Monday, 26 September 2016

I've got a good feeling about this

Well it had to happen. Not a month in and I've decided to write a Star Wars article. Clearly I'll do anything for increased blog traffic.

It really comes down to this: a couple of years ago in a conversation far far away there were mutterings of discontent (nay disgust) when it was announced that Disney were buying the rights to Star Wars. The evil empire had won. They were going to take all that was good and whole in the world and destroy it. They'd be taking a spectacular piece of modern mythology and dumb it down, merchandise it to kids, rip out its heart and soul, and generally do bad things.

Which would be terrible because George Lucas had guarded the sanctity of this wonderfully built universe so admirably. He'd done a stellar job so far, hadn't he.

Hadn't he?

Well no, he hadn't. My initial reaction to Disney getting Star Wars was "well they can't do a worse job can they?" Finally someone was going to take control of Star Wars off the old jedi and inject some much needed quality into it. I'm not going to get on the Phantom Menace soapbox (not yet at any rate) but the signs were there.

Anyone who grew up loving Star Wars holds it very dearly in their hearts. I can remember watching it round my friends Paul and Matt's house when it was on telly and being totally blown away. I remember the Return of the Jedi sticker book I had in primary school, and redrawing Luke's fight on the skiff near the Saarlac Pith until I got the picture just right. I scoured junk shops and flea markets with my mate Ned to get hold of anything Star Wars related and we spent all our pocket money on Star Wars figures.

But we should have seen it coming. We put up with the Ewoks because we were kids and didn't know any better. We even watched Caravan of Courage hoping for it to be good. We were patient with George constantly trying to re-edit and update the films using the latest CGI. We laughed off the song and dance number from Return of the Jedi. We turned a blind eye to Greedo shooting first. But then the new films came out.

And we wanted them to be good. Oh how much we wanted them to be great. But they weren't. And this has nothing to do with destroying my childhood (you should see my previous post for my views on that) but everything to do with the fact that Star Wars dumbed itself down massively. The comedy was crass, the acting abysmal, and it became little more than 1950's America in space.

And then came Disney.

Yes, Disney have some questionable ways of doing business and I think their legal department probably have a well deserved reputation. But they know how to make movies and build franchises. There was never any danger of Mickey Mouse turning up in a Star Wars film (I'm more worried that some people actually believed this would happen).

But do you think Disney would have allowed Jar Jar Binks an inch of celluloid? Sorry, it's hard not to drop the J-bomb but it looks like Disney has the nous to really do a great job with Star Wars. And they are playing it pretty well so far. The Force Awakens opened without a Disney logo in sight and they absolutely nailed the look and feel that made the first films so popular. Yes, they played to the fans, but that was absolutely the right thing to do in the circumstances. The excitement around Rogue One looks pretty stellar too.

And they seem to have brought balance to the films, it's a grown-up universe that treats its audience in a mature way that kids will find thrilling. It doesn't look like there's any danger of hard edged sic-fi being put alongside dopey "Roger Roger" droids.

I can't wait for the next movie. So while you wait for that to turn up in cinemas, here's a picture of Mickey killing Jar Jar!

Monday, 19 September 2016

I ain't afraid of no trolls.

I'll be honest, I'm coming to this whole debate a little late, but you never know, it may add a bit of perspective.

The recent arguments about the new Ghostbusters movie really riled me on a variety of levels. It all started when a friend of mine said "I can't believe they're remaking Ghostbusters. They're going to ruin my childhood. And it's got women in it. It'll be awful".

My first thought was along the lines of "well don't watch it then". This seemed a pretty sensible solution to me, as when faced with things I don't like I try and make a conscious choice about what my reaction will be and whether I want to spend my time engaging with it or not. But it was when I started thinking about the specifics of the above statement that I started getting really annoyed. And guess what, I'm going to tell you why.

"I can't believe they're remaking Ghostbusters"

Well I can. Sorry about this, but remakes/reboots/reinterpretations is what Hollywood is all about. And it has been for years. It's not a new thing. They've been remaking foreign language movies for ages (because, you know, no-one likes subtitles), and they've done the same with countless others. And don't even start me on franchise reboots, there's a whole other blog post on that one.

And another thing, there's never been a decent remake in film history. Ever. Period. Apart from John Carpenter's The Thing. Or The Magnificent Seven (with Yul Brynner, I haven't seen the new one yet). Or The Fly. Or even The Departed. But apart from them, there's no evidence that a remake is a good idea. Nope, none at all.

"They're going to ruin my childhood"

In the wise words of a good friend of mine: "man up princess". Tough luck. you're not a child anymore. You're a forty year old man (or thereabouts). Yes, I am a firm believer that your early experiences shape your character and worldview, but no-one's taking that away from you as far as I can tell. Bill Murray and Dan Ackroyd were great in the original Ghostbusters, and now, in the face of the remake being in the world, that's still the case. No-one has come round your house and wiped the original from your memory, or stamped on your DVD's. And more to the point, there is a generation that will get to see a modern, whizz-bang interpretation of that movie for the first time which may shape their childhood in the same way yours did all those years ago.

"And it's got women in it"

Yep, this is the big one. Girls. In a film. That originally had boys in it. You just can't do that. Well you know what, you really can. I, and many of my friends, come from a pretty privileged position: that of white, male, middle-class. Most things in the world are shaped to our world-view and we should maybe realise just how lucky we are to have been born that way. We got the sweet end of the deal when you take a moment to look around the world. Oppression, racism, sexism, most forms of "ism" have barely touched us. And this has really struck me since becoming a father to a daughter, there is a huge imbalance in gender equality in movies. I'd recommend anyone to read up on Laura Mulvey's "The Male Gaze" and then consider how cinema has approached women in film.

I want my daughter to grow up watching movies that puts positive female roles front and centre. And just as importantly, I want films to be full of great characters that are well thought out, richly portrayed and meaningful irrespective of gender, race or anything else. I have been appalled to see the base level of abuse online just because Ghostbusters dared to have female leads. And don't start me on trolls. The fact that we even have a collective name for this bunch of socially clueless bullies (because that's what they are) is worrying enough. At what point does a person think that abuse on social media (or anything else) is ever justifiable? It's deplorable.

I grew up in a mostly female house (mother, sisters, great aunt) so maybe I have a different view on this but the idea that there is a feminist agenda taking over Hollywood is laughable. And even it was true, maybe it's about time. We men have had it all to ourselves for the best part of a century. I'm with George Miller on this one, there's nothing wrong with putting strong female characters in films (I'll resist the urge to try and quote him, but i think we're on the same page in this instance).

"It'll be awful"

Yep, it may be. And you know what? That's okay. You'll always have the original. And you never know, not everyone may share your view. But suck it up next time you're about to rant on a film, the person you're talking to may disagree with you. And that's okay too. There's nothing wrong with disagreeing, it's just how we go about it.

Hey, here's a doodle!

Monday, 12 September 2016

This is it...

Well this is it. I've decided to start a blog.

This is a place for me to write about something I love, and have loved, for most of my life: 


It's worth being clear here too, my plan isn't to write up the minute film reviews about the latest blockbuster or indie gem, it's to have a place where I can write about all the things I love (and hate) about movies. It'll be varied, some of it may be opinionated, but all of it will mean something to me. You could probably make some inference about psychology and where films fit into both my view of myself and the world, but mostly it'll be me writing about things that interest me. Hopefully they'll interest you too.

There's a few things that I should come clean about first (just so you know what you're letting yourself in for):

  • I have loads of favourite movies (there are many, and they change in order depending on my whims). 
  • I love all sorts of genres, I'm as happy talking about action movies as I am about art-house.
  • I studied film theory and history years ago so am writing this under the belief that I know what I'm talking about (have no fear, after a couple of posts you'll realise I'm winging it).

Here's what you can expect from this blog:

  • The plan is to post new content every Monday.
  • Sometimes I may get carried away and write more than one post a week.
  • I'm not planning on writing massive essays, so you should be able to read them in the time it takes to drink a coffee.
  • I'd love to know what you think, but I'd like you to keep your comments friendly. 
  • If you're lucky I may draw a cartoon to go with a blog post (it certainly beats being sued for using someone else's imagery).

So why the blog title?

There are friends of mine who don't watch films with subtitles, and it's a phrase I hear quite a lot. For me, language isn't a barrier to watching films. In fact, quite the opposite. Film has a visual language all of its own, and a well made film can take you on a journey no matter the country of origin. I'd like to share some of my thoughts on this, and other issues, with whoever is interested.

Anyway, that's it for my first post. I'll be back next week (Monday, as promised) to dazzle you with some stunning writing.