact I’ve had to become a film student, of all things, because that bloody Hogwarts letter STILL hasn’t arrived, is just far more economic for my time management (especially as once I start reading one of the books I can’t stop until I’ve devoured all seven yet again). Besides, the films may be bad but they are pure, harmless fun, which everybody needs every now and again. There are others: some of them are too good to mention here; loving them practically makes you cool and we can’t have that (Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, Star Wars- the originals, naturally). A Knight’s Tale is always amazing, despite noticing in my more adult state that it really is rather cheesy and far from being, as my younger brother shouted to the whole cinema when we first went to see it, the ‘BEST! FILM! EVER!!’. A James Bond film usually manages to amuse me: so what if Daniel Craig’s grittier and a bit more grown up? Exploding pens and jet packs will always triumph. The likes of Jamanji and Flubber I’m dying to track down and re-watch. My Matilda and Muppet Treasure Island videos are in hiding somewhere, waiting to be unearthed for a rainy afternoon of childlike joy. However, there is one film that I used to love which I have avoided re-watching as an adult. I have a sneaking feeling that it’s secretly really rather terrible; so bad even nostalgia won’t make it great, and I fear that re-watching it would tarnish some fantastic childhood memories. I am talking about George of the Jungle, which shall forever remain in my memory, blissfully, as one of the greatest films ever made. What I am trying to say is that it is okay to have guilty pleasure films. Everyone has them, and everyone needs them. Maybe we should put those embarrassing but great DVDs back amongst our collection and be proud of our slightly dodgy childhood (and sometimes also adulthood) tastes. I promise I won’t judge you. Unless it’s Twilight. Sorry, there’s no excuse for that.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST | DISNEY
HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE | WARNER BROS
GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE | DISNEY
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