A film student's recommendations, reviews and essays on motion pictures new and old
Recently, I had the exciting opportunity to speak with screen and television writer, Roberto Patino, about his new film Cut Bank, which will hit screens in 2013. Patino, who has previously worked as a writer for the television series Prime Suspect and currently writes for the critically acclaimed television series Sons of Anarchy, discussed with me a wide array of information regarding his first feature film, including: the source of his inspiration, the search for studio funding, his reaction to the star-studded cast, and his opinion of first time feature film director, Matt Shakman. Patino also shared about his favorite films and television shows growing up and dished out some priceless advice on what it takes to make it in the wild world of entertainment.
Cut Bank, is set to be released in 2013 and will star Ben Kingsley, Armie Hammer, and John Malkovich. Directing the film is Matt Shakman, who has received distinguished praise for his work in television. His resume is massive and includes such well known titles as Psych, Weeds, Mad Men, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and House M.D. Shakman describes Cut Bank, his first feature film, as “a director’s dream: a great visual world and a brilliant collection of characters to populate it.”
My interview with Roberto Patino:
SW: When did you first get the “film bug”?
RP: Middle School.
SW: Who are a few of your favorite screenwriters? Directors?
RP: Screenwriters — Paddy Chayefski, Robert Towne, Coen Brothers, Steve Zailian, John Logan, Aaron Sorkin, Eric Roth, and Quentin Tarantino
Directors — Paul Thomas Anderson, Scorcese, Old school Michael Mann, Fincher, Clint Eastwood, early Peter Bogdonavich and Sydney Lumet.
SW: Growing up, what were your favorite films or TV shows? Do these influence your work today?
RP: Lots of favorite movies: Braveheart, Chinatown, Network, Casablanca, 12 Monkeys, Heat, Godfather, Scarface, Treasure of Sierra Madre, Blood Simple, The Last Picture Show, Training Day. American Beauty. The Rock. And TV: Arrested Development. The Wire. The early seasons of NYPD Blue. Hill Street Blues. And absolutely, they influenced my tastes and notions of what I consider to be cool. Tension. Paranoia. Power struggles. Loss of control. Taut, sparse stories. Flawed characters that we love to hate and hate to love. I think this all shaped the kinds of stories I love and love to tell.
SW: So where did you attend college? Did you work on film related projects at the university level? If so, what types?
RP: Harvard University. Film-wise, I took one 16mm film documentary film course. But mostly just literature courses and creative writing courses (play writing, screenwriting, etc.) I took a stab a few short films on my own time, but they weren’t very good. I was in a really melodramatic point in my life I think, and so my stories were wicked sappy. Lots of tearful embraces and doors slamming.
SW: What was the first entertainment-related job you landed after graduating from university?
RP: After I graduated I went to grad school at USC for a year. And that summer I got a job through a friend working for writer/director David Ayer. He wrote one of my favorite movies, Training Day. And he was directing his first studio movie, a cop thriller called Street Kings. I worked for him for free as his assistant – anything from “hold my view finder” to “get my breakfast burrito and make sure it has chorizo.” It was incredible, though, because I had free reign on set and was privy first hand to this guy’s process. He was the one who kind of kicked my butt and told me that if I wanted to write, I should write. I dropped out of USC and wrote a tiny war movie that I got a manager from. I tutored like 15-20 hours a week to pay the bills.
SW: Regarding Cut Bank, how did the story come to you?
My girlfriend, now wife, was moving from Boston to LA and shipping all her stuff in boxes. They all came one by one, so I was making daily trips to the post office, and it was in this time that I saw a sign for rewards that the United States Postal Service offered. They’re for things like if you know of someone mailing drugs or money laundering through the mail, or stealing mail — if you report these kinds of things with evidence that can hold up in a courtroom, you’re entitled to cash rewards. The largest reward is for someone who can provide evidence as to the murder of a mail man on duty. I thought to myself that there’s got to be a way to scam this system. And from there hatched the plot of the story about a guy who wants to get the hell out of his one-horse town, so he fakes the murder of the town mailman to collect this reward money and leave.
SW: Why Cut Bank? What drew you to the area as a potential story telling opportunity?
RP: I’m from Miami, and growing up my family took these epic cross country road trips to Yosemite or Yellowstone. In one of these we stopped in Bozeman, MT and I remember being unsettled and fascinated by how different life was there in relation to Miami. I liked it a lot. So that’s why I chose Montana. As to why Cut Bank in particular, well, my parents would make me be the copilot so I wouldn’t drive my sisters insane (I could get pretty annoying). So I often just stared at the road maps. And I remember really liking the name Cut Bank, which wasn’t far from Bozeman. (I also really liked Liberal, Kansas — there’s definitely some kind of movie in that town). Anyway, I actually flew up to visit and researched the town pretty closely. I guess I have a thing for small towns. Maybe because I’ve lived in big cities my whole life.
SW: How has the project progressed? How did it flow from script progression/completion, studio interest, and then finally to funding and assembling a cast?
RP: Well, I wrote it. I knew it was a small indie-ish film but it felt really good. I finished it like August of 2009. My manager at the time sent it to a few agencies and I hooked up with these two fantastic agents who liked my sensibilities and believed in the script. They blasted it all over town and it got pretty good responses. The script made this list called the Blacklist, which is basically a compilation of the year’s most-liked unproduced screenplays as voted on by execs around town that comes out every December. That drew a lot of good attention, and it made the studio rounds. But we got the same answer over and over: “Love the script, but it’s too small of a movie.” These days it’s either big sweeping films or horror films that cost lest than a mil to make. Everyone is really into those “found footage” movies like Paranormal Activity that are super cheap to make. Not too much room in the market place for a low budget small town thriller. It’s been a long slow road. Coming up on three years pretty soon. So instead, we decided to put this project together independently and we set out to attach talent. First came the director, Matt Shakman, who is represented at the same agency I that I am. He put together this incredible visual presentation and starting to meet with actors that our agency connected him with. That’s how we first landed Malkovich in like November of 2010. Then came Armie Hammer in late winter 2011, who was getting some great buzz from The Social Network. Then there was a while there where momentum cooled and the project came close to busting. We reached out to Ed Zwick, who’s done epic movies like Glory, and Shakespeare in Love and asked him if he would “mentor” the project as an Executive Producer. He liked the script and helped get the other actors. So fast forward to February 2012 suddenly we have the rest of the cast to date – Ben Kingsley, Michael Sheen and Teresa Palmer – and suddenly there was a ton of momentum again. We had what they call a “package” – script, director, producers, and cast — and now just needed the money. We hooked up with a foreign sales agent. These people pre-sell the distribution rights of movies before they are made to foreign countries, like the equivalent of Paramount Distribution in Germany or Japan. Based on the package, a foreign distributor will pay a certain amount to distribute the movie once it’s completed. And scrapping together all the pre-sell values for the countries across the world who will buy our package (assuming they do), that’s how we wrangle our production budget to make the film. It’s all very complicated; I’m learning as I go. This pre-selling happens primarily at big film festivals, like Cannes, which is where the Cut Bank team will be next week trying to sell this movie so we can produce it. If it all goes to plan, we are slated to start shooting late in the fall. So there are still some hoops to jump through. It’s a very tenuous process, especially since up till now, we don’t have money — all the actors are attached because they want to be. Not because there is a paycheck promised. So hopefully things go well next week and beyond and we gather some firm financing to help cement the project. Thus far, though, it’s proved to be the little train that could.
SW: Matt Shakman is set to direct. Any opinions about him or on his past work?
RP: Matt’s incredible. I’ve gotten to know him really well in this process. He’s scary smart. Incredibly prepared. He’s going nowhere but up. He’s been directing off-Broadway plays since he was 23 and TV shows since he was like 27. His credit list is incredibly long and impressive. And he’s worked his way up to direct pretty fantastic fare, like Mad Men, Six Feet Under, and House, M.D. He’s widely regarded as a terrific guy to work with. Cut Bank will be his first feature, and I’m confident he’ll execute a fantastic film. He gets the tone and characters perfectly.
SW: There are some big names attached to this film. What was your reaction on hearing about the cast?
RP: Shock mixed with anxiety mixed with giddiness.
SW: Working full time in the industry, do you still have time to enjoy TV and movies? If so, which ones do you enjoy the most?
RP: Absolutely. I loved 21 Jump Street recently. Last year I loved Midnight in Paris and I thought Drive was incredible. Really looking forward to this summer’s Oliver Stone movie, Savages. It could be awesome, or just a shlocky flop, but I’m in. And of course, I’m dying to see The Dark Knight Rises. On the TV end, I love Breaking Bad. If you haven’t watched that, go get all four seasons and lock yourself in a room for four days and watch. It’s some of the best story telling in the modern era, I think. Love New Girl and Modern Family. Boss on Starz is fantastic. I’m currently writing on Sons of Anarchy, which I think (unbiased opinion here) is also fantastic. Girls and Game of Thrones on HBO are guilty pleasures, though they can get silly at times. Really looking forward to The Newsroom and House of Cards.
SW: Any advice to industry hopefuls?
RP: Invest in yourself fully. It never makes sense to do this and there is general a more immediate offer available. But take time and give yourself a chance to prove yourself. Take risks. Show up for work everyday. Be prepared. Do your homework. Be patient. Be brutally honest with yourself, but also be kind. I’ve learned that most of the time you can be your own worst enemy or your own best ally. You want the latter. Constantly asses your progress and where you want your next steps to be. Stay focused. Do what feels right to you. And practice your craft daily.
The Descendants is an extremely pleasant movie going experience that will be received well by all audiences. Part of this wide spread appeal stems from the fact that this is a movie that that understands and warmly embraces the fact that when it comes to family, not normal is normal.
George Clooney stars as Matt King, an attorney from Hawaii who, despite the appearance of a man who seemingly lives carefree in paradise, isn’t immune to the messiness of life. He is in the process of selling 26,000 acres of pristine, untouched Hawaiian land which the family has owned for over a hundred years. All of Matt’s cousins are involved in negotiations with various buyers but Matt is the official trustee. Only his signature has the power to solidify any deal.
However, just before a deal is finalized, Matt’s wife, Elizabeth, suffers a traumatic brain injury in a boating accident and she becomes comatose. For the first time, Matt is forced to become the primary parental figure for his children, something he is certainly not used to or prepared for. Matt shares with his oldest daughter Alex that the doctors have told him Elizabeth is not going to wake up and that her death is very near. Upon hearing the news, Alex is devastated and confides to Matt that Elizabeth was cheating on him. Matt suddenly understands Alex and Elizabeth’s troubled relationship.
Matt is furious at first, and badgers two close friends into telling him that the man Elizabeth was spending time with is named Brian Speer. Matt shares this news with Alex and they mutually decide to search for him, bringing Matt’s younger daughter Scottie and Alex’s guy-friend Sid along. As an eccentric little group, they travel about the islands of Hawaii as Matt breaks the news about Elizabeth’s imminent death to loved ones and attempts to learn more about Brian.
George Clooney’s performance here is masterful. He realistically portrays his character with vivid life through the vast array of human emotions he expertly exhibits, which include fury, happiness, sadness, confusion and much more.
Through this whole experience, Matt comes to discover things that are hurtful in ways he couldn’t have imagined. However, he also learns to see himself as a father who matters to his children and as an important member of his family who can make decisions for the greater good. The movie is a beautiful display of how the goal of a family can’t be reduced to an ultimate aspiration determined by formula. Rather, family means something different to everybody. What a great movie.
It’s almost Oscar time again! … For those who care anyway. Last week, the nominees were released and as usual, gossip and drama is circulating about believed snubs and underserved nominations. But nevertheless, listed below are the nominees in a few major categories along with which film I expect to win vs. which film I’d like to see win.
- The Artist
- The Descendants
- Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
- The Help
- The Tree of Life
- War Horse
- Midnight in Paris
My Expectation: The ArtistThere is so much hype surrounding this movie, which in case you didn’t know, is a black and white, silent picture. Now I can’t quite judge it fairly because unfortunately, my viewing experience has been limited to the trailer and online sneak peaks. Yet, despite my limited exposure to the movie, I can definitely see the potential for something great.My Choice: AnythingCan you really choose a “best” here? I certainly can’t. Now of the nine movies nominated for best picture, I have only seen six: The Descendants, Moneyball, The Help, The Tree of Life, War Horse, and Midnight in Paris. I saw something unique and special in everyone of these movies. Of course, I liked some more than others, but I just can’t seem to choose one winner worthy of such a huge title as “Best Picture”. What about the movies that weren’t even nominated?
- Brad Pitt – Moneyball
- Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
- George Clooney – The Descendants
- Jean Dujardin – The Artist
- Demián Bichir – A Better Life
My Expectation: Jean DujardinPlaying the lead role in a silent picture in 2012 is quite a task. How far should you annunciate physical mannerisms? How do you not over-act the scenes and still convey emotion? Once again, I’ve only seen the trailer for The Artist, but I still managed to be emotionally affected by the little amounts of footage I’ve seen of his performance.My Choice: George ClooneyIn The Descendants, George Clooney stars as Matt King, a man in a very peculiar situation. His wife has recently died, he is contemplating a difficult financial decision that will affect his entire family, and for the first time, he is the primary parental figure for his children. Clooney masters the emotional spectrum of this movie, convincingly displaying fury, happiness, despair, confusion, and much more.
- Glenn Close – Albert Nobbs
- Rooney Mara – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
- Viola Davis – The Help
- Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady
- Michelle Williams – My Week With Marilyn
My Expectation & Choice: Viola DavisAlthough The Help puts a slight hollywood “feel-good” spin on difficult subject matter, I was very moved by Viola Davis’ performance as the caring and passionate house maid, Aibileen Clark. I imagine playing such a role required much courage.
Actor In a Supporting Roll:
- Jonah Hill – Moneyball
- Nick Nolte – Warrior
- Christopher Plummer – Beginners
- Max von Sydow – Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
- Kenneth Branagh – My Week With Marilyn
My Expectation & Choice: Nick NolteNick Nolte’s performance as Paddy Conlon turns Warrior, an otherwise good film, into a great one. Paddy, a recovering alcoholic, is asked by his youngest son Tommy to train him in preparation for a mixed martial arts tournament. Paddy agrees to train him, mainly because he has suppressed hopes of earning a second chance at fatherhood. Nolte delivers a Grade-A performance here.
Actress In a Supporting Roll:
- Bérénice Bejo – The Artist
- Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids
- Janet McTeer – Albert Nobbs
- Octavia Spencer – The Help
- Jessica Chastain – The Help
My Expectation & Choice: Octavia SpencerIn The Help, Octavia Spencer stars as a house made with a strong, spunky personality. We sense this is who she is, and yet even someone as seemingly strong as her is not immune to the degrading, inhumane conditions of Mississippi in the 1960′s. Spencer makes this character something quite special.
- The Artist
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
- The Tree of Life
- War Horse
My Expectation: The ArtistOnce again, this prediction is based on word of mouth and my limited experience with the movie. However, the small amount of viewing experience I’ve had with The Artist is enough to suggest a wonderful film executed with pleasant style and attention to detail.My Choice: The Tree of LifeThe Tree of Life’s experimental and unorthodox photography methods with whispering voice overs proved to be tedious at times even for me. However, many of the “cosmic-like” effects were created using rather ingenious methods. Dan Glass, special effects supervisor discussed the shooting process saying, “We worked with chemicals, paint, fluorescent dyes, smoke, liquids, CO2, flares, spin dishes, fluid dynamics, lighting and high speed photography to see how effective they might be… We did things like pour milk through a funnel into a narrow trough and shoot it with a high-speed camera and folded lens, lighting it carefully and using a frame rate that would give the right kind of flow characteristics to look cosmic, galactic, huge and epic.” Pretty cool if you ask me.
- The Artist
- Midnight in Paris
- War Horse
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2
My Expectation: The ArtistThe film has nine other nominations at the Oscars and judging by the title, one would think the picture has pretty strong chances at winning an award for art direction. But in all seriousness, art direction is about the overall aesthetics and feel of the movie. Considering The Artist is a movie without dialogue that heavily relies on feeling and visual style, it’s no stretch to say it has this category in the bag.My Choice: DriveDrive isn’t nominated in this category and this is more than unfortunate. In fact, I believe Drive was ripped off and majorly snubbed in this category as well as a few others, like best picture and best actor. Drive relies heavily on aesthetics and atmosphere and probably consists of the second least amount of dialogue in any movie last year, second only to The Artist. With that being said, the result is very pleasing. A huge disappointment to not see it nominated in more categories.
- Martin Scorsese – Hugo
- Terrence Malick – The Tree of Life
- Woody Allen – Midnight in Paris
- Alexander Payne – The Descendants
- Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist
My Expectation: Michel HazanaviciusIt takes a lot of guts to write and direct a silent picture in 2012. Yeah, some will argue that Hazanavicius was inadvertently catering to the Academy’s innermost longings for the good-ol’ days of movies, using the silent picture as one big gimmick. But, I find that highly unlikely. I think his courage will be rewarded on Oscar night.My Choice: Martin ScorseseNot that Marty needs a golden statue to vouch for his success, but I still think he deserves it. An animated children’s movie doesn’t quite bring Martin Scorsese to mind, yet the success of Hugo proves Scorsese doesn’t have a comfort zone.
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
- The Artist
- The Descendants
My Expectation & Choice: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo:Dragon Tattoo manages to condense Stieg Larson’s 600 page novel into an exceptional adaptation. The story covers a period of a half a century and fluidly shifts through time using superimposed images and well executed montage scenes. The final product is masterful.
Music (Original Score):
- The Adventures of Tin Tin – John Williams
- The Artist – Ludovic Bource
- Hugo – Howard Shore
- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Alberto Iglesias
- War Horse – John Williams
My Expectation & Choice: The ArtistI’m going to assume the Academy will reward The Artist’s score because not only is it reminiscent of old school Hollywood, but it literally carries the weight of the whole motion picture. There is no dialogue. The score to a silent film made in 2012 better be pretty good. This one definitely is. The soundtrack is available for streaming on YouTube.
Writing (Adapted Screenplay):
- The Descendants – Alexander Payne and Nat Saxon & Jim Rash
- The Ides of March – George Clooney and Grant Hesloc & Beau Willimon
- Moneyball – Aaron Sorkin & Steven Zaillian
- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan
- Hugo – John Logan
My Expectation: HugoFilms that honor movie-making and the overall love for cinema in general are doing well this year. Of all the movies nominated in this category, Hugo is the most infatuated with the art form of movie making and I think the Academy will be won over by that.My Choice: MoneyballMichael Lewis’ book is a really compelling piece of dramatic journalism. It truly is fascinating. Before Moneyball, die-hard baseball fans who have read the book were probably hesitant to the idea of a film adaptation. I think Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian did the best they possibly could with the project. It was one of my favorite films of 2012.
Writing (Original Screenplay):
- The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius
- Midnight in Paris – Woody Allen
- Margin Call – J.C. Chandor
- A Separation – Asghar Farhadi
- Bridesmaids – Kristen Wiig & Annie Mumolo
My Expectation & Choice: Woody AllenWoody Allen is notorious for refusing to attend the Oscars, but according to Roger Ebert, the Academy likes him anyway. The protagonist of Midnight in Paris, Gil, is modeled after Woody Allen himself. In Midnight in Paris, Allen channels all of his passions and fascinations involving the city of Paris, literature, art, and music, through Gil. For me, the result was charming, funny, and relatable. Most members of the Academy will probably see eye-to-eye with Mr. Allen on many of the themes presented in his movie, thus resulting in the win for best screenplay.
- Transformers: Dark of the Moon
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
- Real Steel
- Rise of the Planet of the Apes
My Expectation & Choice: Rise of the Planet of the ApesThe fluid interaction between the Apes and the humans in this movie is so fluid and captivating (unlike Transformers). I loved it.
Recently, a friend and I were speaking about the dominant theme of loneliness in Scorsese’s Taxi Driver.
The general summary of our conversation could be described as follows: for the beautiful, talented, smart, and/or gifted people of the world, love and acceptance come easily. But, for those who are ugly, fat, dumb, or whatever you want to label them as, life is just plain hard.
Think about what we do when we’re lonely. For one, we think to ourselves either consciously or subconsciously, “This doesn’t feel good.” Then, a desire to eradicate the inner torture that loneliness bestows upon us occurs. In some cases, when this constant state of solitude becomes the every day normal routine for someone, the lengths they will go to find significance can be drastic. This was obviously true for Travis in Taxi Driver. In our society, extremely drastic measures taken by lonely people in order for them to feel of importance are labeled as acts of madness or terrorism. Just think what the headlines would’ve read had Travis gone through with his plan to kill the senator.
Mark Twain said the following regarding classic literature, “A classic is something everybody wants to have read, but no one wants to read.” I suspect the same holds true for classic cinema, and undoubtedly, Taxi Driver falls into the category of a classic. Well, a “modern classic” perhaps. But anyway, I’m not sure what it is about old movies that inhibits us from wanting to see them. For me, I guess it would be the dramatized theater style acting, distracting scores, and by today’s standards, poor image quality. But again, it seems that in order to even begin to acquire a thorough understanding of cinema, it’s absolutely necessary to understand the origins and establish a respect for the important landmarks of the art.
Taxi Driver movie follows the life of a man named Travis (Robert De Niro), a NYC taxi driver who works 12 hour night shifts, prepared to drive anywhere and willing to drive any customer. He journals about his lonely life and after a failed relationship observes, “I realize now how much she’s just like the others, cold and distant, and many people are like that…” Travis’s isolation becomes overwhelming and he recedes deep into his own mind, convincing himself he must assassinate a U.S. senator. But at the same time, Travis also finds himself drawn to a young girl (Jody Foster) who is stuck in a life of prostitution. He desperately wants to help her get out. Travis’s frustration with the world around him grows until the film’s climax comes out of nowhere and hits you like a train.
Personally, I was able to stay involved with Taxi Driver was because of De Niro’s eerily convincing portrayal of a lonely man with nothing to lose and searching for anything to gain. This is achieved largely through the talent of Robert De Niro, as his narration provides for a very realistic and troubling look into the point of view of someone who has nobody and nothing to his name.
Next time you’re browsing for a movie at the video store, bypass all the new releases (which are mostly trash) and get this movie instead. You’ll be glad you did.
SPOIL is a spectacular film that I suspect will soon gather a lot of attention now that it’s finishing its run with the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour. Here is an excerpt from Banff’s website:
“The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour brings Banff to audiences around the globe. Immediately after the Festival ends in November, a selection of the best films go on tour across Canada, the United States, and internationally from Scotland to South Africa to China, Japan, New Zealand, Antarctica, and points in between. Each year, the films travel to 32 countries reaching more than 245,000 people at over 635 screenings.”
SPOIL tells the story of ten world famous photographers and videographers on a fourteen day expedition across the Canadian rain forest on a Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition (RAVE). The purpose of this RAVE (and the film as a whole) is to document the unspeakable beauty of the area’s natural surroundings and the richness of its ever present native culture. Their hope is that vivid images supplemented by disturbing information about the composition of oil at proposed drill sites will hault negotiations of a oil pipeline which would run through the rain forest. Such a pipeline would require enormous oil tankers to navigate the dangerous waters, and a catastrophic spill could potentially exterminate the native people’s way of life.
Multiple ships have already wrecked attempting to navigate the complicated and deceiving waters of the Canadian coast, including the Canadian ferry boat, MV Queen of the North. Two lives were lost in the accident and the toxins spilled from the vessel resulted in an extensive cleanup process and the loss of many native wildlife.
To get a feel for the type of photos taken by the photographers, here are a few of the photos taken during the RAVE. The following photographs were taken by Thomas P. Peschak:
The most fascinating element of the movie concerns an animal known as the Kermode Bear, or Spirt Bear as the natives call it. This bear is a white, Black Bear. Yes, a Black Bear whose fur is white. Their color stems from a recessive gene in the animals. However, they are not albino as many would seem to think at first glance. National Geographic estimates that only 400-1000 Spirit Bears exist today. The Native people of the Great Bear Rainforest wisely never spoke of the Spirit Bear’s existence to hunters or tourists in order to ensure its survival through generations. The team of photographers and videographers consider quality images of the Spirit Bear vital to the project because hey, who doesn’t love bears? Especially big furry white bears. The emphasis the filmmakers place on the Spirit Bear is a highly effective rhetorical strategy.
People from the Pacific Northwest will particularly enjoy this movie because of the justice it does to the beauty of the area they live in. SPOIL will also appeal to any fan of visual art because it is unique in the way it uses film as a medium to show photographers’ efforts to capture still images.We get to see the subjects through the video camera lens and then we get to see the final product from the still cameras. It’s pretty awesome, and certainly not you’re average nature film.
You can view the film online if you click on the link below:
If you’re a movie lover, you can probably acknowledge and recall the excitement and anticipation of those particular upcoming films that really get your heart pounding.
One such movie that instilled similar feelings in myself was The King’s Speech. Two years ago, after noticing the considerable hype and observing the overwhelmingly positive reviews surrounding the movie, my family and I drove over to Anacortes, WA to see it. Of course we showed up a little early and delight filled my soul as I observed a fairly empty theater. First pick on seats!
Slowly, the other people started to file in. The trailers soon started and I remember my relief at the site of the sparsely filled cinema. Confident there would be no irritating distractions from this group of people, I sat enjoying my popcorn, awaiting the start of the movie. And then…
What the? Hmmm… that was weird. It sounded like someone trying to clear their throat as they sneezed and coughed and spit at the same time. Slightly annoyed but also somewhat amused, I shook my head and soon forgot about it. The trailers continued to role.
Then, again, “SNIFFLE-COUGH-SNORT!!!”.
I clenched my jaw and gritted my teeth as my heart sank. The realization set in: I’m watching a movie with someone who has a strange cough snorting tick thing! AWESOME! May I also add that the level of annoyance was compounded by ten because I happened to be watching the quietest, dialogue driven, dramatic tear-jerking movie of all 2010. I’m sitting there, completely drawn into Colin Firth’s performance. He is in tears, breaking down to his wife, “I’m not a king!” And then… “SNORTTT!!!”
Yeah, that sets the mood perfectly snorting guy. Thanks alot.
Anyhow, enough with the story. The point is, we can all recall those times where movies have been ruined for us due to a number of different reasons. So, without further adieu, I give you 10 Annoying Things People Do At The Movies. Notice that these aren’t numbered in any order because all of the following perpetrators are equally guilty!
Does it even need to be said? Seriously… texting and driving, texting in class, texting here, texting there, texting freakin’ everywhere! Sitting by someone with a phone out at the movies is just pain horrible. Have you ever sat by a person texting who tries to be subtle about it by holding it to the side, way down between their legs, or hunching over? Yeah, sorry texters, it doesn’t help.
NOISY POPCORN BAGS
For some reason, most theaters have traded out popcorn buckets for paper bags. Not just any paper bags. No, these bags sound like rapid successions of firecrackers are exploding every time you reach in for another fist full. And oh, God forbid there’s someone wearing a bulky sweat shirt armed with one of these babies. If so, you’re ears will be treated to a pleasant, “CRUNCH SMASH CRACKLE CRACKLE CRUNCH” every time they reach in.
For those that haven’t figured it out, there is an art to eating out of these bags. It’s like that game, Operation. You have to carefully reach in and avoid the very sensitive sides of the bag. Short sleeves are preferable.
Hmm.. on second thought, can we just have the bins back?
Talkers come in a few different forms. I will discuss them categorically.
- Whisperers: Sometimes people find it necessary to whisper doing certain parts of movies. Whisper very loudly I might add. For example, “Woah did you see that?!” or, “This is sad!”.
- The Echo-er: Occasionally, people will hear a line in a film that they find humorous, memorable, scary, etc. To the echo-er, these lines are so great that they find it necessary to repeat it out loud! Sometimes, they will even look around at other audience members, perhaps expecting to be thanked or congratulated.
- The Shoosh-er: Sometimes, in response to a whisperer or an echoer, a shoosh-er will try to intervene on behalf of the rest of the audience. Little do they know they are just as annoying and chances are, the perpetrator can’t even hear the shoosh. For example, a whisperer may enquire to a neighbor, “Woah! What’s gonna happen?” The shoosh-er then responds with a dramatic, “SHHHHHHHHHH!!!”
- Ignorant Yellers: I had the not so pleasant experience of watching a movie with an ignorant yeller just the other day while watching The Grey. I knew we were in for it right as they walked in and I heard a, “Oh man F##k yeah that was hella’ funny!” It did not get better. These four guys, who were sitting about three rows in front of me, were in a different universe, screaming, yelling, and laughing about who knows what. But wait, you’ll never believe what happened. This leads me into my next form of talker.
- The Hero: Sometimes, while you’re at the movies, experiencing one of the many horrors listed in this article, just when all hope of enjoying the movie seems lost, the hero will come to the rescue. They quietly put up with a few instances of annoyance and then suddenly, with authority, will shut them up. I was lucky enough in my most recent experience for this happen to me. I noticed a guy wearing a white T-shirt sitting about six chairs to the left of the ignorant yellers. The hero stared them down a few different times. I thought, “Is he gonna do it?” Sure enough, when everything got quiet, the hero turned to them and said, “Hey could you guys SHUT UP?” Immediately, the hero was backed up by the rest of the viewers who affirmed his statement. They weren’t a problem anymore. Thanks hero.
SLOSHING ICE OUT OF CUPS
There’s no more Coke in there and the guy whose obnoxiously sloshing the leftover ice into his mouth apparently didn’t pay for refills. So, the rest of us are treated to the sporadic crunching of ice and then the occasional pound on the cup. Cmon’ man!
FREQUENT COUGHS, WEIRD TICKS, ETC.
I’m not exactly sure how common this really is. However, I found it necessary to include in this article because of my own personal experience watching The King’s Speech. I guess you’ll have to experience this one to truly understand it.
POOR SEAT SELECTION
We’ve all experienced it. You’re sitting in a prime spot in an empty theater, maybe with a date, and then suddenly, you see Paul Bunyan lumber through the entrance. No biggie right? Look at all these empty seats! Everything’s cool. Okay, he’s coming closer. Alright there’s still a few rows left. Okay, the row in front of me is alright as long as… Okay how did I know he would sit RIGHT in front of me! Wow! Not cool at all! But, luckily this is an easy problem to fix. Just move along to one of those empty seats across the aisle.
You’re most likely to discover there is a seat kicker behind you when you’re eating popcorn and then suddenly a jolt of force will cause you to close your fist and send bits of popcorn matter flying everywhere. Sometimes you can send a message to the kicker that says “cut it out”, by turning your head over your shoulder a little bit and making a disapproving shaking motion. But sometimes, you just can’t win with these people and you’ll just have to make yourself feel better by talking bad about them with your friends after the movie!
A lot of times, this annoyance (as well as many others) can be avoided by movie choice. For example, I don’t think a lot of screaming kids or ignorant yellers would go to see The Descendants or The Artist. But hey, some kids movies are really worth seeing. For example, Hugo, Up, Kung Fu Panda 2, Toy Story etc. Most people are aware that they are really rolling the dice when you decide to see a movie like this. Chances are the lights will go down and soon you’ll be hearing screaming voices talking about the bathroom, soda, popcorn, and whatever else kids talk/complain about!
The fortune teller finds it necessary to yell out his or her prediction of what is going to happen next on screen. For example, “He’s gonna die!” Or, “He’s lying!”. It can be funny at times and maybe it says a good thing about the film. Maybe the movie has drawn them in so much that they feel like they can warn the characters of their future? Beats me.
RUINING THE BEST PART
Sometimes a friend or a family member will see a movie in theaters, enjoy it very much, and invite you to go with them to see it a second time. Most of the time, this is a fun experience! They get to see a good movie a second time and if you trust their taste, you’re in for a treat too. But sometimes, depending on the movie, this can go wrong. Let’s say you’re watching a movie that involves some kind of twist, and right as you’re about to figure it out or the truth is about to be unveiled, you’re partner leans over and says, “Dude, you absolutely won’t believe this part” or, “This is the best part of the whole movie”. We get it. You saw this movie and you liked it! Let me experience it!
Okay, so this concludes my list of annoying things people do at the theater. Now, with all the chips out on the table, I want to say that I still very much enjoy going to the movies. I’d like to think that these grievances are only committed many 25% of the time. Most other times, the whole experience of going to the theater with friends and family is quite enjoyable. But then again, when in doubt, hit up Blockbuster or Netflix instant stream and cuddle up with blankets and enjoy the privacy and comfort of your own couch.
Have an annoying story to tell? Comment below.
If you’re a movie lover, I recommend you watch this clip before you read.
Filmmaker. What does that title encompass? Well, it would seem that according to arguably the most eccentric filmmaker of our time, Quentin Tarantino, true filmmakers are those who write and direct their own pictures. He goes on to say that writing and directing your own movies is essential to developing a voice as a filmmaker .
“There’s a lot of writer directors that come out, and they write and direct one movie, a second movie, and then a third movie, well, there’s a real voice there… It’s a lot easier to go and look at the scripts that are out there and available, and maybe work with a writer, or do a little rewrite or do that kind of thing, and you get more movies made. But, cut to six years down the line and where’s that voice? It’s gone away.”
It’s an interesting point, and for the most part, I agree with him. Think for a minute, what is film? Well, it’s a form of art, and artists, of whatever type, have distinct styles. So, maybe that’s it, Tarantino wants to recognized as a true artist; a man who deserves to be commended for his individual effort at making movies, as opposed to movies that are made from comic book adaptations, novel adaptations, or by directors who work with a separate screenwriter.
I have to admit, in that respect, he’s right. Writer-directors are different. The stories, images, and thoughts of those who write/direct their own pictures exist because they and they alone thought them up. Tarantino movies are literally a direct result of HIS ability as a story teller and a visual mastermind. Considering art as an expression of creative skill and imagination, Tarantino is in fact, a true artist.
Tarantino said that that directors who don’t write their own scripts can lose their voice as filmmakers over time, and that may be true as far as dialogue structure, style, and tone are concerned. But, “voice” can be defined in other ways. For example, directors who don’t write their own movies still have distinct trademarks that make their work unique and identifiable. Here are a few examples of notable visual trademarks of directors; proof that a director’s artistic touch can be seen regardless of who wrote the story.
Steven Spielberg’s “Wonder” Shot:
Spielberg doesn’t write most of his movies, but that doesn’t mean his style isn’t easily recognizable. Many of his movies tend to involve larger than life concepts, and his close up shots of characters with facial expressions of awe and wonder are a sure sign of a Spielberg creation.
Quentin Tarantino’s POV “Trunk” Shot:
Aside from Jackie Brown, Tarantino’s movies are completely original stories, written and directed by him. However, this is one of his signature visual trademarks, showing his characters from the point of view of what they’re looking at. (It’s not always a trunk)
Scorsese’s X of Death:
Martin Scorsese is a legendary director, yet, he doesn’t write most of his films. Here’s a signature touch of his, using X’s on screen to indicate the impending doom of his characters.
Film is a collaborative art. Think about the credits at the end of a motion picture. They go on for quite awhile right? Simply put, the movie wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for all those people listed: camera operator 1, camera operator 2, sound editor, special effects assistant #3. All of those obscure titles contributed in some way, big or small, to the final product, and I think that’s a big part of why movies are so special. Everyone plays a special role. So obviously, I’m not criticizing directors who don’t write, or writers who don’t direct. I mean, the majority of all movies ever made were not written/directed by one person. Everyone has their talents. Writing a screenplay is difficult. Translating a story to the big screen is also very difficult. Those who can do it both? Well, the greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it.
#10 – Star Trek 2
J.J. Abrams’ follow up to his 2009 Star Trek is rumored to be released in 2012. His 2009 film proved to be a big surprise with its ability to appeal to both fans of the original T.V. series, and to those who’ve never seen anything to do with Star Trek. Chris Pine is rumored to be returning as captain James Kirk and that’s about all I’ve heard about this one.
All in all, I’m only asking that Abrams’ continues to build on the success of this newly rebooted franchise.
#9 – The Bourne Legacy
Matt Damon’s not involved with the new Bourne movie, but I’ll still give it a chance. Why? Well, mainly because I loved the first three Bourne films so much. They all worked together to form a very exhilarating trilogy, and trilogies are rarely successful as a whole. Not a whole lot is known about the film but I’ve heard from numerous sources that Jeremy Renner will be joining the cast. Nice!
The Bourne Legacy hits theaters in August.
#8 – Brave
Disney Pixar films are always so dang adorable. But, don’t start feeling too sentimental about this one quite yet. Brave has been described by Aint It Cool News as “… somewhat darker and more mature in tone than Pixar’s previous films.” Hmmm… that sounds promising. The creative forces at Pixar always seem to turn out some pretty captivating material, in terms of plot as well as imagery. The story looks somewhat complicated and I don’t want to spoil all of the details so here’s the trailer:
#7 – The Amazing Spider Man
Out with the old and in with the new: Andrew Garfield will take over the reigns as Peter Parker in the 2012 Marc Webb film, The Amazing Spiderman. Now many fans of the first three Spider-Man films are questioning (some would say, complaining) about how this new Spidey film looks like a carbon copy of the 2002 Spider-Man film. Well, not so fas. There are a few important differences, additions, and unique things to consider about the new Spider-Man.
One aspect of the 2012 movie that should please audiences is its effort to remain more faithful to the comic book series. For example, Emma Stone has been cast as Gwen Stacy, who was in fact Peter Parker’s first love interest. It wasn’t Mary Jane, as the 2002 film seemed to portray.
It’s also important to note that the Hollywood studios are in fact, looking out for the audience’s best interest with The Amazing Spider-Man. Remember how Spiderman 3 was a flop? Well, it looks as though the film’s investors pressured those involved to reboot the series entirely, rather than continue to pour money into a franchise that seemed to be taking a turn for the worse. This is a good thing. In a series, nobody wants to go watch a movie worse than the one before it. Besides, Entertainment Weekly has compared the reboot of the Spider-Man series to be reminiscent of Chris Nolan’s Batman series reboot, describing James Vanderbilt’s script as “gritty and contemporary”.
You can watch the trailer for the movie here:
#6 – The Hunger Games
The adaptation of Suzanne Collins highly popular young adult novel The Hunger Games, hits theaters in 2012. The film will star Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, the story’s lead character. In case you haven’t read the novel, here is the synopsis from the back cover:
“Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games.” The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Kat’s sister is chosen by lottery, Kat steps up to go in her place.”
The book was a huge success but it’s sure to be under heavy scrutiny from it’s die hard fan base.
#5 – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Peter Jackson’s fourth installment in his Lord of The Rings franchise will premier in December, 2012. The Hobbit is the first of two films that will make up the entire prequel of the main Rings trilogy. All of the familiar faces will be involved with the film, including: Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellan, Hugo Weaving, Andy Serkis, and Cate Blanchett. The film will be made on an estimated budget of $250 million so it goes without saying, The Hobbit is going to be big.
#4 - The Avengers
Iron Man. The Hulk. Nick Fury. Thor. Captain America. Hawkeye.
These are the heroes that will make up The Avengers. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’ve seen most of the films made in preparation for the movie. You know, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America… etc. If not, well then this movie probably won’t interest you. Go ahead and skip to the next one.
Aright, much love for the cool people who kept on reading. I’m definitely excited to see The Avengers. But, then again, I’m going to express a little concern deep inside me that feels that maybe it’s going to be a little cluttered. The Avengers features six characters that we all want to have a lot of screen time. I just hope that the writers successfully accomplish the somewhat overwhelming task at hand, which is to feature all of the characters into a story that’s absorbing, and doesn’t feel like a tangled mess of hodgepodge.
Those who stayed after the credits for Captain America have already seen the first sneak peak of The Avengers. If you left the theater after the movie ended (like most people do), you can watch a trailer similar to it here instead:
#3 – Lincoln
Lincoln, Steven Spielberg’s upcoming biographical drama about our 16th president, is one of my favorites on this list. Abraham Lincoln is one of America’s most loved presidents and Spielberg is one of America’s most cherished filmmakers. It’s as simple as that. I really think we’re in for something special with this one.
#2 – Django Unchained
Quentin Tarantino, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Samuel L. Jackson. Okay, take a minute and let those names settle in your mind and in your soul. Experiencing some jitters? Uncontrollable excitement and anticipation? GOOD! You should be.
Quentin Tarantino’s new film, Django Unchained, will hit theaters on Christmas day 2012. Here’s the short and sweet synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes:
“A slave-turned-bounty hunter sets out to rescue his wife from the brutal Calvin Candie, a Mississippi plantation owner.”
Okay, maybe it doesn’t sound too exciting all by it’s lonesome, but remember, this is Tarantino were talking about, and the Spaghetti Western is one of his favorite genres. I think we can all be sure he’s gonna make this one his baby. I’m not too sure about the supporting characters but I’ve heard that DiCaprio will assume the role of one of the main antagonists, Christoph Waltz has been cast as a German bounty hunter, and Jamie Foxx will play the title role, Django.
#1 – The Dark Knight Rises
The very brief trailer for The Dark Knight Rises has been published on YouTube for only one month, but has already recorded an astounding 3.5 million views. Without a doubt, I’m more excited about The Dark Knight Rises than any other movie coming out next year.
The Dark Knight, which was nominated for eight academy awards and is one of only three films to gross over $500 million at the North American box office, has left many fans of the series asking, “How will they top it?” Well, I’m not sure I have an answer to that one. I guess we’ll just have to stay hopeful and trust that the brilliant minds of the Nolan brothers have something incredible in store for us.
Not much is known about the Batman finale, other than Tom Hardy has been cast as Bane and Anne Hatheway as Catwoman. The teaser trailer for the film premiered before the showing of Harry Potter. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it here:
So, there you have it, my top ten most anticipated films of 2012. But, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. The last half of 2011 has a few more promising movies in store for us. Some are pure popcorn entertainment and others are possible Oscar contenders.
Notable Remaining Films of 2011:
- Steven Spielberg’s War Horse
- Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
- Apollo 18
- David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
- Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar
Three years ago, my friend James Middleton was writing a story for the school newspaper about an up and coming local band from Anacortes called The Lonely Forest. Fast forward to 2011, and they’re all over the radio, performing on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and officially the first band to sign with Trans Records, the new record label headed by Chris Walla of Death Cab for Cutie.
A few days ago, my brother and I had the pleasure of meeting one of the members of the band, Tony Ruland, at the Donut House in Anacortes. He was extremely appreciative of our praise and just a really nice guy to talk to.
Seeing that this is a film blog, I must recommend that you watch The Lonely Forest’s music video for their song, “Turn Off This Song and Go Outside.” It was the song I used in the beginning sequence of my short film about The Blue Fox Drive-In. The music video features some distinct local landmarks and evokes the unique feelings of experiencing life outside with those you love. I think you’ll really enjoy it.
You can purchase the song, “Turn Off This Song and Go Outside,” and other songs by The Lonely Forest from their album Arrows, featured on iTunes.
Cowboys and aliens. Individually, these words can be associated with a lot of different things: video games, cool Halloween costumes, and of course, the subject of countless hit Hollywood movies. But, what do we get when we combine the two genres into one film? Well, low and behold, that’s what Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens gives us. The title sounds ridiculous, and the film’s previews have left many viewers hesitant. But hey, if aliens can attack modern cities, then why can’t, or why wouldn’t they attack America’s post civil war western society?
Daniel Craig plays the role of a loner cowboy, wandering the baron landscape of the dessert with no recollection of who he is, how he got there, or how he ended up wearing a heavy metal band with strange markings around his wrist. He wanders into a small western town, which as many other critics are also sure to point out, is filled with Western cliches. You know, Daniel Craig as the mysterious cowboy, the sheriff who struggles to maintain control over outlaws, the timid bartender who is bullied by those outlaws, and that one girl in town who is blatantly prettier than the rest. Yep, we’re presented with a typical Western setup.
It turns out that the cowboy with the metal wrist band is a man by the name of Jake Lonergan. Jake has no recollection of his past life as a notorious stage coach robber, and is therefore surprised when he discovers that he’s wanted dead or alive by federal authorities. But, when many people are abducted by strange flying aircraft in the middle of the night, it becomes clear to everyone that Jake ain’t the typical rough ridin’ fugitive.
This is where the movie took a step backwards for me. The first alien attack scene is just less exciting than it should be, especially from director Jon Favreau, who set pretty high standards for himself with Iron Man. Remember the opening attack scene in that movie? Yeah, pretty dang good. The nighttime setting in this one made details a little difficult to establish, which I think results in an average attack sequence, as opposed to a freakin’ awesome display of catastrophe. I think we as the audience become much more interested in the rest of the movie if that first abduction scene were more terrifying, exciting, breathtaking, or whatever you want to call it… It just needed more of the wow factor.
The first part of Cowboys & Aliens works as an extremely effective western film. The hand to hand combat scenes are well done and even the typical western standoffs are enjoyable. Daniel Craig is also believable as the cowboy with a chip on his soldier, and the mysteries of his past are compelling even if the answers to our questions can’t quite live up to the dramatic build up. For me, the movie’s only flaws were an unnecessary twist in the middle of the story, and an “unconvincing at times” performance by Harrison Ford as the hardened war veteran/ cattle rancher. If you were to go and see the film, my advice would be to just go with it. It’s a lot of fun if you let it be.