Musings on the Spielberg VS Netflix Debate

Hello readers! Today is the fifth and up until a couple of years ago, it’s customary that I post five random movie news/tidbits/query under the Five for the Fifth series. Well, this topic would certainly be part of that series today!

I had thought about this quite a bit since I heard about Steven Spielberg’s plan to push for the Academy to ban Netflix from Oscars at its annual post-Oscars meeting. Spielberg is the Academy Governor of the directors branch and this is what his company Amblin spokesperson is quoted as saying:

“Steven feels strongly about the difference between the streaming and theatrical situation… He’ll be happy if the others will join [his campaign] when that comes up [at the Academy Board of Governors meeting]. He will see what happens.” (per Variety)

I didn’t know this but apparently Spielberg has said in the past that Netflix films should only be eligible for Emmys rather than Oscars. Again per Variety, this is what he said back in 2018: “You certainly, if it’s a good show, deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar. I don’t believe films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination.”

This news was first reported by Indiewire, and it lists some of the complaints from Hollywood studios against the streaming service. Among others, the fact that Netflix doesn’t report box office and that it doesn’t respect the 90-day theatrical window. ROMA only spent spent 3 weeks in the theatre before it’s shown on Netflix.

Now, this is what Netflix responded with on Twitter a couple of days later, without mentioning Spielberg by name…


Now, when I first read Spielberg’s comment, I was already unnerved by it. My initial reaction is that he’s just a big Hollywood elite who does not like change, especially one that threatens his own status and tradition he holds dear. No doubt that ‘threat’ got bigger when Netflix’s ROMA got no less than 10 nominations at the Oscars this year AND won three, including Best Foreign Language film.

Now, I don’t have to be a filmmaker to realize how tough it is not only to get a film made, but to get it distributed. An indie filmmaker would be lucky to get even a limited theatrical release, and few could expect to get a wide release the way a standard legacy (studio) system would. The title of the IndieWire article alone says it all about what this ‘battle’ means for the underdogs, aka indie filmmakers…

The Spielberg vs. Netflix Battle Could Mean Collateral Damage for Indies at the Oscars

I recognize that many of the films Netflix campaign aggressively for Oscars were about people of color AND were made by people of color who are still very much a minority under the Hollywood legacy system… Beasts of No Nation (Cary Joji Fukunaga), 13th (Ava Duvernay), Mudbound (Dee Rees), and Roma (Alfonso Cuarón).

So naturally, as a filmmaker of color myself who’s trying to get a feature made, I experience it firsthand how arduous it is to get the chance to make a film. Indie filmmakers don’t get the privilege to expect ANY theatrical release, and many consider getting even a streaming release as a huge accomplishment. Thus I see Netflix as an ally to independent filmmakers, and also filmmakers of color. Based on the films they’ve made/distributed, they seem committed to inclusive storytelling which can only be a good thing for film fans everywhere. But of course that’s still somehow seen as a challenge to the ‘status quo’ who only says they support ‘diversity’ if it aligns with their own success and pocketbooks.

As a film fan, I have increasingly choose to see films on my TV rather than going to the theater. Yes, as a press member I do get invited to advanced screenings, but if I miss some of those films, I often choose to wait until it’s available on VOD. Now, when I know it’s a Netflix film or an Amazon Studio film, I’m glad to know that I can see it sooner and without paying extra because I already have subscriptions to both streaming services. So to me, the quality of a film and its legitimacy to be regarded as a motion picture (read: its Oscars-eligibility) has no bearing on where it’s presented. Spielberg seems to say that there is one way to see a movie and that is on the big screen. I think that communal way of film viewing will never go away, and I still do enjoy seeing some films on the big screen (even in IMAX if it’s made specifically for that giant screen), but there is really no wrong way to see a movie.

Many Hollywood studios don’t like the fact that Netflix doesn’t report theatrical grosses. They are starting to share some metrics of audience viewerships (per BGR.com) so perhaps they’d do the same with theatrical release numbers in the future? Not that it matters to me, the audience member, nor should it have any bearing in the quality of a film.

Even before the Spielberg news came out, Alfonso Cuarón already weighed in on this subject to Variety:

There needs to be greater diversity in how we release our films. Distribution models need to be more flexible, depending on the film. You cannot impose the release strategy of a tentpole film on a smaller film. You may need fewer theaters and longer runs or models in which the so-called window is shorter. We’re thinking in one single paradigm. It’s a moment to start opening up paradigms. Right now it’s a confrontation between economic models. It’s not like one model benefits cinema, and the other does not.


Now, I’m NOT writing this because I’m on the side of a multi-billion dollar streaming company. In fact, I’ve been a longtime fan of Spielberg, but his comments shows him as being out of touch and elitist who wants to maintain his status quo. He’s a product of the studio system where minorities (women, people of color, disabled, etc) struggle to get in and tell their story.

I came across this thread from Franklin Leonard, the founder of The Black List (an annual survey of Hollywood’s executives’ favorite unproduced screenplays), and it’s hard to argue with his points…


Yes I realize some of you might argue that Netflix is not an ‘underdog’ company that deserves our sympathy. After all it spent about $50 million for Roma‘s Oscar campaign alone. So perhaps the argument should be about limiting spending on Oscar campaigns? I personally can’t stand studio’s award campaign, that’s one of the worst things about award season for me. But if the film Netflix or other streaming service is promoting is a worthy one, who’s to say it’s not eligible to be included in the Oscar race??

As I have just seen a Netflix Original Film last night, TRIPLE FRONTIER. It’s the first time I saw a Netflix film on the big screen, surely the first of many. At the film premiere, no doubt this topic was all the buzz. One of the film’s star who’s also a filmmaker, Ben Affleck, is naturally supportive of Netflix, saying that “they’re helping define the future of cinema and distribution” (per Deadline).

Per Cinema Blend, Affleck spoke of his rationale why he wouldn’t be in Spielberg’s camp in trying to disqualify streaming films (even those that has limited theatrical release) from competing at Oscars…

We certainly approached [Triple Frontier] as any other movie. There’s no difference when you’re making it between what the platform is that it’s going to be seen on. I do think Netflix is doing more interesting stuff in creating a more cinematic experience for the home. More people, more viewers, bigger TVs, bigger sound. They’re doing Dolby Cinema color correction, they do Dolby Atmos sound mixes. So they’re sort of synthesizing the theatrical with the home viewing experience in a kind of interesting way. It’s all changing very fast.


Netflix continues to work with big names in filmmaking, (One of Triple Frontier‘s executive producers is Kathryn Bigelow) and they’ve got Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman with its all-star cast (DeNiro, Pacino, Harvey Keitel) which will likely get an even wider release than ROMA. I personally think it’s an exciting time as a film fan as we have more options for content and how we want to see them.

So in conclusion, I’m glad there are streaming services like Netflix exists. I’m lucky that I live in a city where there are plenty of cinemas. But even so, there are always smaller films that I want to see that don’t get shown or they’re shown only in 1-2 theaters in Minneapolis for 2 weeks tops. I’d imagine people in rural or remote areas don’t even get that same privilege, but it’d be easier for them to subscribe to streaming services like Netflix.

In the end, I believe in options… I like to be able to see movies wherever and whenever I want. In the ideal world, the theatrical and streaming model should co-exist. Just because something has been done one way for so long doesn’t mean it has to be the ONLY way.


So what do you think of this Spielberg VS Netflix debate? Let’s hear it!

 

FlixChatter Review – Ready Player One (2018)

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Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Written By: Zak Penn & Ernest Cline
Runtime: 2hrs 20min

Before seeing Ready Player One, I had to remind myself to judge it as a stand-alone movie rather than a book adaptation. I’ve read the book several times and thoroughly enjoyed it for the most part, and I didn’t want to ruin the experience for myself by nitpicking every little difference between the book and movie. This was a good mindset going in, because it isn’t a very faithful adaptation, but it’s a decent movie on its own.

Tye Sheridan w/ Olivia Cooke, Philip Zhao and Win Morisaki

Ready Player One takes place in the year 2045, when the world has become an economic and environmental wasteland. To escape their dreary reality, people spend their time in an incredible virtual world called The OASIS. When its creator, Halliday (Mark Rylance) dies, he challenges its users to find three keys to unlock an Easter Egg that will bestow his fortune to the winner. OASIS users Wade, AKA Parzival (Tye Sheridan), Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), Aech (Lena Waithe), Sho (Philip Zhao), and Daito (Win Morisaki) work together to find the Egg before the evil corporation IOI, led by Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), gets there first.

My biggest issue with this film is its heavy reliance on narration, especially at the beginning. I understand that it’s difficult to fit a lot of pertinent information from a novel into a film adaptation, but the rule “show, don’t tell” is important to remember, and this movie had plenty of opportunity to do so. It opens showing people in their homes in The Stacks (mobile homes literally stacked like high rises), escaping their dreary surroundings by wearing high-tech VR goggles and accessories, then shows the detailed, fantastical, hyperrealistic virtual world of the OASIS- all of which is then explained with nearly ten minutes of narration. It’s completely unnecessary. The movie has plenty to work with visually to establish the background information, and what they can’t do visually they could set up through dialogue (which, to be fair, they do sometimes); it would have felt more natural and less lazy.

Despite this, Ready Player One is still an enjoyable movie. The CGI is impressive, and there are a lot of great 80’s and 90’s visual references, some subtle and some obvious, that will appeal to nostalgia geeks. The action is beautifully animated and really sucks you in. The soundtrack is a nice blend of 80’s rock music and original orchestration that is all the sweeping schmaltz one would expect in an 80’s adventure movie from Spielberg.

The acting is excellent as well. Despite the character of Parzival/Wade being about as bland as an un-toasted slice of white bread lightly seasoned with tap water, Tye Sheridan does well with what he’s given. I was thrilled to see Olivia Cooke as Art3mis/Samantha, especially after seeing her in another film, Thoroughbreds, earlier this year. She gives a fun, genuinely passionate performance. I don’t think she and Tye have great romantic chemistry, but that might just be a writing issue, as it isn’t very well-developed. Both TJ Miller as I-R0k and Lena Waithe as Aech have several great comedic moments. Mark Rylance is delightful as the awkward but sweet Halliday. Ben Mendelsohn is satisfyingly sleazy as Sorrento, although he’s not a particularly intimidating villain; again, though, that might be a writing issue, as Mendelsohn usually pulls off villainous roles well.

If you’re hoping for a good film adaptation of the book, Ready Player One will probably disappoint you. But if you go into it expecting a fun, well-animated adventure flick, you’ll probably enjoy yourself. Despite its problems, this movie is still entertaining.

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Have you seen ‘Ready Player One’? Well, what did you think? 

Five for the Fifth: JULY 2016 Edition

Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Happy Tuesday everyone! To my American friends, how was your Fourth? Hope you had an awesome three-day weekend! For some of us, Fourth of July weekend means family time, whether it’s at a state park, beach, lake, or at the movies!

FindingDory

So apparently Pixar’s latest Finding Dory threepeats this weekend, as Box Office Mojo called it, landing at #1 again at the box office for its third weekend. The Legend of Tarzan brought in about $45 million, followed by The Purge: Election Year at around $34 million and The BFG ends in fourth place with $22 million. Hmmm, I think we all know the major winner is The Purge 3 as its budget is merely $10 million, wow!

Did you see any new release movie on the big screen this weekend? 

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2. Now, in relation to this weekend’s box office. Well, The BFG turns out to be a bust, earning a paltry $22 mil in its first weekend when the budget is $140 mil!

I haven’t got a chance to review it yet as I was out and about all weekend, but I wasn’t that impressed with it. I barely remember any of it when I saw it over a week ago, but I found it a bit tedious as it took forever to get going. Variety wrote this piece wondering if Steven Spielberg has lost his blockbuster touch.

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Spielberg w/ BFG star Ruby Barnhill – image courtesy of Vox.com

I did like Spielberg’s last film Bridge of Spies, though I haven’t seen Lincoln yet. War Horse was overly sentimental despite a few moment of greatness, and I enjoyed The Adventures of Tintin mostly because I adore the Belgian comics. All the way to 2000s, Spielberg’s films were still relatively successful,from A.I. (2001), Catch Me If You Can (2002), Minority Report (2002), and War of the Worlds (2005), and of course the abominable Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) still raked up over $300mil! As he gets older though, his films seem to make less money. Bridge of Spies only made $72mil (on a $40mil budget).

What are your thoughts on Spielberg? Is his box office mojo behind him now?

3. Ok, time for a few new trailers that caught my eye. I always like to mix things up so these two couldn’t be more different from each other.

Based on the extraordinary true story of Operation Anthropoid, the WWII mission to assassinate SS General Reinhard Heydrich, the main architect behind the Final Solution and the Reich’s third in command after Hitler and Himmler.

I always love a good WWII thrillers, and Cillian Murphy is always solid in everything he’s in. Not really a fan of pretty boy Jamie Dornan but glad to see him doing something serious instead that Fifty Shades crap.
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A suburban couple becomes embroiled in an international espionage plot when they discover that their seemingly perfect new neighbors are government spies.

I hadn’t even heard of this movie before, but when I saw the trailer it made me laugh! It’s obviously inspired by Mr & Mrs Smith, with two absolutely beautiful couple Gal Gadot and Jon Hamm (who’d make the perfect match for a Wonder Woman + Superman flick!). Zach Galifianakis & Isla Fisher look pretty funny here, it looks like it’ll be a hoot like Melissa McCarthy’s SPY.

I was hoping Ben Wheatley’s upcoming movie Free Fire (starring a great ensemble cast including my beloved Sam Riley) will have its trailer out by now (it’s shown with A24’s Swiss Army Man, so I’ll add it here once it hits.

What do you think of these trailers?
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4. I’ve talked about my excitement for Idris Elba’s casting as the Gunslinger on Stephen King’s The Dark Tower adaptation. Well, I just saw some pics on Just Jared from the NYC set and I just had to share!

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Oh my, he certainly looks the part doesn’t he? I certainly wouldn’t mind roaming the Old West with THIS Roland Deschain 😉 I guess it’ll be a while before we’ll see a trailer, as the film won’t be released until February 17th next year. But for sure I look forward to seeing Idris in the role and Matthew McConaughey as Roland’s adversary Man in Black.

What’s your initial thoughts on ‘The Dark Tower’? 

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is Zoë from Sporadic Chronicle of a Beginner’s Blogger! I LOVE that her question is in keeping what I’ve been obsessing lately, that is historical series (as I’m still nuts over The White Queen and finally finished BBC’s War & Peace this weekend).

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Here’s Zoë in her own words:

I’ve been watching a lot of Downton Abbey and Vikings lately and I’ve been loving both shows (as always). There are many shows under this genre, whether fictitious or factual, or a blend of both.

Which historical/period series are you currently watching and loving? 


Well, that’s it for the JULY edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Take part by picking a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 

Weekend Roundup + Mini Review of Bridge of Spies (2015)

What a weekend it’s been! It’s just three days until Twin Cities Film Fest kicks off Wednesday night 10/21 so naturally my week and the entire weekend is filled with preparation for the festivities.

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve likely seen me tweeting up a storm about TCFF, so yeah clearly I’m excited 😛

The TCFF programmers have traveled to Austin, Los Angeles, & New York in search of great movies this year… the result is an awesome lineup of more than 100 premieres, including a bunch that have huge awards buzz. I’ve highlighted some of those must-see films here, but I’ve also made a list of MN-connected films that I can’t wait to see – from comedies, dramas, thrillers, docs, there’s definitely something for everyone, cinephiles or otherwise.


This weekend happened to be a perfect Fall day here in MN, with seasonably cool temps and ample of bright sunshine both Saturday and Sunday. So I did get a chance to get out and be outdoors before I’m cooped up inside a theater watching a whole bunch of movies. I LOVE Autumn in Minnesota… the fall colors is just absolutely gorgeous!!


BridgeOfSpies

The last Steven Spielberg film I saw was War Horse, which was back in 2011. I haven’t got around to seeing Lincoln but for some reason, I haven’t been um, compelled to see it. Spielberg is back to yet another based-on-a-true-story historical drama, about an American insurance lawyer who’s recruited by the CIA during the Cold War to help arrange a prisoner swap when a rescue a pilot is detained in the Soviet Union.

Bridge of Spies is the kind of slow-burn espionage thriller in the vein of a John le Carré’s adaptation, so if you’re expecting an action-packed movie a la James Bond or Jason Bourne then you’re likely disappointed. But the lack of action doesn’t mean there’s lack of suspense and the Cold War intrigue is ever present. I don’t think a film needs to be violent to build tension, and Bridge of Spies is proof of that. The film lives up to the title as well as the pivotal scene on the Glienicke Bridge is certainly memorable.

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Tom Hanks is perfectly cast as James B. Donovan, channeling Jimmy Stewart as a virtuous and effortlessly likable everyman who’s more shrewd and skillful than meets the eye. There’s an unsubtle message about defending an American value that everyone deserves a fair shake, but yet it doesn’t feel preachy thanks to Hanks’ portrayal. Hanks is in nearly every frame of the film, but English actor Mark Rylance is equally brilliant as the Soviet spy Rudolf Abel. In fact, he’s quite the scene stealer right from the opening scene. Abel’s relentlessly-unperturbed demeanor is part of what makes his character so intriguing. I love that the film also takes the time to show us the unlikely friendship of these two characters.

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Out of a decent ensemble of supporting cast, Amy Ryan stood out as Hanks’ wife, a role that would’ve been utterly forgettable in less capable hands. The script is co-written by the Coens, who infused it with a dose of wity humor to break the tension that make all those dialog scenes sprightly. Visually speaking, the set design looks realistic, especially all the Berlin scenes just right after WWII. The cinematography by Spielberg’s frequent collaborator Janusz Kaminski is stunning to look at, especially the rainy scenes that echoed a memorable scene in The Road to Perdition that also starred Hanks. The music by Thomas Newman perfectly complements the tone of the film, I’ve come to expect that Spielberg movies usually have memorable scores.

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There are slower moments, but overall this film was pretty engrossing. This is definitely another Spielberg/Hanks fruitful collaboration and clearly the two have formed a great rapport over the years. I didn’t know anything about the protagonist, but Mr. Donovan’s story is definitely worth telling. Unlike some of le Carré’s spy stories though, this film is pretty straightforward and easy to follow. There’s an earnest quality about Spielberg directing, the lack of cynicism in the way he tells the story that some people might call conventional. But I admire that sincerity that Spielberg and Hanks are known for, and there’s a great deal of measured and astute work from the both of them.

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Have you seen Bridge of Spies? Well, what did you think?

Music Break: Jurassic Park Soundtrack (1993)

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Well, I saw Jurassic World last night. It was one of my most-anticipated movies of the year and one of the most evocative thing to me is STILL John Williams’ score. It’s one of my top 10 favorite scores from this legendary composer, out of a long list of phenomenal work. The score played within the first 15 minutes of the film and I immediately felt nostalgic about the first Jurassic Park movie that opened in 1993. That was 22 years ago and boy the score still felt as fresh and powerful as ever. I’ll save my thoughts about the new movie for my review but since I’ve been humming this score all day today, I thought I’d highlight it on today’s music break!

Apparently Williams began writing the Jurassic Park score at the film at the end of February of 1993, and it was conducted a month later (per Wiki). WOW! Can’t imagine it only took him a month to come up with something so iconic and legendary. Even just hearing a few notes, the score is immediately recognizable and so evocative that it REALLY takes you to Isla Nublar in Central America.

There’s a sense of adventure that’s simply intoxicating in the score. That chopper scene on the way to the island is full of excitement and hope, completely unsuspecting of the danger in store for them once they get there. There’s a slight ominous tone in the score below, but only briefly, as then the music swells up again with that iconic theme that makes you even more excited to see those dinosaurs!

This gentle and sublimely gorgeous score is not as popular as the main theme, but I absolutely love it. It fits the gentle nature of the largest known dinosaur, the Brachiosaurus.

Per Wiki, similar with another Steven Spielberg film he scored, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Williams felt he needed to write “pieces that would convey a sense of ‘awe’ and fascination” given it dealt with the “overwhelming happiness and excitement” that would emerge from seeing live dinosaurs.

I’m glad they still use this iconic score for the new film. I can’t imagine topping this masterful work.


Hope you enjoy this Music Break. Do you love this score as much as I do?

Five for the Fifth: APRIL 2015 Edition

FiveForFifth2015_Spring

Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Since this months’s edition falls on Easter Sunday, I think it’s the perfect time to highlight films with redemptive themes. They don’t have to be spiritual films per se, it could be from any genre, so long as it contains films where the character realize the error in his ways and become a changed person. Some of the ones that have memorable redemptive themes Road to Perdition, Michael Clayton, Schindler’s List, Gran TorinoLéon: The Professional, Children of Men, Star Wars, those are just at the top of my head.

But the one that I always find profoundly moving is the finale of Ben-Hur

BenHurRedemptionFinale

Judah: Almost at the moment He died, I heard Him say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Esther: Even then.
Judah: Even then. And I felt His voice take the sword out of my hand.

It’s a perennial favorite around Easter time, but really, I’d recommend one of the greatest epics in cinema history any day of the year.

Which film(s) with redemptive theme resonate with you most?

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2. Check out the FIRST LOOK of Steven Spielberg‘s WWII drama Bridge of Spies.The name refers to a bridge across the Havel River in Germany used by the Americans and Soviets for the exchange of captured spies during the Cold War.  

BridgeOfSpies_FirstLook

This marks the fourth Spielberg – Tom Hanks collaboration and the Coen brothers are apparently polishing the script originally written by Matt Charman. Wow, with such a pedigree and an intriguing premise, I can’t wait to see this! 

Too bad John Williams won’t be scoring the film though, apparently due to “a minor health issue that’s now been corrected,” (per EMPIRE) and replaced by Thomas Newman. The article also provides a caption of the image we see above: James Donovan (Hanks), a lawyer who was pushed headfirst into the Cold War during the 1960s when he had to negotiate for the release of downed U2 spy plane pilot Gary Powers after the airman was shot down over Russia. Alongside him is Mark Rylance’s Rudolf Abel, a suspected KGB spy who was defended by Donovan in a US courtroom in 1957.

What’s your initial thoughts of Bridge of Spies?

3. I just read this over at Slash Film that series creator Steven Moffat wants a crossover of Doctor Who and Sherlock. Now, though I’m not obsessed with either show, I totally get the appeal and I think both are fun and well-written. Crossover ideas are nothing new in pop-culture, we’ve seen ’em in a lot of comic-book adaptations like CW’s Arrow and The Flash, and of course the DC and Marvel Cinematic Universe are full of them.

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Photo courtesy of Geek Tyrant

Well, apparently Moffat is the only one excited for the crossover idea as the lead cast Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman, as well as the series’ co-creator Mark Gatiss aren’t keen on the idea, saying “Look, it will never be as good as they think it’s going to be.” You know what, I kind of agree with them. It seems like a fun idea, but whether it’ll actually work or not is another story. Though if there’s anyone who could somehow make it work, it’d be Moffat. So never say never I guess.

What do you think of this Sherlock/Dr.Who crossover or other crossovers on film/tv?

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4. This question is inspired by my recent roundtable interview with the two lead cast of The Longest Ride: Britt Robertson and Scott Eastwood (I will post the transcript next week). Also, I saw A Woman in Gold last week in which Max Irons has a supporting role (I first noticed him in The Riot Club trailer) and Colin Hanks was just on MPR’s Wits, a live public radio show filmed here in town. Well, just looking at the last names, you might be able to deduce that all three have famous dads who are practically screen legends: Clint Eastwood, Jeremy Irons and Tom Hanks. Boy, they all seem to be splitting images of their dads, aren’t they?

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Scott Eastwood, Max Irons, Colin Hanks

Now, I haven’t seen enough of their work to judge their talent as an actor, but they seem to have a decent career so far in Hollywood. It made me think of other famous Hollywood actors’ offsprings who’ve made it in showbiz. There are no shortage of them, and some have even match or even surpass the success of their parents, Angelina Jolie, Michael Douglas, Jeff Bridges, those are just a few that come to mind.

So I’m curious, who are your favorite famous actors’ offsprings?

5. This month’s Five for the Fifth’s guest is Stu from Popcorn Nights blog!

BladeRunnerFinalCut

The Final Cut of Blade Runner has just been re-released in cinemas in the UK, and stands as Ridley Scott’s definitive version of the film, and far better than the 1982 cinema release. Here’s the trailer:

Which director’s cut of a film do you think is the biggest improvement on the original work?


Well, that’s it for the April 2015 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

Musings on Christopher Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR

InterstellarBannerI’ve been a big fan of Christopher Nolan‘s work, in fact I’ve seen all of his work and they’ve pretty much range from great to fantastic. I’ve been looking forward to Interstellar like most movie fans, but to be honest with you, for whatever reason, a couple of weeks before the film opened and as the hype reaches its tipping point, I started to feel… indifferent. In any case, I went to see it Saturday night anyway and instead of a straight review, this is more of my reaction to the movie… what I like and don’t like about it, so pardon if I’m rambling a bit…

The film is essentially about a small group of people going on a space travel adventure to save mankind. Well that’s the elevator pitch version anyway, but at the heart of it is a father/daughter relationship that transcend through space and time. I don’t remember seeing a specific year mention but the story is set in the future when the earth as we know it is dying, food is scarce as dust bowls continually wipe out farm crops. Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, a widower & former NASA test pilot who’s now taking up farming with his father in-law and his two kids, Tom & Murphy. Cooper hasn’t quite given up his space aspiration as when he and his kids spotted a drone flying close by, Cooper gets all giddy and drives through those supposedly precious corn fields to chase after it.

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I discussed some crucial plot points here, so beware if you haven’t seen the movie

It’s perhaps one of the only truly joyful moment in the film, and it’s obvious that his 10-year-old daughter Murphy (Mackenzie Foy) shares his enthusiasm for science and space. Soon Cooper is reunited again with NASA in its secret hideaway. How did he get there? Well apparently a dust storm through an open window spells out the coordinates of its location in morse code. Say what? Well, that’s just one of the mind-boggling things about this movie and we’re just getting started. When Cooper gets to NASA, the elder professor Brand (played by Michael Caine, natch) tells him of a possible solution to humanity’s crisis and that is they’ve got to find a sustainable planet on the other side and Cooper is the only man for the job. Hmmm, wouldn’t you think that if he’s truly the only person for this crucial mission, NASA would’ve sought him out instead of waiting for him to somehow stumbles into their base? I mean, Cooper lives pretty much just down the road and they know he has the skills to pilot their ship.

Following the NASA encounter, the film doesn’t waste any time to shoot Cooper into space. Discussions about this movie would likely involve wormholes and black holes which frankly go way over my head, but there are a plethora of plot holes as well to contend with. The one I mentioned in the above paragraph is just one example. Apparently famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson have been tweeting about the ‘Mysteries of #Interstellar’ which you can find here. I kept nodding as I read each tweet, especially the one where Cooper cracks his helmet on one of the planet’s he visits and he’s even able to remove his gloves during a fight. Wouldn’t you think the Planet’s air is toxic to the human body??

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Now, plot holes in sci-fi movies are common, in fact, it’s kind of inevitable… I mean it’s ‘fi’ for fiction after all. Interstellar does have the appearance of being grounded in realism however, in fact, Nolan hires a real astrophysicist Kip Thorne in building the Black Hole for the movie and to ensure the depictions of wormholes and relativity are as accurate as possible. But yet, one doesn’t need to be a scientist that a close proximity to the black hole would’ve killed those astronauts instantly and thus that planet being so close to such black hole, which Cooper’s team dub Gargantua, simply cannot exist. I have to admit though, it’s been fun reading about all the stuff that don’t make sense in Interstellar. It seems that with a lot of Nolan’s movies, analyzing it is as fun as watching his movies.

That said, I was more than willing to suspend my disbelief and go along for the ride. And what a ride it was. The imagery and visual effects is nothing short of tremendous. It’s something that I’ve come to expect from Nolan’s team, and they did not disappoint on that front. Everything is so meticulously-crafted. Though I’ve seen a lot of spaceships in other sci-fi films, I’m still in awe looking at all the details of the Endurance ship and all the other set pieces. Instead of his usual collaboration with Wally Pfister (who was busy making his first film Transcendence), we’ve got Hoyte van Hoytema in charge of cinematography. The Dutch-Swedish cinematographer impressed me greatly with his work in HER, but he’s outdone himself here with his astounding work. The earth landscape rivals the beauty of Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven, but it’s the visuals of the outer space and the barren alien planets that’s really breathtaking. But whilst the film’s scenery is truly a feast for my eyes, my ears aren’t so lucky. Hans Zimmer‘s score is often so loud to the point of irritation and it drowns out all the dialog, especially during the NASA visit where Brand is giving Cooper a tour. Perhaps it’s intentional, as this article points out, but really, I wouldn’t care about the thematic significance when my ears are hurting, y’know. I listened to the soundtrack later on and really enjoyed it, though I still love his work on Nolan’s Batman films more.

InterstellarStill5Sometimes I feel that perhaps I’m not smart enough to get Nolan’s movies… let alone TWO Nolans working together. Christopher and his brother Jonathan ‘Jonah’ Nolan collaborated on the script as Jonah originally developed it for Steven Spielberg who later passed on the project. To say that Interstellar is discombobulating is quite an understatement. I LOVE using that word whenever I get the chance to, but I don’t necessarily enjoy being in a constant state of bewilderment. The entire sequence involving Matt Damon is completely lost on me, not only did Damon’s casting completely take me out of the movie – “What’s Jason Bourne doing here?” “Wait, is this Elysium 2.o?” – the whole storyline of Dr. Mann wanting to kill Cooper felt preposterous to me. So he goes space crazy, okay… but I really didn’t expect the sudden villain-y scenario here and it’s a subplot I could do without.

I haven’t quite recovered from Mann’s um, riddle and Nolan’s already hit me with another as the film seemingly raced towards the finale once the film passed its two hour mark. I was totally baffled by the sequence of Cooper and the robot TARS inside some kind of a tesseract portal, supposedly built by ‘future us’ [as Cooper said during his frantic mumbling] which implies there’s advanced humans in existence by then who could build such a thing. Suddenly Cooper discovers it’s him who’s actually the *ghost* that haunts Murphy’s and knocks stuff off her bookshelf. There’s too much to digest here that my mind wander a bit, admiring the gorgeous scenery of that fifth dimension portal or whatever the heck that is. The whole time I kept thinking ‘how did they do that?‘ Then suddenly Cooper is floating again in outer space and before you know it, he gets rescued and wakes up in a whole new earth. O-kay…

When I wasn’t scratching my head pretty much the entire time, there were moments that I winced at the constant sobbing scenes that reminds me of Spielberg’s schmaltz-fest War Horse. Now, I’m not saying there isn’t a genuinely emotional moments. I was quite moved by the father/daughter relationship in various points of time, the tearful goodbye and the reunion come to mind, but at times, I felt like I was deluged by over-sentimentality. I don’t know, maybe Nolan felt he’s got a reputation of being a cold or emotionally-detached that he went a bit overboard trying to refute that?

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[End of spoiler section]

Fortunately, the actors are more than up for the task to bring the humanity aspect of this space drama. McConaughey is a convincing everyman here, that I’m willing to overlook his Southern accent playing a character supposedly being from the Midwest. He has an effortless chemistry with Foy who plays his young daughter. My second favorite performance is Jessica Chastain as the older Murphy, not only she resembles Foy but she carries the same sensibilities and stubbornness displayed in her younger self. I’ve never been a big fan of Anne Hathaway but I think she acquits herself well, even delivering such a such a mawkish speech as “Love is the one thing that we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space” referring to her long lost love Dr. Edmund who went on a previous NASA mission. I’ve mentioned how I feel about Matt Damon above, I really wish they’d cast someone less famous & less ubiquitous than him. Michael Caine is always reliable, though they totally botched the aging process of his character [aka he basically doesn’t age at all in 23 years!]. John Lithgow and Ellen Burstyn both delivered a memorable performance despite their brief screen time.

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The longer I mull over it, the more I feel that Interstellar is a film I appreciate but not love. It’s not because it’s too confusing because I have loved other films I don’t completely understand, Nolan’s own Inception being one of them. It’s just that in the end, I just don’t feel as much connection with any of the characters and their journey. Despite all that crying in the film, overall the film didn’t tug my heartstrings as much as I had hoped. Heck I was more affected by the relationship of the robot Baymax and its protagonist Hiro in Big Hero 6, that movie was so joyful and emotional all at the same time. Speaking of robots, I thought TARS is a hoot and perhaps as memorable as any of the human characters. And hey, for once the robots are actually loyal to the humans whilst the main enemy of man is ‘Mann’, get it? 😉

The film has been called overly-ambitious and that its intellectual reach exceeds its grasp. I can’t refute either of those points, but I still have to give props to Nolan for making something bold and audaciously cerebral. I’m not just talking about dazzling us with jaw-dropping visuals but in the way he challenges viewers with stupendous and imaginative ideas. I appreciate that Nolan never asks us to ‘check our brain at the door’ or dumb stuff down to make things more digestible. But at the same time, there is also such a thing as having too many ideas and themes to process in a single film. There’s perhaps enough substance here to warrant say, a miniseries. The movie is nearly 3 hours long but it’s still not enough time to focus on one of those ideas, the result is sensory overload that threatens to suck the joy out of what’s supposed to be a piece of entertainment. I might revisit this film again later when it’s out for rental and perhaps I’d have a different opinion then.

Interstellar_TARSThis is one of the longest musings I’ve done in a movie, which is funny as I originally wanted to do a mini review of it but it proved to be impossible as there’s so much to say. Despite my gripes and what a lot of reviewers have said that it’s a beautiful-but-flawed film, I still urge you to see it. It’s the kind of film that’s meant to be seen in as big a screen as possible, as some of the sequences shot using IMAX camera are simply stunning. However you feel after you see it, Interstellar is still a worthwhile experience and it also makes for a fun discussion/reading afterwards. The Nolan brothers are certainly one of the most powerful siblings working in Hollywood today. Even if this one isn’t quite a masterpiece, they’re still a force to be reckoned with and I still look forward to what Chris Nolan will come up with next.

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So, that’s my thoughts on Interstellar. Do you agree/disagree? I’d love to hear what you think!