This is my writing routine. I follow it religiously and I highly recommend it.
I do not get up early on the days I write, as I don't want to be groggy. In fact, to prevent grogginess, I sleep as late as possible, then feed the dog, exercise (very good for clearing the head before writing), take a long shower (good thinking can be done here), eat a healthy breakfast (very important to prepare you for writing), read the newspapers (sharpens your mind), make some phone calls, and do all the assorted little things around the house that have piled up to get them out of the way, so they don't give you an excuse later for not writing.
Now it's time for lunch. I make it a point to go out to eat, having found that getting out of the house is an excellent way to clear the mind for writing. Lunch invariably leads to an errand or two, maybe a little shopping, sometimes even involving the purchase of items without which one cannot write, such as paper, a nice pencil, or a book that you may someday need for research.
When you get home, there's mail to answer, and phone calls to return, all of which are very important to get out of the way so they don't interrupt your writing later. By late afternoon, you're faced with a dilemma: start writing now, only to have to interrupt it for dinner, thus losing valuable momentum and focus ... or put it off until dinner. I highly recommend you not start writing at this point. Most people are not at their peak in the late afternoons, and there's nothing worse than getting a head of steam going only to cut it off prematurely. So now's a good time for catching up on magazines, one of which might actually contain a nugget that inspires or informs your work.
After dinner, you realise there's a movie you've been putting off seeing, and let's be honest here: how can we be so presumptuous as to write movies if we're not seeing them" It is absolutely crucial that we learn from our peers, profit from their mistakes, and experience first-hand what the audience likes and dislikes.
Okay. The movie lets out at 10 and home you go. Now, finally, there are no more distractions, all the possible procrastinations are gone, you're primed and inspired to start writing.
But here's the thing. If you start writing now, you'll be up until 2 or 3 in the morning and that's going to screw up tomorrow something fierce, so I urge you to go right to bed.
The next morning, be sure not to get up too early, as you don't want to be groggy on a day when you're writing ... and repeat all the above stops.
I do this for weeks - sometimes months - on end until I feel so guilty and fraudulent that I drop everything, turn off the phones, and do nothing but write from morning till night until I'm done.
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George Orwell (Novelist/Prophetic Genius)
... four great motives for writing.
"Sheer egotism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood ...
"Aesthetic enthusiasm ...
"Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity ...
"Political purpose. To push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people's ideas of the kind of society that they should strive after."
Bryan Gordon (TV Director)
... I never think I'm really a writer. My 'process', I feel, does not have the order and refinement of those I know who sit down between nine and five and pound keys. My process looks more like some Rube Goldberg-esque contraption. After all, I write in bed, in the shower, in the car, and even when my wife and friends, I hate to admit it, are talking to me. I use paper, the back of credit card stubs, used napkins, oh, yes, a computer - I use practically anything to write on, I've even once written on a stranger's hand. If I don't, I know it's lost forever in this absent-minded head of mine.
I'm more of a morning person. It's quieter and there are fewer distractions. My head isn't yet filled with such thoughts as "Do I still have a career?" My most productive writing seems to occur before lunch. I use food as an incentive. And why not? A 'good thought' is usually worth a snack. A witty piece of long dialogue - why, I'm apt to reward myself with an early and long lunch. Therein lies a problem. If I'm productive, I tend to look bloated and overweight, and if I'm going through writer's block, I sure as hell look nice and trim.
When I begin a project, I try to experiment as much as I can. I write a lot of monologues ... monologues that will never see the light of day in the script, but it may give me some insight as to who my characters are. Sometimes I'll write a script using numerous voice-overs from a dozen points of view. And again, I'll slowly whittle the voice-over out of the script and hopefully what will emerge is a story told through my scenes and characters. Experimenting helps me find and trust my own voice and way of telling a story.
George Bernard Shaw (Playwright)
A playwright must write three or four bad plays before he writes a good one.
Irving Thalberg (Producer)
The most important contribution to a picture is made by the writer. And we must do everything we can to keep him from finding out.
ON THE DIFFICULTIES OF WRITING
Peter De Vries (Novelist)
When asked what he liked about his job ... "everything, except the paperwork."
Dorothy Parker (Screenwriter/Short Story Writer)
[Writing is] a miserable delight. I write five words and erase seven.
Callie Khouri (Screenwriter)
I have no idea where any of this stuff comes from. Every time I sit down to write, I'm fairly certain that 'it' is not going to be there. Why should it be? 'It' is busy. With other good writers. That causes me to approach writing with a certain amount of trepidation. Make that dread. Every time the phone rings I half expect to hear the same autoritative voice of the car alarm going, "Warning! You are a fraud. Step away from the computer!" ... Every time I finish a script, there is a peculiar feeling of awe, where I have to sit back and say to myself, "Hey, who wrote this?" That was awfully nice of them to put my name on it. I sure hope no one finds out that it wasn't me. I do wish it was a little better, though.
ON FILM SCHOOLS, INDIRECTLY
Oscar Wilde (Playwright)
Anything worth teaching can never be taught.
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Thoroughly weird and obviously doesn't make perfect sense logically - but in its complexity, it tells a very simple tale that is funny and bittersweet.
TEN THOUSAND PICTURES OF YOU
Aesthetically brilliant and impressive - film as art, and in an enjoyable way that still tells a story. They spent a year on this 3-min short.
Experimental. Rather repetitious and went on for longer than it deserves, but it's an interesting and effective use of images and panelling and combination with sound design.
How to make a city dance and come alive (and by city I mean the buildings and infrastructure). Impressively done, the way the lights illuminate the immediate surrounding space.
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Nowadays I go about expressing my nostalgia for dear ol' Great Britain - true, sincere feelings, those. But when I was there there were times when I hated being there, for many reasons. And looking at the episodes/scenes within my screenplay that hate was what generated the ideas for the scenes in the first place - I was attacking the things I hate about Britishness.
Now, why is that important? I guess what was happening was that I got convinced that no matter what a screenplay needs a hero/protagonist. And my screenplay doesn't have one - that was the selling point of the story as of this point - it is about rebelling against the rules ... which isn't quite working, which is why I'm doubling back to the idea of the hero/protagonist. But I loathe the idea of having one single hero/protagonist, that would be giving too much ground and completely submitting and not very rebellious at all ... so, I guess I'm left with the idea of having multiple protagonists ... or, everyone else who isn't the antagonist.
But that disperses the concern the audience has for the hero/protagonist(s) ... unless there's a way to unify them. And so, perhaps, the hero/protagonist isn't multiples persons ... maybe it's the entire society. A very difficult concept, coz an individual is complex enough, an entire society, even more so, though most likely in ways that are so different it is incomparable with an individual's complexity (just like you can't compare macroeconomics with microeconomics).
Which is why the question of Britishness cropped up. If I can't remember what I hated about certain aspects of Britishness (and I can't) ... I can't fashion the necessary quantity of obstacles to make the screenplay work.
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This is the first time I saw a movie at the Mann Chinese Theatres. Not Grauman's though - that's the famous one with the pagoda and Chinese motif, in front of which is a little yard containing cement with hand impressions and signatures and Donald Duck's feet impression. Instead I saw it at the Mann Chinese 6 right next door, enclosed within the Hollywood & Highland (H&H) shopping complex which also houses the Kodak Theatre which is where all the glitz and glamour of the Oscars is held.
First of all, I didn't watch this immediately because I had no desire to. I knew what I was getting into - the filmmakers made their point with the trailer, with the choice of presentation of the story and (more revealingly) the style of music. Anything with electric guitars (might be getting the instrument wrong here, if that's the case, I apologise) turns me COMPLETELY OFF. That aside, I understand what they were doing - Zack Snyder is basically copying Robert Rodriguez's decision to copy almost exactly the style embodied by the Frank Miller graphic novels. And I accept that. But it wasn't really the sort of film that I like to go for.
So I waited until I had the mood. And for whatever reason, I had the mood today. (Later, my Story class instructor mentioned that it's St Patrick's Day, which I didn't know it was.)
Basically, for much of its running time the movie did what I expected it to do. As I was watching it I kept thinking, yeah, it's a over-the-top stylised opera of the Battle of Thermopylae, hence the constant slow motion and racked motion (fast then slow then fast) shots of ACTIONS THAT MUST BE EMPHASISED TO THE AUDIENCE. It is loud. The dialogue lines are longer and more flowery (as opposed to, say, Gladiator, which is archaic but straight-to-the-point). It is masculine to a point no other film I know of has reached thus far. It features hideous looking monsters for humans, disproportionate sizes. 300 men fighting an army numbering, oh, a million.
So far so expected.
But - and this is one sign that the movie succeeded - at some point quite far into the movie, I stopped thinking and analysing and just watched the movie. Basically, Zack Snyder did not screw up with the film. That is a major compliment because there are so many ways I can think of that he could have.
First of all, of all the potentially cheesy lines and roars and looks/stares/sneers and actions, and there are dozens, only one made the audience laugh unintentionally - and I can't remember what scene it is because it happened somewhere earlier in the film.
There was one moment, right in the beginning, when, due to the way the shots were arranged, the editor in me kicked in and I thought, "Ah, wait for the narration ..." Not really a criticism, most period epics have to do it: exposition in the form of narration or opening captions.
The fight scenes were well done, so I don't get tired of them. But then, where others would say, too much is more than enough, I say, no such thing, give me more.
The part that makes the movie really work for me, is the third act (or Act III). It is said that if you make your ending really, humongously satisfying, the audience will forgive anything that happened before, and the ending is what they will remember. This is sort of the case here. Gorgo and Theron's encounter at the council was immensely satisfying. The climactic finale in the end was well done, not a wrong note there - had the audience focussing on every beat all the way, and the death scene(s) were well made so that it generated the right type of emotion.
And then the denouement, when Dilios completes his story of Leonidas and his 300 men and leads the battle with his massive army. It echoes the ending of Braveheart - and by golly, was the ending good in that, aided by a heroically Scottish blare of the bagpipes.
Speaking of the music, it was appropriate and well done, but unfortunately not enough to compel me to get the score. The best piece of music, in fact, was the end credits music, which I stayed on in the cinema to listen to.
Interesting to see David Wenham in such a role - his last major role was as the friar in Van Helsing.
And what the hell did they do to the usually Latinly sexy Rodrigo Santoro? (As in, it's such a far cry from the previous - admittedly very supporting - roles he plays.)
And why does Dominic West always play the prick?
I have to say, though, good for Gerard Butler. I can't remember the first time I noticed him but back when he was opposite Angelina Jolie in the Tomb Raider sequel there was talk that he could be one of the contenders for James Bond (along with Clive Owen, etc). Then he appeared in Timeline - which I noticed because it was one of my favourite novels - which was a sort of miscasted role (coz Marek is supposed to be French) but Butler made it work for him ... certainly did better than Paul Walker in that film (not to diss Paul Walker though ... the entire film was just ... wrong). Then he inexplicably played the lead role in The Phantom Of The Opera, and certainly the lad tried hard ... but it just didn't mesh right. And I thought it would be a pity if he wasn't given a chance to really show what he is made of.
Boy did he.
In general, well-written story (I guess much to do with Frank Miller, but of course, it's important they didn't screw up with the adaptation and they didn't), successful use of the pre-conceived (to an extent) style, great casting (no one but Gerard Butler can play that role, I think).
How Good The Film Is: 8.5/10
How Much I Liked It: 7.5/10
At What Point Did I First Look At My Watch: 5 mins, then numerous times more
Oscar Noms That It Deserves: Best Makeup
PS - This is the most animated audience crowd that I've been to in an American cinema, so far - people cheering and clapping in the middle of the movie. Actually what got me thinking about it was the way they reacted to the trailers in the beginning - like kids. And the way they talked - 'I'm so gonna see that', 'that's awesome, dude', etc ... I must make a short that contrasts the smart, sensible type that I belong to with the, er, airheads (is that the correct term?) that American society has made out of its teenagers. They are, after all, the audience the town I'm living in now makes its product for ... like consuming robots (consuming in the sense that that is their function, robots in the sense that they are unaware). They are the insurance guarantee of the Hollywood empire.
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May 4th, SPIDER-MAN 3
May 18th, SHREK THE THIRD
May 25th, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END
June 1st, PAPRIKA (weird Japanese anime)
June 8th, OCEAN'S THIRTEEN
June 15th, FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER
June 29th, RATATOUILLE
June 29th, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD
July 6th, TRANSFORMERS
July 13th, HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX
July 27th, THE SIMPSONS MOVIE
August 3rd, THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM
August 3rd, BECOMING JANE (life of Jane Austen)
August 10th, RUSH HOUR 3
August 17th, THE INVASION
September 14th, SUNSHINE
September 28th, LUST, CAUTION (by Ang Lee, filmed partly in Malaysia)
September 28th, MR BEAN'S HOLIDAY
September 28th, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE (crazy-ass Beatles-inspired drama-musical)
October 5th, THE GOLDEN AGE (sequel to Elizabeth)
Notice how the major blockbusters (mostly sequels) fan out through the dates so that they don't clash?
Notice how unoriginal Hollywood has become? (Over half a dozen second sequels.)
Notice how Hollywood has gone desperate by churning out horror movie after horror movie after horror movie sequel, in an attempt to bore me to death.
And another thing to note - this is James McAvoy's year. (And to a lesser extent, John Krasinski.)
I also noticed how much less exciting the year looks after listing the movies out like that. Sigh.
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THE WHITE HOUSE
June 19, 2001
I am pleased to send warm greetings for Midwinter's Day 2001 to the scientists, researchers, and other professionals from around the world who are stationed in Antarctica. This June 21 observance is a special time to recognize your contributions to learning and knowledge.
More than 40 years ago, 12 nations pledged their commitment to a unique experiment based on international cooperation, scientific understanding, and peaceful co-existence. The Antarctic Treaty brought together an international community of scientists to collaborate on new discoveries and shared global problems.
Today, the international science community working in Antarctica is carrying on this proud legacy, helping us to learn more about global processes affecting Earth's environment. Consequently, we will have the solid scientific information we need to develop sound environmental policies. Exciting discoveries, like the recent astrophysical breakthroughs in understanding the nature of the Universe at its infancy, also inspire young people to sharpen their math and science skills and to prepare for the opportunities of tomorrow.
The United States is proud to support your important work in Antarctica. Your spirit of cooperation, demonstrated recently by an international effort to rescue a sick colleague at the South Pole, inspires people everywhere. I applaud you for your courage and professional dedication as you work in a tough and unforgiving environment.
As you observe Midwinter's Day 2001, I send best wishes for a productive and rewarding experience in Antarctica. May God bless you and bring you safely home to your families.
George W. Bush
July 4, 2001
Dear Mr Bush,
Thank you very much for your warm Midwinter's Day greeting. Midwinter's Day is an important holiday for us in Antarctica as it marks the halfway point of our service to international scientific cooperation this winter. I wish to return your acknowledgment of our holiday here with the warmest greetings for you on Independence Day.
Though I am a garbageman and I spent Independence Day sorting through vomit-covered aluminium cans, the warm glow of your Midwinter's Day greeting reminded me of my contribution to learning and knowledge. In your letter you addressed "scientists, researchers, and other professional" so I have humbly included myself in the greeting. Actually, at McMurdo, the largest US station in Antarctica, there are exactly zero scientists serving here this winter. There is a science tech who fixes some of the automatic data collecting machines. He must be the researcher you mentioned. The other two hundred of us contract-workers such as janitors, plumbers, and construction workers must be the other professionals you mentioned.
I'm glad we are helping students become better at math and science. In all honesty, I was never very good at math or science, which might be why my clothes caught on fire today while I was grinding down the surface of a dumpster for repairs. I am very good at reading and writing though. Perhaps you could send a greeting to US students to tell them that math and science will help them be a fraction of the Antarctic population while reading and literature will help them be garbagepersons with burning clothes.
Of course, one of the greatest benefits of serving international scientific cooperation in Antarctica is the natural beauty that we encounter as we do our daily work. The storms are fantastic to see, and bright green auroras sometimes appear in the sky. Actually, because of the streetlights at McMurdo, we can't see the auroras unless we travel about a mile out of town. Recently we have been forbidden to do so by the National Science Foundation, the government agency who runs the station, because all the vehicles, here in this cold desolate place where we eke out our existence in unspeakable polar climes in service of science, are government property and we are told that if we drive away to look at auroras for ten minutes we will be terminated.
Since you are in charge of the government, I was wondering if you could give us permission to use the government property vehicles to drive one mile out of town for ten minutes when we see an aurora in the sky, not more than once per week, say, just to be fair. We could walk out to see the auroras, I suppose. Today the temperature here was -32F and windchills were below -80F. How cold is it in Washington DC?
With all respect, I hope you had a glorious and heartwarming Independence Day full of amazing friendship.
Darin Nicholas Johnson
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In 1997 three men were the first in history to die while skydiving at the South Pole. When they fell, two Polies [residents of the American South Pole base] were watching the Hollywood blockbuster The Rock , in which terrorists overtake Alcatraz for evil aims. The terrorists make their move during a tour of Alcatraz, and one of the tourists murmurs, "What kind of fucked-up tour is this?" This scene reminded the two Polies that the skydivers were to jump soon. They went outside to watch as three black dots in the distance met the horizon, as silent as falling fleas. "What kind of fucked-up tour is this?" said one of the Polies. "We're going to have to make a new Waste category," said the other. They skydivers had paid $22,000 each for the honor of having their wrecked bodies excavated from the plateau by overworked Polies, put in body bags, and sent back to where they came from. The well-outfitted bodies were said to rattle like bags of crystals when pulled from the ice.
Later some people were offended when someone partially buried a pair of boots upside down in the snow, but others solemnly hung their heads to veil the giggles, and the next Halloween, skydiver costumes were in vogue.
How retro is that? I want to go there some day.
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-- James Cameron
Everybody on the set does their job better than you as the director would. The designer designs better than I would, the cinematographer shoots better than I would, the actors act better. But my job is - and the director is the only person who can do this - to have the whole picture in the head. You're like the conductor of the orchestra. And the director is about tone and pacing and intensity; when to lighten up, when to go heavier, when to speed it up, when you're getting the right emotional quality - and that's the funny task you do.
Directing is a very odd thing; a very odd combination of talents. Maybe there are directors that are brilliant editors or cinematographers, but on the whole, I don't think directors have any one of these particular talents. Their talent is being the leader of the orchestra, the bandleader.
-- Mary Harron
When I finally got to USC film school, I found that 95% of the people who arrived wanted to be directors. Within a year, it dropped down to 5%. Mainly what happens is that everybody thinks that directing is what they want to do - they think that that's all there is to do. But there, they suddenly realize, "Oh no wait, I'd be a much better editor, or a soundman, or they like the music aspects, or the lighting, or cinematography or whatever."
The thing about USC is that half of the people they take in are techno buffs - they've been making movies since, you know, they came out of the womb. ... In your first semester, you did 8mm films. I remember borrowing my dad's pocket 8mm camera, because they said you have to show up with one. And at my first day in class, I looked around and all the guys had these things which looked like bazookas. Of course, they were cameras which had every possible invention on them. And I had this little pocket 8mm that instead of f-stops had a picture of a sun and clouds. ... It's funny, but what happens is that you can learn the techniques and technologies pretty quickly, but it's very hard to teach people how to be creative. ... A lot of guys that were really good at the camera had no idea how to tell a story. ... I think a lot of the extremely confident guys from the first month never made it through the first year.
-- Stephen Sommers
You either have it or you don't. Your taste level either is the same as millions of people or it isn't. It's not like, OK, why does Spielberg make commercial films? It's just who he is: it's personal.
-- Brett Ratner
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This is the twenty-first film I saw at the Hollywood Arclight Cinemas.
I liked the film, but I guess it is inevitable that I would do so. The film starts off from India, where Ashima is arranged to marry Ashok Ganguli, and along the way we experience the sights and sounds of India, just very briefly ... and then it's off to America, where loneliness sets in, as Ashima struggles for a while to get used to foreign life, halfway across the world in an alien, depressing landscape of the bourgeoisie. Those first minutes immediately struck a chord with me - it calls to the Asian in me, and of course India has always been such a sensual country, a paradox, because no matter how poor or messy or chaotic or dirty it is there is something else about the country that rises above their collective individual harships; and also, of course, the film reminded me of the difficulty of getting used to being in a foreign land ...
... in particular, the loneliness of being all by oneself in one's room/apartment ...
... surrounded by the endless soundscape of the city ...
The film is not really about that, but that is what captured me. The film ... well, I suppose I could say that the film is about three people - Ashok, Ashima and their son Gogol aka Nikhil. (Mark my words, you will see a lot of cheesy reviews of The Namesake with those three words: Gogol aka Nikhil.)
It isn't about one thing in particular, nor just a main theme - it contains several themes, neither more important than the other. (Perhaps that's not true, I guess one theme is the glue that binds all the other themes together: identity.)
What I meant by that was, halfway through the movie I realised I am watching Vanity Fair all over again. When I saw that film I felt that it dragged, didn't know what story to tell, didn't know what scenes were important and where they should have been omitted ... and then I thought, of course, that's unfair, classic novels are notoriously difficult to adapt. Watching this, I realised it didn't have anything to do with adapting classic novels ... it has to do with that Mira Nair style. (If I've lost you, know that The Namesake is an adaptation of a Jhumpa Lahiri novel of the same title.)
It's a strange thing. There are moments in The Namesake that were very touching ... other times, an emotional scene seemed more like exposition and didn't really engage me. The unconventional story structure she employs in her films threw me off a little, I guess ... and even with this one, I still couldn't get used to it ... as in, at some points, the movie lost me and my mind began to wander, even as I watch the scenes. But when it grabbed me, it really did grab me.
You realise that I don't actually talk about what happens in the movie. It's because there's no point describing it - the story spans two generations and does so within two hours very comfortably, and it is a very diverse story, even though it may not feel that way because we are seeing the story of one family. Which brings up the other point - it's a story about a family. What happens in their lives is both the point and not the point.
A family is a precious thing, and one thing this film certainly did, was to remind us of that.
A couple more things. The film doesn't really deal with arranged marriages - Ashok and Ashima accept it as part of the way of life, and no one comments on it - but while watching it I kept thinking, yeah, arranged marriages can work. It's a belief that may not be politically correct, but which for whatever reason I found to be a romantic one ... the idea of two people who do not know each other, joined together, and finding love as they go along, it sounds more durable, more real than the sort of heady, quick-as-they-go passions that youngsters engage in and seem to accept these days (to escape pain?).
Also, at those brief moments when the movie lost me, I wonder - when will I get my chance to do a Malaysian movie, encompassing the themes of family, generations, travelling to foreign lands, and get it shown in a Western country where people swoon over the exoticness and authenticity of it (and probably missing the point)? I shall like it when that day arrives.
How Good The Film Is: 8/10
How Much I Like It: 8/10
At What Point Did I First Look At My Watch: 5 mins
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Scores tend to be neglected - which is interesting because since Titanic I have believed that almost the only ingredient that elevates a film from good to great is the score. As in, of course there is great acting, atmospheric set design, crazy special effects, and so on, but all of that only brings a film to the level of goodness. Without a good score, the film may not feel like it's lacking something. With a good score, the film will be etched in the mind of the audience for years to come. That is the difference a good score makes - from a good but forgettable movie to a great and memorable movie. Even if you don't actually remember the music, just the scenes which the music accompanied.
Whereas the Oscars tend to go for the most classical scores they can find, which has no bearing on the film, really, other than they are more traditional.
So I set up a list of original scores that should have won in the last few years - based on my own biased preferences.
Academy Award winner, BABEL (Gustavo Santaolalla)
THE HOLIDAY (Hans Zimmer)
Now, here is an exceptional score that elevated the predictable romantic comedy to something better. It still isn't the greatest film of the year, but unusually for such films I actually engaged in the emotions of Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz's characters. The music comments on the scenes, making them funnier, or more bittersweet, or more heartwarming, and in the case of the scene when Cameron Diaz runs back to the cottage, drums up the emotions so high that on feels like leaping up from the seats.
Other notable scores:
Happy Feet (John Powell)
Letters From Iwo Jima (Kyle Eastwood & Michael Stevens)
The Da Vinci Code (Hans Zimmer)
Academy Award winner, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (Gustavo Santaolalla)
CINDERELLA MAN (Thomas Newman)
It was a happy accident that Ron Howard collaborated with Newman for the first time, because now I can't imagine anyone else doing a better job at this - the movie and the music go hand in hand. The music is why the film worked so well for me - it was so emotionally poignant the feeling lasted for days, which is hardly expected for a boxing movie.
Other notable scores:
Pride & Prejudice (Dario Marianelli)
The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe (Harry Gregson-Williams)
Kingdom Of Heaven (Harry Gregson-Williams)
The New World (James Horner)
Crash (Mark Isham)
Syriana (Alexandre Desplat)
NB - 2005 was a particularly strong year for film scores. It would have been a hard choice between Cinderella Man and Pride & Prejudice - which is in fact very classical, but utterly intense in drawing the viewer into the world of the characters' emotions.
Academy Award winner, FINDING NEVERLAND (Jan A.P. Kaczmarek)
THE BOURNE SUPREMACY (John Powell)
The fact that it's an action score should not have discounted this from being nominated for Best Original Score. It is a masterful piece of score music, arguably the best action score ever to be written in the history of film scores. The action cues accompany the scenes well and crash and bang along as well as against the images, while often sinking us in the mood that Bourne is in. In fact, since then there hasn't been a score that is better than this - I'm still waiting.
Academy Award winner, LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (Howard Shore)
THE LAST SAMURAI (Hans Zimmer)
Hans Zimmer managed the impossible by somehow blending Japanese and Western styles and achieving a perfect combination that is never at odds with each other - that is, rather than hearing either one style at a time, one hears the Japanese within the Western, and the Western within the Japanese. And on top of that, it is a very emotional score, despairing and heroic at turns, perfectly describing the code of honour that most Orientals could understand that isn't found in Western societies, no matter how much a Westerner thinks he understands without having been there.
Other notable scores:
Finding Nemo (Thomas Newman)
Under The Tuscan Sun (Christophe Beck)
Academy Award winner, FRIDA (Elliot Goldenthal)
THE FOUR FEATHERS (James Horner)
The movie itself could have been the next Lawrence of Arabia if the studio hadn't screwed the film over. The score itself contains two parts interwoven into each other and sometimes clashing against each other, the romantic Western orchestral elements and the wailing North African sounds, and they both combine to create such a great atmosphere throughout all the scenes that really engages the senses.
Other notable scores:
The Time Machine (Klaus Badelt)
Black Hawk Down (Hans Zimmer)
Catch Me If You Can (John Williams)
Academy Award winner, LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (Howard Shore)
A BEAUTIFUL MIND (James Horner)
Was nominated but didn't win. If it had won the fan herds would have questioned the result. But this is truly a score that I still listen to today and it goes hand in hand with the film, so ingrained it is into the character of John Nash (Russell Crowe) and the mood and tone of the film.
Other notable scores:
Pearl Harbor (Hans Zimmer)
Academy Award winner, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (Tan Dun)
GLADIATOR (Hans Zimmer)
Many will be surprised to learn that this didn't win, even though it is far and out the most superior score to grace the cinemas for many years before and since. It really doesn't beg an explanation why this should have won.
Other notable scores:
The Perfect Storm (James Horner)
Academy Award winner, THE RED VIOLIN (John Corigliano)
AMERICAN BEAUTY (Thomas Newman)
Again, it should have been obvious that this should have won the Oscar. It's still listened to years after the film and still identified with the film, and definitely had a hand in elevating the film to greatness. The opening titles. The plastic bag scene - no other way would the scene have worked, if the music wasn't good enough to wash away the absurdity of the scene. The music even hides a subtext of cynicism within its cheery comicality.
Other notable scores: Snow Falling On Cedars (James Newton Howard)
The Hurricane (Christopher Young)
Academy Award winner, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL (Nicola Piovani)
THE THIN RED LINE (Hans Zimmer)
Ask any film score enthusiast and they will certainly have heard of this score. The most depressing tracks to ever blare through the cinema speakers, which was what the film needed.
Other notable scores: Mighty Joe Young (James Horner)
Academy Award winner, TITANIC (James Horner)
TITANIC (James Horner)
And for the first time the Oscars got it right. The last time, rather.
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When Alexander was released and failed at the box office, many people had varying opinions about what happened, some from those who didn't even see the film (clearly that would be the case, as so few people watched it here that it only grossed over $30 million; it grossed nearly 4 times that internationally, proving that Americans are ... you know ...). I will only respect the opinions of those who saw the film and understood it - and those who do not understood it included the sort of audience who would ridicule Colin Farrell for being a whining puss, that Oliver Stone deserves his comeuppance, that the movie was too long.
I like long movies, so shut up, you ponce.
Anyway, Oliver Stone has delivered a longer cut of the film which he says is closer to what he intended to deliver. There really isn't too much difference, except that the movie jumps back and forth twice as much as the original theatrical version, and it begins with the Battle of Gaugamela. Otherwise, most of the additional 40 mins are found in extra seconds sprinkled throughout the scenes in the film. So as it turned out, I preferred the original theatrical version, which did throw me off the first time I saw it, but now I've gotten used to it.
This is unlike the situation for Kingdom Of Heaven, where the director's cut included entire subplots that was thrown out for the theatrical version, and whose inclusion made it a different and much better film and, some say, would have made it eligible for the Oscar race last year. Which would have been much more preferable to any of the Best Picture nominees last year - it would have been less agonising at picking a winner among non-favourites.
But, back to Alexander - why did I like the film so much when everyone else hated it? In the first place, it has been known among friends to avoid movies I like cause they'll generally hate it. But, the fact is, it's not so much the movie I'm in love with as the fact that the ideas contained within the film moved me, and allowed me to identify with Alexander, the myth.
You see, who was Alexander? Alexander was this insane, insane man who has a vision of the world and is in a position to achieve it, but with a vision so obscure and so difficult to understand to the moronic masses that he is alone. Yes, I believe the film, Alexander, is about loneliness. (That's where Hephaestion comes in, but that's one respect where Oliver Stone failed to achieve, and never did set right with the final cut.)
But more significantly, Alexander is such a force of nature that when he goes after things, he doesn't stop until he achieves it, and anything that gets in the way is brutally flung aside into oblivion, and forgotten, while Alexander marches on. He is able ... not 'able', completely oblivious to the screams and pleadings for him to go sane and sober, completely deaf to all criticisms and caution; all he has is perfect self-confidence and the knowledge that he is doing something right and glorious.
(In the movie we also often see him break down, points when his self-confidence is stripped away by the unending, crushing demands of his generals to turn back - and because of that the idiotic audience categorises Colin Farrell's portrayal as one of an insecure pussy boy. The despicable low-IQ imbeciles.)
Thing is, it reminded me of a time when I was like that - completely obsessed, with a clear vision about what I want to do, right down to the details, pushing people aside, flipping them off when they dare come near with their meaningless suggestions. That was some years ago. I want to return to that. But for whatever reason, it is gone. Without it, I cannot be more than an average director (and in this business, an average director will never become a proper director ... or will become one but end up annoying the hell out of everyone by churning out mindless Hollywood blockbusters or TV movies).
Where has my arrogance gone?
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1. Cinderella Man
2. War Of The Worlds
3. The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe
5. Pride & Prejudice
1. Happy Feet
2. The Queen
3. Children Of Men
4. Mission: Impossible III
5. United 93
Cinderella Man was and still is one of the most emotionally poignant movies I've seen. War Of The Worlds comes very close to how I want my Hollywood blockbusters to be, and completely absorbed me into the screen. The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe somehow managed to connect with me emotionally and dealt with themes close to my heart - siblinghood, fantasy and imagination and adventure. Syriana was declared by Yasmin Ahmad to be the most important movie of the year, and I'd agree; the most anger-inducing film I've seen since The Corporation. Pride & Prejudice showed me that English period dramas don't have to be boring; in fact it touched me with its romance, which is hardly something I expected to happen to me.
In contrast, while I'll continue to cherish Happy Feet and Children Of Men, and admire United 93 and be fond of The Queen, Mission: Impossible III will probably be forgotten in a few years, and at any case I don't hold as much passion for the 2006 films as I did for the 2005 ones.
2007 doesn't feel promising. Is Hollywood about to die?
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This marks the twentieth film I saw at the Hollywood Arclight Cinemas.
I must admit I was hesitant about going out to see this - it's probably the lest serious/sophisticated/important movie I've seen in a cinema since being in the United States. But I have a personal interest in this - I have been following James McAvoy's career since his mesmerising appearance in Children Of Dune, and I have read the David Nicholls novel on which the movie is adapted from. The thing I love most about the book is in the last two pages of the prologue, where the protagonist Brian Jackson spells out what he thought university would be like - which was exactly what I thought university would be like, only to find it dashed against the rocks of cynical, indifferent reality.
Which was the tone the movie took in its opening minutes, and immediately I was hooked. McAvoy was clearly well-cast in the role, appearing nerdy or sympathetic to the audience when required. The casting for other roles were pitch perfect too. Ultimately there is nothing that stands out in the movie (with the director admitting that he went for a non-intrusive style of filmmaking, except for the quiz sequences where a little bit of style was injected in for fun) - it was all about making the story work for the audience, and as it happens, they all did a great job.
The only complaint I have, really, is the pacing - too fast. Which is a less severe criticism than it being too slow, so that's not too bad. Point is, I felt a bit more time could be spent with the characters - they are all interesting, in and of themselves, and more scenes could have been written in. For example, we don't really get that much sense of the lessons that go on in university, and the quiz element of the story seems all but forgotten during the romantic comedy sequences (except where Bri constantly asks, is that the right answer?).
As for the adaptation, the author did a good job adapting his own novel - the novel worked letting us into the head of the knowledgeable but clumsy Brian Jackson, whereas the film is clearly cinematic in its style and pacing. The characters were pretty faithful to those in the book, except the screen time for some of the nominal characters were reduced. For example, Mr and Mrs Harbinson, played by the great British actors Charles Dance and Lindsay Duncan, were afforded less than five minutes or so of screen time. On the other hand, it's a good thing the ending was different from the novel, which I thought was rather weak.
But I guess I'm naturally fond of the movie because it reminded me of university days - how I hated it then, how I missed it now. It didn't really bring back memories - what it brought back were feelings, a sense of nostalgia for those days, even though my experiences were far from the ones Brian Jackson went through. There is a huge difference between university during the 80s and during the early 21st century. Students are more prone to ennui and nihilism in our case - less active, less ambitious, less enthusiastic, less passionate. Which is why my Wakeham script is totally different in tone.
How Good The Film Is: 8/10
How Much I Like It: 8.5/10
At What Point Did I First Look At My Watch: 10 mins
PS - Just before the movie started they played the trailer for the upcoming movie Penelope, which interestingly also stars James McAvoy as the male lead and Simon Woods as a nominal character.
PPS - Both Dominic Cooper and James Corden played sixth form boys who are about to enter Oxbridge universities in The History Boys. Both also played working class mates of James McAvoy's character - a rather complete reversal.
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