Tag Archives: movies

Waiting for Gadot

wonder-woman

Life can sometimes move a little slow here at Polly Cottage*. So it is that we’re only just back from our first screening of Wonder Woman, despite being keen to see it from the first trailer. Or was it a teaser for the trailer? Or a sneak still from the teaser for the trailer? Anyway, we all wanted to see it.

Generally, the weasels are interested in watching the comic book movies, but in common with a lot of people, we’re less keen on the grim direction that DC has taken in recent years, preferring the lighter comic touch of the Marvel universe. However, Middle Weasel’s militant defence of gender rights (along with every other type of rights) meant that this movie was on our lists, and hopes were high.

The film didn’t disappoint. Since it’s still on in theatres, I’m not going to risk any spoilers, but the colours were gorgeous (in contrast to the iron and steel of Batman and Superman of late) and the origin story made a gloriously insane kind of comic book sense (though I could hear Tiny Weasel huffing about the mangling of Greek Mythology a couple of seats over). The truth is, DC don’t mess with Greek mythology any more than Marvel have with Norse to get Thor onto the Avengers team, and since no one on either production has been struck by lightning, neither pantheon is too offended by their portrayal.

Gal-Gadot-Wonder-Woman-Poster

The story has been well-thought out: Wonder Woman appears at the closing stages of World War One, and though there’s still a lot at stake, she’s not brought in to re-fight battles we know were won by the sacrifice of real soldiers. It’s not disrespectful in that way. In fact, the film highlights again and again how much the innocent suffer in war, and my weasels were struck by the youth of the German soldiers, when they remove their gasmasks at the end of the film. This is not a film that revels in war, even as the choreography of the fight scenes makes them a phenomenal ballet.

I think the question of whether or not it’s a Feminist movie is a stupid one. It’s a good film. It has a female lead that young girls can look up to – long overdue, and in short supply still. It’s got a female director, and though it often bugs me that the director gets all the kudos for a good film and the writers for a bad one, I have no doubt that women in Hollywood have a harder time than the men, so I applaud Patty Jenkins for a terrific film. I hope the door stays open for women in film now.

Straight, white, middle class males have had the run of the world for a long time. If we whine when someone else has a chance to see themselves on the big screen, as the main character in a book, or leading a country, then it’s the feedback of realising how other people have felt for centuries. Wonder Woman is a great film, and it’s good to see it done so well with the effects available now. But it’s a shame it’s taken 76 years to get her a movie of her own.

 

 

*Polly Cottage is not our official address, nor is it named for any relative called Polly. If you really want to know, it’s because we’re big fans of Mr Gum, but have a short mailbox.

Analysis of “Skull Island” as a subtextual discussion of the inherent violence in Man and his struggle to escape the animal heritage of homo sapiens.

Image result for Skull Island

Emerging from the venerable heritage of the Creature Feature, it’s easy to dismiss “Kong Skull Island” at first glance as nothing more than the latest in a parade of monster movies where viewers wager which of the shrinking band of principals will survive the carnage. Yet, I would say there’s a remarkable vivacity to the subtext of this film that bears further examination and even deserves greater credit than it has thus far received.

Leaving aside the lyrical, poetic cinematography that doesn’t so much recall “Apocalypse now” as reshoot it, I’d like to focus on the plot.

Scientists discover a mysterious island, thanks to the new technology of Satellite photography. But these are not ordinary scientists – these scientists have been tasked with finding previously unknown monsters, and this is (for unspecified reasons) their last chance to do so. Surely this previously unknown island that has been mentioned in historical documents as a place to avoid (wait, how unknown is it?) contains monsters by the BUCKETLOAD? The plan is approved and a survey is cobbled together with other, genuine scientists who are looking for something else. Probably oil. This is the 70’s, everyone wants oil. A squadron of helicopters, almost on their way home from Vietnam, are reassigned to this expedition, to the great relief of their commanding officer who clearly knew the likelihood of his men to fall prey to depression, drug abuse and homelessness following their return home to a hostile country. How farsighted of him.

As the helicopters sweep in over the island, they drop seismic charges, theoretically to map the substrata of the island. In truth, these are bombs to draw out the monsters. Kong makes his appearance and destroys all the helicopters, leaving only a handful of scattered survivors. He and the commanding officer lock gazes through the flames, establishing their emnity for the hard-of-thinking. Then Kong wanders off.

Later in the film, two characters get into a discussion over the AK-47 one of them is carrying.

“I took it off a Vietnamese farmer”, the character says. “Man told me he’d never held a gun before we came to his country. Sometimes you don’t have an enemy until you go looking for one.”

This is another pointer for the hard-of-thinking or American audiences. Because at this point the survivors are split into two groups – the soldiers, who are looking for the biggest heap of weapons to avenge themselves on Kong, and the others, the pretty ones, who meet the locals and a handy WW2 survivor who can explain everything to everyone.

Kong is a protector, the last of his kind. And he was defending his charges from the attack by the helicopters. This is proven by his lack of interest in attacking the film’s leading lady when she wanders across his path. He’s a nice guy, just two hundred feet tall. Worse still, Kong is needed by the islanders because there are worse monsters and he’s their only defender.

This, I feel, is the brilliance of the film. Mankind goes to the island, looking for a monster. Because of the way we go looking, we find one, and we give it reason to act monstrously. The film shows the two possible responses to meeting a monster: Arm, and fight back, or learn, and react with that knowledge in mind. The soldiers, and their commander in particular, arm because it’s what they’ve been trained to do, and to do in Vietnam where the enemy was almost impossible to see. Here’s the exact opposite, and enemy that’s all too visible. It’s easy to see the appeal in the notion of all-out attack.

But the pretty people have knowledge. They know what else hangs in the balance of Kong’s life, and they are willing to put their own lives on the line to protect the villagers, just as Kong is. They step between the soldiers and their enemy and try to make them see reason. All but the commander are persuaded, but for most it takes the arrival of the worse monster to prevent the killing of Kong. The commander himself is killed by the new monster, a victim of the hateful actions he has taken against the enemy he made.

I came away from this movie filled with a profound sense of having learned something about human nature and storytelling and the rediscovery of old tales.

Mrs Dim said she liked the bit where Tom Hiddlestone ran through the water in his t-shirt and jeans.

1985 on my mind…

We’re all hearing a lot about today being THE day, finally, when Marty McFly and Doc Brown arrive from the past. We’ve bemoaned the lack of hoverboards, the fact there isn’t a Jaws 17 in real 3d on at the movies. Surprisingly, there ARE still a lot of Deloreans kicking about.

But I’m looking the other way. I’m remembering what I can about 1985, wanting to remember what I thought the future would really look like.

Dim November 85

In 1985 I was thirteen. In my third year of Secondary School, and doing reasonably well. I was a big Star Wars fan, although I actually had only seen “The Empire Strikes Back” for the first time the year before, on VHS. (I’d seen “Return of the Jedi” several times, including once up in London as a result of winning a competition…)

the last show at Winchester fixed

The last days of Winchester’s cinema.

I saw “Back to the Future” at the cinema in Winchester, a relic from the glory days of the movies, sandwiched between anonymous buildings on North Walls. I likely saw the sequel there too. At thirteen, the cinema was a place I could suddenly go to with friends, not parents, and back then it was also within my limited budget.

North Walls today

What the cinema site looks like today.

It was obvious that the 2015 shown in “Back to the Future 2” was over the top, but thirty years was a long time. Look at the advancements we had made since 1955, after all – we had digital watches, space shuttles, a phone the size of a small briefcase you could carry around with you! Clive Sinclair was trying to get people to ride a three-wheel electric scooter, for Pete’s sake, surely we’d have hoverboards by 2015?

I think I missed the clear message of Back to the Future, though : that no matter how much times may change, people remain the same. If I could talk to that thirteen year old now, I wouldn’t tell him that we have a company making all-electric cars that can outperform most petrol cars, but people are still fighting wars over oil. I wouldn’t tell him that there’s overwhelming scientific evidence and vocal protest about climate change, but people are still putting profit first. I wouldn’t tell him that people are still fighting and killing over gods, over land, over ancient feuds.

I might tell him I carry a device in my pocket that can access almost limitless information and play movies and games. That my kids use computers every day and they are as common in schools as exercise books were in my time. That there are people like Malala who stand up to ignorance and cruelty, and a whole generation growing up who believe in recycling, renewable energy, healthy eating and are anti-bullying.

If you’re not sick of movies yet, try watching “Tomorrowland”. Near the beginning the heroine of the film is in class after class, being shown terrible images of the near future – climate change, over population, deforestation, animal extinction. The teachers are grim and despondent, and she raises her hand to ask “How can we fix it?”

That’s how we get the future we need. Not by aiming for hoverboards and shark movies, but seeing the problems ahead and asking “How can we fix it?”

Guest interview – Lucy V Hay of Bang2Write

For this post I’m asking some questions of Lucy V Hay – a novelist, script editor,  screenwriter and blogger who helps writers. A trained teacher, script reader and script editor with ten years’ experience, Lucy is also one of the organisers of London Screenwriters’ Festival where she is the Head Reader & Educational Director for its many contests and initiatives.

Her book, “Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays” is available for pre-order now, here. German speakers can order her debut YA novel, “BAUCH-ENTSHEIDUNG” (Gut Decision) published by Rowohlt, Berlin from Amazon, here.

Her script editing credits include Brit Thrillers Deviation and Act of Grace, as well as The Fingerspellers and Hands Solo.

Lucy, you have written for the screen, produced, and worked extensively as a script consultant, not to mention presenting and organising for film events and writing your own novel. Does “Writer” still fit you as a label, or are you unwilling to be placed in one pigeonhole?

Just a writer? No way, I am a GODDESS. No really: I am a writer, at heart. And writing novels is what I truly luuuuuurve. All the other stuff is great; I love to be involved in the industry and help writers and make movies and all that. I’m so lucky to enjoy my work. But novels is where it’s at for me.

You have some favourite mistakes that blow a script in the first ten pages: what’s the most overused one?

Cliched openers. Nothing makes me lose interest faster than a script that opens with a cliche. ‘Cos your script can be ANYTHING — so why do something we’ve seen before?

You mentioned a few times that writing your novel was hard work – was it harder than you expected? Or was it harder in different ways to the challenges of screen writing and script reporting?

Writing a novel was hard for me for two reasons. The first was the sheer size: you end up writing three, four times as much as a feature script. The second was the raw emotion because novels are driven by the psychological. That’s not to say screenwriting can’t be emotional ‘cos it totally can, but for me getting right in a novel character’s head really affected me and not always in a good way. One chapter really upset me to write; I wasn’t right for about 4 weeks.

How has writing for a different medium affected you as a writer? Should all writers try different media to shake things up?

I think it depends. I’m a better script editor I think because I no longer tend to write screenplays. I like the partition between my editing brain and my writing brain. But others like to mix it up – and why not? I believe you should say yes to everything, as long as you have a strategy and make it work for you.

Women in film is a big subject at the moment – Felicia Day included a piece on her blog that started as a review of the latest Star Trek but became a …well, rant, about the lack of visible female characters in the movie and then in the movies in general. You’ve made your views about female action heroes clear in the past – what’s the ideal for women in film? How do you have a female lead who’s engaging to the male audience and still a woman?

Let’s be frank. A good female character should be a good character who just so happens to be a woman. That’s it. There is no big secret. Yet we see female characters in so few roles, our perceptions have become skewed as to what female characterisation even means – so whenever we see a female character who’s not what we expect, people analyse it to death. We need to let this go. We need to move forwards and forget about “strong women” or archetypes or whatever and just write GREAT characters – who happen to be female – who are not defined by their bodies; the men in their lives or their kids. Women are people, not representations of “issues”. Boom. Done.

Finally, if they make a movie of your book, how involved would you want to be?

6) I’ll do whatever these mythical people making my novel into a film want, including staying the f*ck away Haha! 😉 Seriously. I like to think people like working with me because contrary to popular belief, I am not difficult to work with – as long as you don’t piss me off. And c’mon, who isn’t the same?

You can hear more from Lucy by bookmarking her blog (http://www.bang2write.com/) where you’ll get the latest news about the London Screenwriters’ Festival and tons of useful tips on writing for the screen. You can also find Lucy’s rates for getting her script reading services, which I can personally recommend.

A BRAVE new world…. at the movies

Don’t call us Princesses, Bub…

Sometimes it seems that Disney invented Princesses. From Snow White and Cinderella, through Sleeping Beauty right up to Jasmine, Ariel and the one I haven’t met in “The Princess and the Frog”, Disney have been selling dreams of dresses and wonderful weddings to little girls for generations.

Wait, did that sound a little negative?

See, there’s a lot of debate about image these days. What’s a good role model for your little girl to look up to? Did Snow White escape a tyrannical stepmother, or just take a part-time job as a housekeeper until her mealticket showed up? And Sleeping Beauty? What was her contribution to the relationship again? Male, Prince, looking for someone…er..unconscious?

And now here we are with Disney Pixar and they’re doing what they do best, building gripping stories with interesting characters. It’s become a cliche that the first few minutes of “Up” are a better love story than most other full-length movies, so what have Pixar got left to tell us?

I took the two Tiniest Weasels along to see “Brave”. They have more than a little in common with Merida. Both have taken karate classes, are fair shots and not afraid of getting their hands dirty, and they were excited about the film. They’d seen trailers and heard about it from friends. I hoped Tiny Weasel wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the climax of the movie, which I’d heard was pretty intense. But my weasels are tough, right?

Merida competes in the competition to win her hand in marriage.

Right. The film is beautiful. It makes Scotland look fantastic – wild, mythic…SUNNY! We’ve been to Scotland. It was a wonderful experience, I loved it, but it rained. Biblical rain. And did I mention midges? I digress…

I don’t think anyone’s pretending that “Brave” is a historical documentary, which is why I had to ask Middle Weasel to wait until after the movie for my explanation as to why the carvings showed the same Celtic Knotwork she’d seen in Dublin. It’s got plenty of comedy, broad enough to reduce both weasels to helpless giggles, and crude enough at times to make the young girl behind us say “Ewww! that’s GROSS!” (Which is another cliche I thought people didn’t actually use. Live and learn.) But when the excitement turned to tension and drama, Tiny Weasel climbed across the seats and into my lap. She knew there would be a happy ending, but getting there was really scaring her. Middle Weasel was together enough to follow the action and offer some words of comfort. Or poke fun at her, I couldn’t really hear.

So what message did they take home from the movie? I honestly have no idea, they’d had fizzy drinks and sweets, they were talking so fast and with such bad Scottish accents they made no sense. But what I hope they saw was something like what I saw. A young woman having to see things from her parent’s perspective, having to find a way to help her parents hear HER voice too. Understanding that she has to make her place in the world, not just complain about the choices made for her.

Looking forward to adding this one to our library. Merida is our kind of princess.