Released in October to a muted fanfare Mindhunter represents another singularly personal project from David Fincher. This article was originally conceived as a series overview but has since morphed into something else entirely.
My contention is that Fincher never set out to make a show with mass appeal, but strove instead for a more educational, analytical and original piece of work.
For something so defined by the violent acts of others you see very little in Mindhunter. Fincher is unconcerned by the crimes themselves but precisely what made these men do them. Hence the exacting approach, meticulously scripted exchanges and perpetual distance kept between audience and subject. This fly on the wall mentality increases unease, draws you closer yet strips away emotional attachment. It is this contradiction which is key to the success as there is no pandering and little regard for whether audiences watch. Mindhunter is a separate animal and remains so giving no quarter and making few allowances for convention. Emotionally compromising, psychologically unsettling but with the feel of a visual thesis on criminality, this is merely the first puzzle piece slotted in place.
With Justice League tracking a huge box office opening, Joss Whedon busy lightening tone and Zack Snyder stepping away permanently, there are others who have become lost amongst the kerfuffle. One is an Oscar-winning screenwriter and Best Picture winner, hounded by paparazzi and internet rumour mills for his continued role in Warner’s DC universe. Not only did he give us a new and surprising Batman, but was also hailed as the best thing in a film which others refer to politely as disjointed. He is Ben Affleck.
Amongst the white noise of reshoots, lacklustre reviews for Live By Night and his Batman commitment issues, some might have forgotten what Affleck has achieved. Sure he might have made amends for his Daredevil with that pitch black Bruce Wayne, but the media hop-scotch which has come with The Batman has undone some of that. However with this in mind we thought it time to offer up a little perspective for people with short memories.
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Winning that Original Screenplay Oscar for Good Will Hunting made overnight stars of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Robin Williams won an Oscar and it became a staple in my home from that moment on. Film roles followed that tried slotting our would-be heart throbs into leading man genre driven movies. Pearl Harbour, The Sum of All Fears, Armageddon and finally Daredevil. These were broken up by Chasing Amy and the only other pairing of Affleck and Damon in Kevin Smith’s Dogma. However Good Will Hunting is the one you should come back to as it exists in a time untainted by bad relationship choices, media intervention and internet conjecture. At its heart ‘Will Hunting’ is about opportunities taken, friendships made and moments savoured. A point this clip makes better than most without feeling the need to grandstand.
When Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk hits Cineworld this July, there will be one name alongside fan favourites Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy that might surprise you.
Tucked away within that first feature length trailer is one Harry Styles. A man of singular direction, possessor of boy band charisma in buckets and pretender to the Bowie throne. Combining the self-awareness and physical posturing of a latter day Mick Jagger, Harry is defined by reality television success and possesses the sort of charisma to grab the mighty Nolan’s attention.
With that in mind here is our list of silver screen-stealing musical icons past and present, ones who nabbed their respective movies from under the nose of the A-listers.
I'm not one for sabre rattling. Nor getting into a fight I couldn't talk my way out of. Forever the pragmatist in search of a path with least resistance. But every now and then something forces me to raise my voice. Today is one such day.
Annie Hall has just been voted the funniest screenplay of all time. Members on a select panel sat around watching clips, reading pages and mulling over one hundred and one original screenplays. It was subsequently announced that Allen's classic topped the WGA poll last night, or early this morning depending on time zones. I point this out because one; Tess Morris is a big fan and two; she recently got nominated for a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit.
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of spending some interview time with her during publicity for Man Up. In truth it was little more than twenty minutes, but whether by accident or otherwise I found things very easy. It was clearly something she had done countless times with numerous interviewers. However, even though I knew the stock questions and subsequent answers there were moments it felt fresh. She gave me insight into structure, narrative, character development and displayed a true passion for her craft. Besides that she was also helpful outside of the interview. Answering queries on a certain Syd Field book and being gracious enough to respond via Twitter.
Jim Carrey once said it took him nearly twenty years to become an overnight success. This truth should be one universally acknowledged if I may paraphrase Jane Austen for a moment. No one bursts onto the scene and is instantly successful. Not without encountering a learning curve, overbearing parent or healthy trust fund. In my opinion Ms Morris has implemented the former by way of a rom com addendum. For the record let me say again that she made this interview very easy. Yes Simon Pegg was next door and there was a small part of me marked 'geek', who wanted to say hello. But ninety nine percent of me was in the room with the writer. As it should be. Because ultimately that is the person I was most interested in.
I never was a comic book fan. Had no affinity for the medium. Watchmen was only purchased for research purposes before the cinematic release. And what’s more I only just made it through the tome.
You see, at that tender age I was convinced comic books and graphic novels were not an adult endeavour. Super heroes on the written page, irrespective of gender, powers, political leanings or violence quota failed to connect with me. Instead I spent my childhood watching films including Driller Killer, Re-Animator, Death Race 2000 and Shogun Assassin. Those and other more family friendly fare informed my decisions. Something which was counterbalanced by access to classical literature, including Dickens, Austen and Stoker with the occasional Shelley thrown in. Missing the boat you see is never solely down to the individual, not when family are involved.
Having made it this far you can assume my opinion changed. Shamefully that the epiphany took forty years to kick in, can be attributed to a combination of pig-headedness and elitism. By which I mean the unshakeable belief in my own opinion above all others, even in the face of insurmountable evidence. Arrogance I have learnt can be a dangerous thing.
One man, one microphone, a grey jumpsuit and wrap around moccasins. With nothing more than that Canadian actor Charles Ross brings you Peter Jackson’s ‘Lord of The Rings’……
Throughout the ninety minutes and change Ross stalks his stage breathing life into Jackson’s world, through a combination of careful choreography, vocal mastery and mental agility. With minimal lighting changes we are transported from the mountainous outcrops of Moria, to the White City of Minas Tirith.
Be warned, not knowing the films going in is not detrimental but means some jokes will be lost in translation. His interpretation is faithful, very funny and poignant in equal measure, making this experience a home coming for the Middle Earth obsessive. Having watched the extended versions numerous times these characterisations are definitely more homages than impersonations, which go by at such lightning speed that a mere approximation is all you get. However this is more than enough for the faithful while laymen may find it a touch bewildering but none the less amusing. At times it is like witnessing a schizophrenic stage production as the combination of personalities, expressions, vocal work and body movement creates a wall of noise, from which Ross conjures Oriki, Elf and Wizard alike.
For those who frequently go to the theatre be aware there are no intermissions and Ross does not stop. I imagine there are many reasons for this chief amongst them being momentum. He is after all trying to keep your attention by creating a world from thin air. There is literally nothing on stage with him, so once he starts to metaphorically paint that canvas for you there can be no stopping. It is as much for him as anyone else.
George Lucas has retired apparently. Having sold his empire to Disney making him wealthier than a barely developed principality with minimal infrastructure, we are now being treated to phase two in the Lucas mid-life crisis.
When I first heard that Norman Rockwell, foremost painter of post war Americana was being placed alongside original ‘Star Wars’ miniatures and props it made no sense. Rockwell was known for capturing perfect moments in life which told a story or narrative beyond the confines of the frame. How could Lucas have the temerity to place his work alongside that of a real artist?
Informally known as ‘The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art’, it will be situated in Chicago, cost one billion dollars to build, have a further four hundred million dollars left in trust by Lucas after his death and be an eternal monument to one man’s search for artistic validation. You see my contention is similar to one made by Peter Biskind in ‘Easy Riders and Raging Bulls’. George Lucas is a serious film maker with a ‘blockbuster’ mentality. According to some, financial independence from the studios has cost Lucas his artistic integrity, which he is attempting to claw back by erecting this tourist attraction soon to be dubbed ‘The ‘Star Wars’ Museum’.
Joe Eszterhas once said of the man that his one true talent lay in making money, suggesting that Lucas was creatively barren. You see I like Eszterhas and agree in part with his statement, but have issues with the implication. After all it was Lucas who came up with the concept for ‘Indiana Jones’ as a Saturday afternoon matinee idol, suggested ‘McGuffins’ for all four films and spearheaded effects house ‘Industrial Light and Magic’. He also backed Steven Spielberg when Universal had concerns about hiring him for ‘Raiders’ and has stuck around ever since. Consider also the part he played in developing digital film making and archiving techniques and suddenly Eszterhas’ implication begins to unravel.
Movies used to be a mystery. Stars were considered untouchable by mere mortals swathed in opulence only dreamt of by the average person. Information was scarce and magazines represented the only reliable means of learning about these silver screen icons. Studios would nurture, protect and invest sums of money to develop talent, much the same way football clubs still do. Acting, singing, elocution and dancing lessons were attended and stars produced. This was much more civilised and cost effective for studio heads, who controlled every aspect of a film in-house. Scandals if there were any had a limited impact or were eradicated completely. How times have changed.
The film 'business' is slowly being stripped of its mystique. Due in part to internet smart phones and the widespread over saturation of information, movies are becoming mundane. This has nothing to do with the amount of original ideas but merely the amount of unscrupulous individuals prepared to burst the bubble. It is now a fact that anybody with half a brain can tweet images, footage or film set stills around the globe in seconds. For those who have witnessed filming on any scale can testify, it is without doubt one of the slowest procedures on earth. There are lights, cameras, fifty plus people standing around watching and until recently filming itself only occurred in ten minute bursts. Every film fan knows this however and chooses to suspend disbelief for their own benefit.
With the emergence of a rumoured schedule from Warners for their Justice League franchise, there was something more concerning announced recently worthy of comment. Jason Momoa, familiar as either Khal Drogo from 'Game of Thrones', or Conan in the ill-advised rehash of the Barbarian movies has been cast as Aquaman. Firstly there is the question of his acting ability.
With Khal Drogo he had little to do apart from look fierce, kill the occasional person, dry hump Emilia Clarke and phonetically learn a different language. Conan demanded little more apart from physical training to bulk up and some additional sword and sandal workouts. However at least Momoa had some phyiscal resemblance to Drogo and Conan, whereas Aquaman is tall, blonde pale as the driven snow and looks like something out of a 'Flash Gordon' comic strip. Now I am not saying Momoa is not suited, but that historically only Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves managed to play characters their complete physical opposites and remain unscathed. However aside from how appropriate or not Momoa is for the role there are other questions to ask.
For one is Aquaman a wise addition to an already overcrowded rosta for 'Justice League' warm up 'Batman vs Superman'? With former Miss Israel Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, chiselled Henry Cavill playing Superman alongside Ben Affleck's Batman, it seems unlikely Momoa will get much screen time. Then there is the question of what Aquaman will actually do.
According to Wikipedia he is able to manipulate sealife, talk any language on earth and possesses the usual advanced physical attributes of speed, agility, strength and so on attributed to most super heroes. However with the increased popularity of 'The Big Bang Theory' public awareness of Aquaman and his status within comic book circles has become more apparent. Even though he is a founding member of 'The Justice League' Aquaman is perceived to be the runt of the litter. Alongside 'Green Lantern', 'The Flash' and 'Wonder Woman' Aquaman is consistently relegated to the role of poor cousin.
I have just finished watching True Romance. As an early example of Tarantino it's not bad. Razor sharp dialogue, memorable performances beyond those of Christian Slater and Rosanna Arquette from a true ensemble cast. Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, James Galdolfini, Gary Oldman, Samuel L Jackson (who gets shot in the first ten minutes) all feature, but I have chosen to single out Brad Pitt as a topic of debate. Before people say anything let me give you my reasons why the others are not in the frame.
Let's start with Gandolfini. Other critics, reviewers, writers, call them what you will, have said that his role in 'True Romance' was essentially a blueprint for Tony Soprano, who Gandolfini went on to play for something silly like eight seasons. I don't know the exact number because honestly it never interested me. Of the myriad episodes which aired I watched maybe two and those by accident. My aim here is not to diminish Gandolfini's contribution to popular culture, or undermine his ability but merely to illustrate my point. Apart from 'The Soprano's', 'True Romance' and turning up in a film called 'In The Loop', itself a film version of political satire 'In The Thick of It' which was very funny, my knowledge on Gandolfini is limited. Solid actor but not a large enough body of work and for this reason his presence will forever on the periphery of discussions.