It’s not old news for blockbusters to be snubbed or passed off in favour of more “compelling” independent dramas. It can be said that blockbusters lack originality and only rely upon setting up or continuing franchises, as opposed to creating original works. Personally, the size of the film is irrelevant, as long as the film has convincing characters and allows the audience to invest in the film. There’s two sides of the coin and there’s no right answer, but I do believe blockbusters should be given more credit.

In recent times, franchises are becoming a stronger concept and a studio can’t make a film without thinking of a follow up. An obvious example is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, originating back with 2008’s Iron Man. Gradually creating its own thing, it was like a cosmic explosion occurred with 2012’s Avengers Assemble and now the Marvel brand is stronger than ever.


There’s at least a few Marvel films per year as opposed to times when there was only once a year. The films are becoming so interlinked, it’s hard to focus on one without considering the others. Let me state that I am a huge fan of superhero films, but I wonder what the end goal of Marvel is and how much bigger it can get. I miss the days when a film was a film within itself, without having to rely on other films.

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Recently, Nightcrawler director Dan Gilroy blasted the “tsunami of superhero films” and told other indie filmmakers they were survivors of the attack. Gilroy further stated, “We have survived and we have thrived and I think that’s true spirit.To some degree, I understand what Gilroy means and it would be refreshing to see more original work. However, Gilroy should focus on his “true spirit” in filmmaking instead of wasting his energy blasting commercially and critically successful blockbusters.


“…if you, as an independent filmmaker or a ‘serious’ filmmaker, think you put more love into your characters than the Russo Brothers do Captain America, or Joss Whedon does the Hulk, or I do a talking raccoon, you are simply mistaken.” 

James Gunn, director of Guardians of the Galaxy, rightly defended blockbusters (superhero films specifically). Just because a films budget is bigger doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of investing all of their energy to create a great story with great characters.

“It’s something different. It was great because Christopher Nolan is an independent film-maker who happens to work at a studio. Yes, Interstellar is a big budget film, but it’s his voice, you feel completely like it’s his movie all the way.”

Jessica Chastian, who collaborated with Nolan on Interstellar, raises an interesting point. That in some cases, blockbusters can have their own unique style and that they don’t have to adhere to the latest trend. Christopher Nolan is a director I highly respect for creating intelligent blockbusters that have depth (and the fact he uses 2D). As stated before, he creates original epic blockbusters that allow actors to go deeper with their characters and to feature a thought provoking narrative.

That’s what I love about films, that you can watch an exciting action adventure and be thrilled or watch an independent film that tells a story in a raw and emotional way, you can get different things from different types of films. There shouldn’t be a prejudice against blockbusters. Film is film, enjoy it!

Basically, don’t be a snob and enjoy great films that create solid characters and have a great narrative, no matter what the size of the budget. I know not all blockbusters aren’t perfect and I’m sure there are some bad indie films out there, but blockbusters should be given more credit in some cases. Peter Jackson created an epic blockbuster full of great themes and deep emotion and also received great reviews. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King became the first fantasy film to win an Oscar for Best Film in 2004, I rest my case.


There Was NO Oscar Selfie This Year

Neil Patrick Harris was meant to equal an entertaining and fun awards show. Topping Ellen’s hosting duties from last year was always going to be difficult, but I was hoping Harris would deliver. In all fairness he was alright, the opening number was really good. But then he just flatlined for the rest of the show and some jokes didn’t register with the audience.


Now, onto more important matters. Generally I’m happy with the people who won, there were some surprises but generally it was quite predictable. There were some nominees I would have loved to see win, but the winners deserved their victory.


No surprises here but Patricia Arquette won Best Supporting Actress for her role in Boyhood (the singular win for the film) and used the platform to make a statement, calling for true equality. Arquette won the BAFTA and Golden Globe this year so it was no shock to see her win the Oscar. Personally, I would have loved to see either Emma Stone (Birdman) or Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game) win, but Arquette deserved to win so I won’t dispute her victory.


And the ACTOR went to….sorry, the OSCAR went to….J.K. Simmons for Best Supporting Actor. Simmons won the BAFTA and Golden Globe so it was no surprise he won the Oscar, and a well deserved win it was. He played the terrifying music teacher in the Oscar nominated Whiplash and gave a career best.


Eddie Redmayne was always going to be the one to beat for Best Actor in a Leading Role, for his transformative turn in The Theory of Everything. When you watch the film, you forget that Redmayne is playing the role and that’s a sign of a great actor. It would have been great to see Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) win, but I can’t say Redmayne didn’t deserved the award. It’s great seeing him come from roles like Colin Clark in My Week With Marilyn and to then win an Oscar, this is a great time for him in his career.

66ème Festival de Venise (Mostra)

Julianne Moore won Best Actress in a Leading Role for her role in Still Alice, this was her fifth nomination and her first win. Moore is a great actress and was long overdue the award, which is one of the reasons I believe she won. Though I haven’t seen the film, I don’t doubt that she deserved to win but it would have been nice for someone else to win. Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) was a contender, also Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) would have been a worthy winner. That being said, I am happy for Moore that she has finally won an Oscar. Maybe another year Pike and Jones!


In the Best Animation category, Disney struck gold again winning for the second consecutive year with Big Hero 6. Despite that fact I hoped How To Train Your Dragon 2, I’m happy Disney found success with Big Hero 6 as it is a brilliant film. The film has a great mixture of comedy, action and heart and it has a great international appeal. It lost out to How To Train Your Dragon 2 at the Golden Globes but found victory at the Oscars, and rightly so.


The surprise of the night went to Birdman which won Best Picture. It was always a strong contender, but I thought that Boyhood was most likely to take away the trophy for the category. Birdman won a total of four Oscars (Best Picture, Best Achievement in Directing, Best Writing Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography) whereas Boyhood won one out of six nominations. I’m not totally against Birdman’s win, as it was a fairly exciting film and delivered a career best from Michael Keaton, but Boyhood was a one of a kind film and broke the conventions of conventional filmmaking. I would have thought Richard Linklater would have won for Best Achievement in Direction for his original concept for a film, but at least he was nominated and won the Golden Globe.

Overall, it did feel a bit too political. It’s great that they used such a great platform to raise some important issues, and I have no objections against people wanting to make a change. But for the Oscars, you do want to just relax and enjoy the show, not to have issues shoved down your throat. Also, I haven’t seen Selma (I assume it’s a great film that was sadly snubbed) but let’s be honest, it wouldn’t have won as the winners were worthy and probably wouldn’t have been defeated by Selma. But it is an issue that the Academy needs to address next year to be more diverse in its nominations.

That’s it for another year, really excited for what 2015 has in store for film and hopefully the Oscars will be more exciting next year.

BAFTA Film Awards 2015

Instead of doing a blog post about the BAFTAs, I got distracted by the Spider-Man news. So now I will review the major winners and share my thoughts on them. In general, whilst it was predictable, I’m happy with the winners. Still, whilst their victories are well deserved, deep down I would have preferred other nominees to have won. Let’s review the films that found the most success on the evening!


The Grand Budapest Hotel won 5 BAFTAs, including Best Original Screenplay and many of the production design awards. It was also nominated for Best Leading Actor (Ralph Fiennes) Best Film and Best Director (Wes Anderson). As mentioned in my previous blog, this is an incredible success considering the film was released 11 months ago, which is a lifetime in Award Show times. It is a gem of a film, full of vibrancy and off beat humour. This film deserves all the production design awards as it was a visual feast for the eyes, and it should find success at the Oscars.


The Theory of Everything was also another strong winner, scooping up the awards for Best Actor (Eddie Redmayne), Outstanding British Film and Best Adapted Screenplay (Anthony McCarten). The Theory of Everything is a beautiful film with compelling performances from Oscar nominees Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, both giving convincing performances that draw you into the film. As much as I would have loved Benedict Cumberbatch to win, Redmayne is a worthy winner as he had that edge to his performance. It’s rare that you forget who the actor is in the film playing a certain character, but with Redmayne you believed he was Stephen Hawkings.

In relation to its Outstanding British Film win, it did posses a quintessential English quality. The film is so quaint yet with strength by dealing with the deeper topics of physical deteration and what effect it can have on a marriage. It also shows the strength of Felicity Jone’s character, Jane Hawkings, to support and fight for her husband. It’s always going to be a close race between this film and The Imitation Game, and so far the theory is that this films will scoop up everything at the award shows.


Boyhood was the major winner, winning Best Film, Best Director (Richard Linklater) and Best Supporting Actress (Patricia Arquette). It’s one of those films which deserves to win because of how unique and original the concept it, yet if it hadn’t been filmed over 12 years, would it still have the same effect? Who knows, but it is great to see a low budget film overtake it’s competition emerging as the Best Film of the awards season.

Richard Linklater definitely deserved his win for creating a refreshing concept and being bold enough to be unconventional in filmmaking. I still can’t believe that Linklater also directed School of Rock! Both great but totally different films. Patricia Arquette deserves her win, but to be honest I would have loved to see Emma Stone or Keira Knightley win. However, Boyhood deserves all the success it has received and I assume this is how it will fare at the Oscars next week.

66ème Festival de Venise (Mostra)
Julianne Moore won the Best Leading Actress award for her role in Still Alice. The film has yet to be released in the UK so I haven’t seen it yet, but she’s received critical acclaim for her performance. She has already won the Golden Globe for Best Actress and has been nominated an Oscar for her role. This is her first BAFTA win and now becoming a five time Oscar nominee, it’s safe to assume she’ll walk away with the prestigious Academy Award. She may deserve all the success for her role in Still Alice, but my guess is that it is more of a celebration of her career rather than celebrating a specific role. So that’s how I knew the other nominees had no chance and they probably shouldn’t prepare an acceptance speech at the Oscars this year.

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If I had my way, I would have loved to see Rosamund Pike win for her role in Gone Girl. A completely transformative role that has truly put her on the map. But this is her first nomination and it was her first Golden Globe and Oscar nomination, so fair enough by giving the awards to Julianne Moore. Also it’s great seeing Felicity Jones gaining some overdue recognition, after catching people’s attention in the 2011 indie hit Like Crazy. Good thing I prepared myself for Pike and Jones losing to Moore, it’s most likely the same result will occur next week.

Clearly I haven’t mentioned the Oscars enough in this blog post, so if you hadn’t noticed, next Sunday the Academy Awards will take place (showing at 1:30am on the 23rd February in the UK) and I’m so excited!

What are your thoughts on this years BAFTA winners and is it a good indication of how things will go next week?

The NOT-so Amazing Spider-Man

Nearly 5 years ago, I heard the tragic news that Tobey Maguire would no longer play the famous web slinger. Instead Andrew Garfield took over in 2010 to star in a reboot of the franchise which was released in 2012.

Today, news broke that Spider-Man would be joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, meaning that The Amazing Spider-Man franchise has come to an end. First of all I have one question: Is this a joke?! I finally embraced the new direction Marc Webb took with the character, Andrew Garfield made an amazing Spider-Man and the recent outing was a lot of fun.


To be honest with you, I’m not completely surprised. I’m frustrated and yet really excited about this new chapter. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was released last year to lukewarm reviews and whilst it was a box office success (by normal standards) it was the lowest grossing Spider-Man film ever. People recycled the excuse that there were too many villains and that the narrative was uneven. Also when the third film was moved from a 2016 release date to 2018, things didn’t look to good for The Amazing Spider-Man franchise.

Sony were even planning a Sinister Six film, and a fourth Spider-Man film and a lot of story threads were to be explored in these future films. Director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) took a different approach to the origin story, going deeper into the past of Peter Parker and the fate of his parents. The Amazing Spider-Man also introduced Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) as the love interest as opposed to Mary Jane Watson. Without spoiling the second film, it would have been interesting to see the direction that Andrew Garfield could have taken with the character of Peter Parker in future films.


Originally it was to be a trilogy and then they extended it to four films, which I could love with, and it seemed like Sony were taking their time establishing this new Spider-Man universe. Clearly that was too much to ask, because yet again, they gave up and now want to start from scratch.

Clearly I’m not 100% happy with this, however, I am also excited for what Marvel has planned. In December 2014, through the Sony email leaks, it was reported that there had been discussions of Spider-Man joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They dismissed these claims, only to confirm them shortly afterwards.


Basically, I have mixed feelings about the news. I know Marvel will do their thing and make it work and it will be exciting to see the new cast members, but it just seems too soon. It was premature of Sony to reboot the franchise with the 2012 film, and it’s definitely premature with the new solo Spider-Man film will be coming out in July 2017. It would have been different if there had been no films since the 2007 film, and that they hadn’t started with a new vision. But they did, and should have stuck with it.


The reason why I have to vent like this is because Spider-Man is my favourite Superhero. I remember watching the 2002 version and loving it! The original trilogy is the best, and I embraced the new films. So I guess I just need to process this news and when it comes out I know I’ll love it.

I guess Andrew Garfield can relate to Tobey Maguire when he replaced him as Spider-Man. At least Emma Stone doesn’t really have to concern herself with the news (if you know what I mean!)


The Confessions of a Film Blogger

Many of you may know that I studied Film Production at Sunderland University. People ask me if that spoils the experience of watching a film, the answer is no. If anything, it allows me to have a deeper respect for films because the more you analyse a film, the more you have to talk about. Discussing the narrative and character developments can be exciting because people have a variety of opinions.

When analysing a film, I think about what the film is trying to say as well as how the characters are portrayed, not specifically what angles are used or what colour grading the scene is etc. I don’t sit watching The Railway Man with my notepad and writing down the details of the cinematography. That’s because when I was at University, I mainly sought after the Producer role where I didn’t need to hold a camera. My job was more practical in organising the filming schedule, finding actors and locations etc. As stated above, I mainly look at how much the actors are drawing us into the story. Is it convincing and is it pulled off with conviction?


A classic example of my thought process when watching film is by looking at The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. If you know me well, you’ll know it’s my all time favourite trilogy (specifically The Return of the King). Ten years plus and that opinion has never changed, and I’ll tell you why. Peter Jackson and co. delivered a huge blockbuster epic with such love for the source material and with such emotion. It’s a blending of the epic nature and the heart of the characters.

The overall development of the characters is so great to watch. You have a Hobbit who has seen very little of the world, Frodo has no sense of adventure and is good will natured. Yet as time progresses, the weight of bearing the One Ring effects him. You see his soul being eroded and losing a sense of innocence that we saw in him during The Fellowship of the Ring. But that moment in the first film in the Council of Lord Elrond, where Frodo heroically takes on the task to destroy the ring is courageous and admirable. Even Frodo is no angel and falls victim to the ring, but rises above. It’s not about the mistakes we make, we all make mistakes but it’s about how we pick ourselves up. These are some of the thoughts that go through my head when watching these films.


I could come up with many more examples of how my mind works whilst watching films, but I don’t want to spoil any films for you. But hopefully you understand my film watching process. There will be times where a certain shot will look great or the editing is clever (look at 127 Hours or Whiplash) but as mentioned before, character and story are vital. Without that as a strong foundation for a film, it loses it’s meaning.

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However, due to my diverse taste in film, there are other ways I watch a film. Let’s look family films such as Cheaper By The Dozen, Daddy Daycare, Zathura Etc. those types of films that you love more than you should, I have to take a different approach. They are far from being highly regarded by critics, but they are a part of my growing up. When I watch them, I have to take my film critic hat off and enjoy the fun, embrace the film for what it is. I don’t watch Zathura thinking: “Wow, Josh Hutcherson’s character goes on such a journey!”. In all fairness, he kind of does, but it’s not what I look out for. Instead, I embrace the concept of going into space from a child’s perspective. I also think about when I saw it at the cinema as a child and how 10 years later I can still enjoy it.

Obviously there are more types of films that I watch, but hopefully you understand that each film has its own scoring sheet, if you know what I mean. I wouldn’t analyse Snow White and the Huntsman in the same way I would analyse The Imitation Game. It’s about understanding the type of film you’re watching and embracing its true nature.


This could be a very long blog post if I continued explaining how I watch films, but as said before, by going to University it hasn’t spoilt watching films for me. To be honest, I’ve tried to move on from University and enjoy films for what they are instead of worrying about every single shot of the film. I want to invest in a characters journey, not just whether the camera shot is revolutionary. That’s not to take away from the incredible hard work that goes into film production, but I want to watch a film and get lost in its own little world.