Etheria Film Night – 3rd June, Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood

Articles + Interviews, Uncategorized
Written by Fiona Underhill

I was lucky enough to win tickets, thanks to the International Screenwriters Association, to this wonderful evening celebrating female filmmakers at the American Cinematheque’s  historic Egyptian Theatre. It started with drinks and delicious food in the courtyard, where there was a red carpet for photo opportunities. It was then onto the ‘Women in Media’ networking event. This organisation is dedicated to creating a comprehensive crew list for women film crew and the people who want to hire them. This was very inspiring; hearing from a diverse range of talented women who have many skills to offer film productions. There should be no more excuses for not hiring women on film crews.

Before the films started, we were treated to an appearance by legendary film producer Roger Corman. He has produced over 400 films and helped the early careers of many directors, including Coppola and Scorcese. James Cameron has said he “trained at the Roger Corman Film School.” He has also supported and mentored many female film directors through the years, particularly in genre and “B” pictures. He was attending Etheria Film Night to present an award to one such woman, Stephanie Rothman, director of ‘The Velvet Vampire’, ‘The Working Girls’ and ‘The Student Nurses’. All of these are low-budget, drive-in ‘exploitation’ films from the 1970s. Her films portrayed gutsy, strong-willed women and a radically feminist point of view.

We were then onto the main event. This was a mini Film Festival all in one night. Eight short films were shown, all by female directors and all genre films (mainly horror and sci-fi). This was to showcase talented female filmmakers who are more than capable of directing genre films and this is precisely where Hollywood should be looking. I will go through the films in my own, very personal, order of preference. I should start by saying that the over-all quality of all of the films was much higher than I anticipated. It is amazing that such high production values can be achieved on low budgets in a relatively short space of time. Also, the highest compliment that I can give, is that I was never aware, with any of the films, that I was watching a film from a female director. Just as gender would be irrelevant for a male director, it was completely irrelevant here. These are 8 fantastic directors. Period.

Untitled.png

8) Kumal (dir. Thirati Kulyingwattanavit, horror, USA)

This story is based on an ancient Thai legend of a baby being plucked from its mother’s womb, painted in gold and burned in a sacrificial ritual. It is then said that if someone wears the ashes around their neck, they will achieve eternal life. But it is a cursed life and the mothers seek their revenge.

Although well made, with some effective acting and props, this was the most ‘classic horror’ of all the films on offer. Horror is just not to my personal taste, unless it is comedy horror. I guess this was the most ‘traditional’ of the films and although it was good, I preferred the other films on the night.

7) Earworm (dir. Tara Price, horror, USA)

This film relies on one central conceit – what if an earworm (when you get an annoyingly catchy tune or song stuck in your head) was an actual physical worm?

This was by far the shortest of the films and the simplest. It was neatly done, with the soundtrack being an integral part of the story. There were some impressive lighting and visual effects used as well.

6) The Honeymoon (dir. Ruth Pickett, black comedy, UK)

This film is very much reminiscent of Sightseers, but takes that most classically British of concepts – tarts and vicars – and puts them together in an isolated setting and adds a dose of horror. A newly-wed Christian couple go on honeymoon to a cottage in the Welsh countryside, but when they arrive there, they quickly realise they’ve made a horrible mistake.

When voting for the ‘audience award’ at the end, I was very tempted to go for this, purely on patriotic grounds. It was lovely to hear my home country’s accents and to see some classic British humour. Unfortunately, the humour was a little too ‘classic’ for me (like a raunchier version of ‘Carry On’) and again, didn’t really appeal to my specific tastes. However, comedy-horror is one of my favourite cross-genres and something we Brits do particularly well. I certainly felt no shame in having this film represent the UK.

5 and 4) Swell (dir. Bridget Savage Cole, sci-fi, USA) and Real Artists (dir. Cameo Wood, sci-fi, USA)

 

I will deal with these two together because they were similar in terms of genre and quality. They both could have easily been an  episode of Black Mirror (and both were better than The Circle, which I recently reviewed). Both set in the near-future and concerning technology designed to improve our lives, but of course, questioning the reality of whether it’s actually good for us or not.

‘Swell’ is an app which affects the emotions of whoever is listening to it.

This was a simple and very interesting conceit and very believable, actually. It relied solely on the performance of a man and a woman in an apartment and was very well done. Again, this film had an excellent use 

 

of colour and lighting. It was interesting to hear from the director, in the Q&A afterwards that the location had been found on Air B&B! This was the recipient of the Judge’s Award and while it wasn’t my personal favourite, it was a worthy winner.

‘Real Artists’ was about a film production company who, we gradually discover, uses questionable methods to make their films. This is seen from the point-of-view of a young woman who has a job interview at the company.

This film had one of the most effective twist endings and really high production values. The futuristic, technological world was rendered excellently and credibly. There was also an excellent central performance.

Untitled.png

 

 

3) Do No Harm (dir. Roseanne Liang, action/thriller, New Zealand)

My Top 3 films were very close and it was really difficult to chose between them. ‘Do No Harm’ is a stunningly gory action film set in the operating theatre of a hospital. A gangster wants to get to the patient on the operating table, to finish him off, and the surgeons (one in particular) will protect their patient at all costs.

The fight sequences were genuinely worthy of Tarantino and there were also echoes of ‘Drive’ here. Again, the lighting was impressively atmospheric, the performances were astonishing and the editing was excellent. I genuinely found the quality jaw-dropping, with sequences that would not be out of place in any Hollywood film. This was the recipient on the ‘audience award’, voted on at the end of the night and I can completely see why. A very worthy winner from a supremely talented director.

2) Jules D. (dir. Norma Vila, horror/fantasy, Spain)

On the face of it, this would probably seem like the most amateurish or low-budget of the films on offer. However, I loved it for several reasons. It was an emotionally affecting tale of a boy of around 12/13 who longs to be a vampire. The central performance, from one so young, was excellent. This had my favourite visual style – production design and cinematography – of all the films. There was a wonderful shot of Jules looking through the bars of a cage at a vampire bat. There were touches of humour, also. This was just a lovely little film.

 

1) Einstein-Rosen (dir. Olga Osorio, sci-fi, Spain)

Set in the early 1980s, a young boy tries to convince his brother that he has found a wormhole (the Einstein-Rosen Bridge of the title) in the courtyard of their apartment block. His brother remains unconvinced until they return to the same spot 35 years later…

This was my favourite because of being hilariously funny, having a little nod to my favourite decade and the performances of the central quartet (two brothers, 35 years apart). This was the most enjoyable of the 8 films for me, but as I’ve said, my choices have been intensely personal.

I was genuinely blown away by the quality of the eight short genre films at Etheria Film Night. It was an amazing evening, that I feel privileged to have been a part of. I just hope Hollywood sits up and takes notice of the incredible range of behind-the-camera talent on offer from the other 50% of the population. It was fitting that this event took place in the same week ‘Wonder Woman’ came out. It has definitively proven that a woman director can do anything a man can do, if given the chance. Equal opportunities is about exactly that: OPPORTUNITY.

The Adventures Of Luke Starkiller as Taken From The Journal Of The Whills: Saga One: Star Wars

Articles + Interviews
Written by Chris Gelderd

Every great idea comes from your imagination, or rather; your imagination that has been inspired by something or someone else to give you said great idea.

George Walton Lucas Jr, the founder of small production company Lucasfilm since the 1960s, had a great idea for a movie in 1974; a Flash Gordon adventure. This was encouraged by his love of the Flash Gordon serials and the works of visionary director Akira Kurosawa. Before the seed was planted however, George Lucas had successful graduated from the University of Southern California and been turned down by the United States Army due to his diabetes. So, the only course that beckoned was his love for film.

After a few low-budget films under his belt like the panned ‘Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB’ in 1971 the well-received ‘American Graffiti’ in 1973, Lucas set his sights on buying the rights to Flash Gordon to make his own epic adventure film for the big screen. However, even with the help of his friend Francis Ford Coppola, George failed to acquire the rights and his vision was crushed

But this was a man with a dream, and one way or another he was going to achieve it! So, after ‘American Graffiti’ performed well, George began writing his own sci-fi adventure with a synopsis entitled ‘Journal of the Whills’. And so over the course of the next year, a vision started to come together that fused inspiration from world cinema, various genres and even his pet dog Indiana. Multiple drafts were done, and he threw ideas around trying to think what audiences would want to see; visions of a fantastical future, or adventures of a mystical past? Characters started to come together like General Annikin Starkiller, a large green smuggler with gills called Han Solo and mysterious villains known as Sith.

It became a classic story of good v evil, heroes and villains. A fantastical quest across the stars taken by a band of heroes to save the day, and a damsel in distress, held by evil villains as they try to conquer the galaxy. With conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie helping George turn his ideas of spaceships, sprawling planets, huge control rooms, armoured villains and roguish heroes into reality, by the time the fourth and final draft was complete, the story of Luke Starkiller, Jedi Knight, was ready to go. Securing a budget of $8.5m and the backing of 20th Century Fox, George laid the foundations through 1975

Forming his own visual effects company called ‘Industrial Light & Magic’, George began hiring the talent to bring his story to life. Visual effects engineer John Dykstra. Cinematographer Gilbert Taylor. Producer Gary Kurtz. Composer John Williams. Editor Paul Hirsch. Location scouting took place across America, North Africa and Europe to seek out locations ripe for turning into desert worlds and bustling cities, and Elstree Studios in London was hired for the more focused and controlled shooting.

sw

Young actor Mark Hamill was cast as Luke Skywalker – formally Starkiller – and with little experience to his name, George felt he was the perfect unknown face to become a young, naïve farm boy thrust into a galactic adventure.

Carrie Fisher, following a debut opposite Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn in ‘Shampoo’, took the role of Princess Leia, a member of the Galactic Senate and royal family, beating off competition from Jodie Foster, Karen Allen and Amy Irving to bag the role.

For the smuggler Han Solo, George Lucas wanted a new face for the role and so initially rejected young carpenter Harrison Ford, whom had worked with Lucas before on ‘American Graffiti’. It was only when Ford read lines for the auditions that his delivery actually won him the part, beating off competition from Sylvester Stallone, Christopher Walken, Jack Nicholson, Steve Martin and Billy Dee Williams to name but a few.

To counter his cast of unknown faces, Gary Kurtz made it clear that George needed some established actors to give the film credibility. For that, veteran actors Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness were cast as Governor Tarkin and Obi-Wan Kenobi respectively to add depth and a gravitas to their roles and importance to the story.

Theatre and radio actor Anthony Daniels was cast as protocol droid C-3PO who would act with his voice and body alone behind a full costume. Kenny Baker, standing at just 3ft 8 was cast as astromech droid R2-D2 to help control and operate the droid from inside. Rounding out the aliens and droids was Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca, a 7ft gentle Wookiee with fierce loyalty to the heroes of the piece.

The physically imposing bit-part actor David Prowse was cast as Sith Lord Darth Vader, our villain clad in black. Due to his West Country accent, his physical stance was all that was needed. Orson Welles was wanted to voice Vader, but due to him being too well known, George cast American actor James Earl Jones for his deep and menacing voice as Vader, recorded in post-production to help create a villain full of mystery and danger.

With many more British and American talent filling out the rest of the cast of good guys and bad guys, ranging from farmers to pilots to aliens and soldiers, the shoot commenced in March 1976.

sw

It initially became more surreal as it went on. Cast and crew injected their passion and professionalism into the shoot for a film that seemed to be nothing but a “children’s film”. The harsh climate of Tunisia hampered external shots and proved difficult for Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker to work in, confined to their robotic suits, let alone the armoured clad Stormtroopers on set. The sets on Elstree were difficult to fit out and light correctly with their dark and brooding black and gray colours. Furthermore, director George was a very quiet and introverted man on set. Focused, serious and adamant to battle on to get his dream to the big screen, he was difficult to work with at times and many of the cast tried to crack his serious shell.

Even the actors, having as much fun as possible, found it one big joke. Harrison Ford lauded the script – “you can type this shit George but you sure can’t say it” – and production design – “there’s a princess with weird buns in her hair”. Kenny Baker felt the film was going to be a flop. Alec Guinness at times felt the film was mindless and had no real direction.

George was diagnosed wish exhaustion and hypertension by the end of shooting. Post-production was also a tough time in getting the visual effects right, working to a tight deadline that pushed a Christmas 1976 release back to summer 1977. Convincing studio execs and peers to have faith in the film was also tricky. It was a tough film from start to finish, and the budget expanded by $3m to a total of $11m taking in re-shoots and added effects. Composer John Williams recorded the soundtrack in March 1977 with the London Symphony Orchestra to help tell the story with music, not just words.

With little faith and marketing from Fox, only 40 theatres ordered the final cut of the film.

On Wednesday May 25th 1977, George Lucas’s dream of a small scale sci-fi space saga was finally released to low expectations.

It was called ‘Star Wars’.

40 years to that day, the rest, as they say, is history…

Sir Roger Moore – Nobody Did It Better

Articles + Interviews
Written by Chris Gelderd

Mention the name James Bond to anyone. What do they think of? The danger of Sir Sean Connery? The gadgets, girls and guns? The hunky Daniel Craig? Quite possibly, but in a few seconds they will think about memorable villains who one actor faced, a classic opening theme who one actor entered to, lots of eye-rolling puns that one actor made iconic and a charming British persona that was, and still is, unmatched.

This one actor blended so much classic iconography into the role of James Bond that, favourite or not, he became quite possible the defining face of Britain’s number one spy; Sir Roger Moore.

Sir Roger, the beloved actor who played James Bond for 7 years, has sadly passed away after a brave battle with cancer. It is my honour to write a short piece on the man we knew and loved both on and off screen.

Born in 1927 and following a wonderfully ordinary childhood, Roger George Moore wanted to be an actor from a very early age, but his dreams were cut short with national service as the Second World War hit, and National Service loomed. It was only after the war did Roger study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, learning much and meeting many faces who would shape and influence his career.

After graduation and working as male model and taking extra television work when he could, Roger didn’t hit the big-time. Even with his dashing good looks and British charm, not even a film contract with MGM IN 1954 helped boost his name, with a few small roles here and there. Nor did a move to Warner Brothers in 1959. Roger Moore was, effectively, a nobody.

Turning his attention to the small screen back to his home country of England, what better role could fit this aforementioned handsome, charming man than Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe in ‘Ivanhoe’, an adaptation of the 1819 romance novel in in the 12th century.  That was when the small-screen called. Following ‘Ivanhoe’, Roger followed suit with ‘The Alaskans’ and later ‘Maverick’, both American westerns.

rm3

From these roles that helped expand his quality at acting, screen presence and passion for the industry, another TV show came along. ‘The Saint’.  In 1962 (when a little film called ‘Dr.No’ was released introducing the world to James Bond), Roger Moore was launched internationally as a household name in playing the suave, womanising, cunning and dangerous Simon Templar for 7 years.

Following that, a newly married (for the 3rd time!) Roger starred in ‘The Persuaders!’ from 1971 to 1973 alongside Tony Curtis as a couple of millionaire playboys who got into all sorts of adventures. It was also in 1971 that Sean Connery stepped down for the final time as James Bond, leaving the door wide open for a new actor to take on the role as the suave, sophisticated secret agent.

Free from his television contracts, Roger, the most famous Brit on TV at that time, was signed by Bond producers Albert R Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to appear as 007 in 1973s ‘Live And Let Die’. Nothing was ever the same again. Not even the everyday raise of the eyebrow.

Spanning twelve years from 1973 to 1985 and covering 7 movies, Roger Moore became, and still is, the longest serving James Bond actor, and also the oldest, aged 43 in his debut and 58 in his finale. Not one to shy from work he loved, Roger starred in many dramas and action films during his Bond era that shaped him as an actor to bring charm, humour, excitement and action to his roles, such as ‘The Wild Geese’, ‘The Cannonball Run’ and ‘Gold’.

Roger was a very different Bond from Sean Connery, and has never been matched. He brought warmth and humour to the role, but was never afraid to show a dangerous side to his spy. He was the “family friendly” Bond that appealed to all generations and helped Bond gain many new followers and fans. He was also part of some iconic Bond moments that are memorable 40 years on. From the villains he faced, to the gadgets he used, the cars he drove and the one-liners he purred out, Roger Moore gave us a 007 like never before.

Following his finale of ‘A View To A Kill’ in 1985 as Roger hung up his Walther PPK, he took a deserved break from acting until 1990 when he started a quieter career in select films, television work and even pantomimes, injecting that trademark self-parody and passion to any role he took on as actor or presenter.

But it wasn’t just acting that Roger took on. In 1991 he was inspired by good friend Audrey Hepburn and became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. It was the continued acting and charity work that led to Roger becoming a ‘Commander of the Order of the British Empire’ (CBE) in 1999 followed by a ‘Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire’ (KBE) in 2003 to take the title “Sir”. He also met his fourth wife, Kristina Tholstrup in 2002 whom he was with until the end, but not before suffering a tragedy in 2016 when they lost their daughter, Christina, 47, to cancer.

Roger continued to work in voice-over and adverts from 2009 onwards, as well as his dedicated charity work. He also continued to be the unofficial ambassador for James Bond 20 years after he parted the role. From stage shows to talk about his life, promoting new 007 merchandise and writing books on his life and career, Roger never stopped, and nor did his passion for his work, his family and his fans.

Suave, sophisticated and not remotely serious, which is why we loved him and will continue to love him, thanks to his legacy on and off screen.

Thank you, Sir Roger. Thank you for keeping the British end up.

Sir Roger Moore, 1927 – 2017.

Stand Up Specials And The Unintentional Death Of Blockbuster Comedy

Articles + Interviews
Written by Patrick Alexander

The year was 2008. Millions of teenagers flocked to the cinema in the prime of adolescent sophistication with $10 bills and red vines in hand. In a 3 year span, they had witnessed the greatest comedy blockbuster run of their time. Call it youthful exuberance; call it an anomaly; call it what you want; just don’t call it Shirley. From 2006-2008, Hollywood had solved the comedy algorithm dishing out hits and home-runs like Alex Rodriguez in his prime. Personal opinions aside, take a look:

2006: Talladega Nights, Night at the Museum (underrated), Beer Fest, Little Miss Sunshine, The Break-Up [1], Grandma’s Boy, Accepted, Nacho Libre, Clerks II and Borat!  

2007: Knocked Up, Superbad, Hot Fuzz, Juno, Hot Rod, Rush Hour 3, and Blades of Glory (shut up critic).

2008: Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Tropic Thunder, Step Brothers, Pineapple Express, Semi-Pro, Burn After Reading, and Kung-Fu Panda [2].

However, little did anyone know, that run concluded an era when the comedy blockbuster mattered. After 2008, the pulse of the comedy blockbuster went dark. The wrong stars got together, in the wrong roles or at the wrong time. Decade long runs of chemistry and collaborative brilliance were traded in for experimentation and solo projects. Comedy sequels and remakes became the norm as studios shifted focus from creating laughs to cashing cheques. Sadly, the real issue might’ve been that the best comedic actors got old. The comedy blockbuster lost its mojo and burned its fans like citizens of ancient Rome. And from its ashes rose the conquistador we call, “Stand-Up Comedy Specials.”

comedy2

Now, the stand-up comedy special was nothing new. From Eddie Murphy’s ‘RAW to Chris Rock’s ‘Bring the Painto Dave Chappelle’s Killin’ Them Softly‘, stand up specials were always a readily available plan-B to the critically acclaimed recommendations dished out by your local Blockbuster clerk. Only stand-up specials had never screened in theaters nationwide or sold copies like ‘Titanic’, and therefore, couldn’t carve out an appropriate slice of the pie. The closest to relevance stand-up comedy ever made it was the HBO Comedy Half Hour series of the mid-90s. In August 2012, that all changed. After 5 years spent figuring out their streaming service, Netflix cracked open Pandora’s Box with it’s debut stand-up special, ‘Bill Burr: You People Are All the Same’. The comedy landscape would never be the same.

Following 2008, a half-decade of delivering only a couple solid comedy hits per year had fans losing trust. After dozens of whiffs with underwhelming numbers, the studios began to cede ground to its online and on-demand competitors. Watching Adam Sandler half-ass a smug grin, on a weekend trip to the theater for the comely price of $25+tax, just wasn’t enough for the American people anymore. The opportunity cost of going to the local cinema became too high; the options available became more expansive; the viewing public grew to be more efficient about their time. Overall, a myriad of outside factors contributed to the downfall of blockbuster comedy, but the greatest death knell of all came from the studios themselves – sequels.

In hindsight, it seems simple to speculate that we didn’t need two (possibly 3?) ‘Grown Ups films or four movies about fuckbuddies in the same year, but at the time who would’ve known? Oh yeah, anyone with a pulse. As comedians and comedy writers shifted away from handing over their top-tier material to screenplays for pennies on the dollar, Hollywood turned to its tried and true formula: running it back. One ‘Dirty Grandpa‘, two ‘Teds‘, three ‘Hangovers‘, four Will Ferrell comebacks nobody asked for, and 5 years later…well this is our hell.

To be fair, this hell was not created completely by studios. It was aided by Father Time and Uncle Greed. Guys like Owen Wilson & Ben Stiller started pursuing indie passion projects. Guys like Vince Vaughn & Simon Pegg started cashing cheques as leads in films they couldn’t carry. Guys like Will Ferrell & Adam Sandler became tired versions of their past selves real quick, going through the big-budget production motions. All in all, the stars of yesteryear got old and nobody truly rose to the forefront in their place. The new wave of blockbuster comedians never materialized. God bless Andy Samberg & Ed Helms for trying, but two guys does not a next generation make.

comedy

Meanwhile, as the comedy blockbuster sphere started acting more erratic than your average day on the NASDAQ, the millennials of the world slowly shifted their collective attentions to the screens right in front of them. Capitalizing on the streaming boom from 2013-present day, Netflix took over, launching Burr, Mike Birbiglia, Jim Jeffries, Chelseas Peretti, Iliza Schleshinger, Tom Segura and dozens of other comedians into the mainstream. Coupled with Comedy Central’s introduction of Aziz Ansari, Anthony Jeselnik, and Amy Schumer, it was enough for stand up comedy specials to become a regular part of our comedy diet. In under a decade, the stand up special transformed from plate-filling sides to the main course.[3] In essence, our tastes for how we ingest comedy changed.

The average American became filthier given more access to all the grimy, deranged[4] shit on the internet. We love to get dirty, but nobody to know about it which makes stand up comedy such a natural fit for the current climate. As a younger man’s genre, the millennial generation embraced the well-developed, levity-ridden, open dialogue stand-up brings on controversial topics such as race, abortion, sexual assault, and even the raunchier part of our daily lives. You know, the stuff you shouldn’t talk about in public.

Stand-up comedians write jokes that no Hollywood studio in their wildest dreams could green light. Try to imagine a comedy coming out this summer, starring David Spade and Melissa McCarthy, about rape. You can’t. It would be the most merciless beheading of actors, directors, writers, producers, studio, and everybody involved on down to the key grip 4, in film history. Stand-up might have been raised in that dirty niche under the noses of high society, but nowadays it’s your rich Uncle’s favorite house guest.

And just when Hollywood thought they’d earned our trust back with a balanced, more original 2016[5] filled with a few budding comedic actors, Netflix delivered “The Block“…aka Dave Chappelle. Game, set, match. With comedy legends Louis C.K., Tracy Morgan, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, and Sarah Silverman all slated for potential 2017 releases, stand up comedy specials have become appointment viewing. Combined with the paltry options of comedy blockbusters due out this year [6], stand-up specials ain’t giving the trophy back.

In an age of constant newness, the consistent discovery and evolution of new comedians with fresh material runs through the arc of open mic-er to stand-up regular to instant streaming special. A system set up to unleash a steady stream of hungry newcomers and thankful lifelong comics finally getting a fair shot. It’s automated for infinite future success and a winning formula developed over decades of stand-ups fighting for their right to air time. Comedians getting the pay off they deserve. Finally, something we can all agree on.

 

[1] and Jennifer Aniston’s backside! 
[2] Put some respect on it.
[3] Thanks, vegans. 
[4] read: funny.
[5] The Nice Guys, Deadpool, Popstar, Ghostbusters (women edition), Everybody Wants Some!!, Keanu.
[6] Baywatch, Fist Fight, Chips?…oh dear God, that’s…that’s Pitch Perfect 3’s music.

Mental Health Awareness Week – Hollywood Tackles The Taboo

Articles + Interviews
Written by Chris Gelderd

May 8th – 14th marks Mental Health Awareness Week.

When you say “mental health” to many, the first thing they think about is person who acts a little different to others, who does not conform to many social statuses, and is generally a bit of an outsider. Mental health is so much more than that, and many people simply do not understand the far-reaching effects mental health has on those who suffer with it, and also the ones who love, care, work or even simply know the affected party.

What can encompass mental health? Wow. Where do you start?

Anorexia. Hallucinations. Panic attacks. Tourettes. Work-life balance.

The list is comprehensive to say the least.

Hollywood hasn’t shied away from mental health in film, and many popular films over the years help spread awareness of mental health issues, the effect they have and the consequences. Yes, of course, Hollywood doesn’t always get it right, and it has to make subject matter entertaining to make money, but studios, cast and crew do try to inject mental health into movies where they can, and they do an important thing by doing this – spread the word and help the general public become aware.

I like Carmine Falcone’s quote in ‘Batman Begins’ to sum up this taboo:

“This is a world you’ll never understand. And you always fear what you don’t understand.”

Mental health is a world many will never understand, and because of that, they fear it. 

Let’s take a look at a snapshot of popular movies that have tackled mental health in some way and left an impact on audiences, created important discussion and spread awareness to help alleviate that lack of understanding.

AUTISMRain Man (1988) / The Imitation Game (2014) / Power Rangers (2017)

Autism is a growing disorder which is characterised by a lack of social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication and restricted or repetitive behaviour. Dustin Hoffman as Raymond in ‘Rain Man’ was the first big glimpse into Autism via Hollywood, and as there was little understanding or support at that time, it acted a double edged sword. “Rain Man” is the term people use for Autistic people because that’s what they expect – quirky people who make funny noises and remember everything. But, it made people take note and that was the start of what is now a growing understanding and study of Autism, even now in film. Things have come a long way and continue to do so.

DEMENTIA On Golden Pond (1981) / The Notebook (2004) / Remember (2015)

Dementia, bracketed with Alzheimer’s disease, causes a long term and gradual decrease in the ability to think for themselves, process emotion and affect their daily functioning. A heart-breaking issue, this lends itself to a strong emotional core that comes across in powerful films. It helps us understand how this can slowly take away a person, without us even knowing it until it’s too late. It shows how we can help them, how we can cope and what helps them remember moments thought long gone. ‘The Notebook’ does this to great effect.

DEPRESSIONInteriors (1978) / Cake (2014) / Inside Out (2015)

Depression encompasses many factors including low self-esteem, low energy, false beliefs and a general low mood. It is becoming increasingly common in today’s society, but one many who don’t understand can dismiss easily.  Film shows us how triggers can cause depression – major changes to lifestyle, medication, health or social issues can lead people experiencing depression. Jennifer Aniston in ‘Cake’ portrays this brilliantly, and even Pixar help touch upon the subject for young audiences in ‘Inside Out’.

EROTOMANIA Fatal Attraction (1987) / The Crush (1993)  / Enduring Love (2004)

A delusional disorder in which the suffer can easily believe another person is in love, or infatuated, with them. This lends itself to other areas such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. For effect, this is played to a more sinister side, creating thrillers and haunting stories told from a victim’s point of view, but with moments that help us understand why the suffer feels the way they do, which is often over-looked and ignored.

OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER Sleeping With The Enemy (1991) / The Aviator (2004) / Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

This disorder has people depend on routines, checking things repeatedly and trying to stay in control. Linked to anxiety and a risk of suicide, OCD can dominate a person’s day and life by their need to perform certain routines and have certain thoughts and processes in order to cope, linking back to an earlier trauma.

SUBSTANCE ABUSEPulp Fiction (1994) / Pure (2002) / Flight (2012)

Otherwise known as addiction or dependence, substance use disorder (SUD) can refer to any physical substance, but is primarily alcohol and drug related which affects the suffers physical and mental state, and affects the safety of them around others. Film continues to deliver powerful messages about the roads that lead to SUD and also the consequences if it isn’t worked on to be righted.

Agoraphobia. Eating disorders. Hypersexuality. Post-traumatic stress disorder. Suicide.

As said before, the list is too great to fully explore, but films for all ages, from ‘Finding Nemo’ to ‘Trainspotting’ have continued to help bring mental health to the big screen and for all generations to start to see and understand that this is NOT something to fear, but something to strive to help deal with and find support for the sufferers and their families and friends.

For more information on Mental Health, please visit this website: www.mentalhealth.org.uk

If you need someone to talk to, to listen or understand, then you are not going to be alone in finding that support.

Take some time out to discuss mental wellbeing with your friends and family if you feel there is need to. Encourage them, and yourself, to open up, to share and discuss, and most importantly, not to feel alone or judged by society.

Alien: Covenant – Timeline Explained And The Details You Need To Know

Articles + Interviews
Written by Jo Craig

With the release of ‘Alien: Covenant’ landing this Friday in UK cinemas (US May 19th), and Ridley Scott’s recent blunder unveiling ‘Alien: Awakening’ as the third prequel, preceding possibly another three chapters, heads are starting to roll over the structure behind the franchises timeline. We know ‘Covenant’ will be the official sequel to 2012’s ‘Prometheus’, introducing another crew piloting the titular vessel that discovers an uncharted earth-like planet.

But how will this instalment stand with the previous featurettes, and will the timeline fall into place and tie to the 1979 original?

Let’s take a look at the chronological timeline to date:

‘Prometheus’ (2012) – Year 2091

Kicking things off with the first of Ridley Scott’s prequels, archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover a star map to the moon, LV-223 and assemble on board the vessel Prometheus to travel to and excavate the uncharted planetoid, creating our first look at humanity’s interaction with the Xenomorph kind. Despite only encountering Facehuggers, with a brief look at an original Alien in the closing scene, the crew only battle with themselves and the attempted lift-off of the Xenomorph spacecraft. Scott never really revisits the confined ambience expressed in the original 1979 story, but makes an impressive representation of scale on LV-223 with the introduction of humanoid aliens and one of the first droids, David (Michael Fassbender).

‘Alien: Awakening’(?) – Set between 2091-2101

Originally featured in an interview with Fandango, Ridley Scott accidentally divulged ‘Awakening’ as his third prequel title, allegedly meant to be set after ‘Prometheus’ but before ‘Covenant’. This is where the timeline became a puzzle. Judging by the fact ‘Covenant’ is supposed to take place a decade after ‘Prometheus’, this would place Awakening somewhere in these ten years. Hopefully ‘Covenant’ will give some insight into what backstory will be featured in the prequel of a prequel.

‘Alien: Covenant’ (2017) – Year 2101

Sailing through the decagon and we’re presently at ‘Covenant’, where a new colonial ship, equipped with a fresh crew and next level droid, Walter (Michael Fassbender), explores a new planet they consider to be an ‘uncharted paradise’. You can find all the details we know about ‘Covenant’ further down this piece.

‘Alien’ (1979) – Year 2122

Discrepancies over what year Scott’s brainchild, ‘Alien’ was set in is still an on-going talking point among resolute aficionado’s, however the consensus states that the journey of the USCSS Nostromo took place around the year 2122, thirty years after the birth of the ships third in command, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and twenty-one years after Prometheus. During the first act, we’re introduced to the Xenomorphs and the discovery of their planet Hiveworld, where executive officer, Kane (John Hurt) is attacked by a Facehugger, later dying from the birth of its spawn, via Kane’s torso, the Chestburster. Ridley Scott and DoP Derek Vanlint created this oppressive nature with tight shots and choking vignettes that set the bar for future chapters.

‘Aliens’ (1986) – Year 2179

Fast forward fifty-seven years, while Ripley and her cat Jones are in hyper sleep, and we arrive at James Cameron’s sequel, logically placing the year as 2179. Although Cameron removed some of the weight previously seen in ‘Alien’, the terrifying threat of the Xenomorphs continued to terrorize Ripley and her return to a now human inhabited Hiveworld to try and exterminate the Alien species with a team of military personnel.

‘Alien 5’ (Rumoured) 

Neill Blomkamp first hinted at his vision of the ‘Alien’ franchise while working with Sigourney Weaver on ‘Chappie’ in 2015, explaining his rendition would forget the events of ‘Alien 3’ and ‘Alien: Resurrection’ to be “more liberal” with the outcome of ‘Aliens’ characters, Newt and Hicks. With Ridley Scott’s assurance that ‘Covenant’ would go into production first, deterring any overshadowing, Blomkamp’s ambiguous sequel was put on “temporary hold” despite Weaver stating to EW “it’s satisfying to me to give this woman an ending.”

‘Alien 3’ (1992) – Year 2179 (approx.)

After another brief hyper sleep on the Sulaco, Ripley crash lands on Fiorina 161, a correctional facility situated on a foundry establishment. Ripley and the inmates lure and capture a Xenomorph that was birthed by one of the prisoners, concluding with the arrival of a rescue cavalry and Ripley’s pre-meditated suicide. Presuming that Ripley only slept within the same year that ‘Aliens’ was set, ‘Alien 3’ is placed within the same year, assuming she was only asleep for a short period of time. David Fincher helmed the third instalment (at the time) resurrecting the art-house horror effect that Scott produced in 1979.

Alien: Resurrection (1997) – Year 2379

Jumping 200 years into the future, Ripley returns as half-human, half droid from the DNA samples taken before her arrival on Fiorina 161. Droid Ripley is created on the USM Auriga, joining the crew to once again attempt to eradicate the Alien species after the escape of imprisoned Xenomorphs that a team of Scientists were experimenting on. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s conclusive excerpt in the franchise appeared to be blatantly unaware of the approach of the previous three films, approving bizarre scriptwriting from Joss Whedon and half-arsed character building. Jeunet never harnesses the character of Ripley, albeit she was a clone, but ‘Resurrection’ does nothing to enhance her or continue Scott’s successful tactility.

What We Know About ‘Covenant’

Filmed in Australia and New Zealand, the sixth film of the series has elements pertaining to the poem of ‘Paradise Lost’, the original title for the film. Initially planning to follow Dr. Elizabeth Shaw on her next adventure, Scott explained that “Paradise cannot be what you think it is. Paradise has a connotation of being extremely sinister and ominous” thus revealing groundwork for the current narrative.

PLOT

Travelling to an isolated planet on the far side of the galaxy, crew members, Daniels (Katherine Waterson) and Oram (Billy Crudup) of the colonial vessel Covenant, discover what appears to be undiscovered paradise. Upon this planet, they meet David (Michael Fassbender), the droid survivor from the futile Prometheus mission, and soon encounter an alien life-form that threatens their existence.

It’s clear that Scott wanted to represent ‘Paradise Lost’ from the very start, creating an alleged ‘paradise’ for the Covenant to uncover, later revealing the planets sinister nature when it’s exposed as alien turf.

The film’s original plot failed to hint at Elizabeth Shaw’s return, however after being spotted on an Australian set and added to the IMDB cast list, it is assumed her account will tie into Daniels mission, if only revealed in flashback from David’s account. David is also the only other link that would tie Prometheus to its sequel, as he will surely retell his account of the failed ships endeavour.

WALTER / DAVID   

Firstly, Michael Fassbender is returning to play the previous films droid, David. ‘Covenant’ will explain that after the events of ‘Prometheus’, David travels to the planet of the ‘engineers’, to unearth the creation of mankind and why the Xenomorphs were created (possibly as weapons). “You’ve got to go back and find those Engineers and see what they are thinking,” Scott explained to Deadline.  

Secondly, Fassbender will be portraying an extension to the David-8 synthetic line, Walter, with dark hair and an American accent. While no depth has been divulged for Walter’s role in this film, we know he will be on board the Covenant as part of the crew exploring the new planet.

Ridley Scott’s son, Luke Scott (Morgan), directed a short advertisement, ‘Meet Walter’, unveiling the manufacturing of the droid and the understanding that he has been constructed without human emotions. This is a significant upgrade from David, as Walter is believed to struggle to perceive the concept of friendship with crew member Daniels. Michael Fassbender even described him as similar to Spock.

COVENANT CREW       

Katherine Waterson will play lead, Daniels, alongside Billy Crudup as fellow colonist Christopher Oram. Fassbender will appear as the droids, David and Walter, as well as other crew members, Tennessee (Danny McBride) and Faris (Any Seimetz).

According to the IMDB cast list, Guy Pierce is set to cameo as Peter Weyland, along with a short performance from James Franco, helming the ship as Captain and Daniels’ husband.

RIDLEY’S CREW     

 

While Ridley Scott is directing his third addition to the ‘Alien’ franchise, Scott, Amy Greene (X-Men: First Class) Mark Huffman (Prometheus) and Michael Schaefer (The Martian) will all produce, leaving cinematography to Dariusz Wolski (Pirates of the Caribbean) and music by Jed Kurzil (Assassin’s Creed)

After taking over screenwriting from Jon Spaihts for ‘Prometheus’, ‘Lost’ mastermind, David Lindelof jumped ship on this sequel completely, handing the story over to Jack Paglen (Transcendence) and Michael Green (Green Lantern) with screenplay by John Logan (Gladiator). Green is also penning Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’ sequel, proving Scott has a fair amount of trust in Green’s abilities,

With the noteworthy success of ‘Prometheus’, achieving a 72% on Rotten Tomatoes, we can expect ‘Alien: Covenant’ to contend as a commendable extension to the ‘Alien’ prequels, created in the safety of originator Ridley Scott. The duality of ‘Paradise Lost’, a theme that moulds the ‘Covenant’ plot, was hinted at in ‘Prometheus’ through Shaw’s excitement at LV-223’s discovery and was cleverly extended and enhanced for its follow-up. The ship’s crew look like they’ve returned to exist within the original franchise, as the ‘Prometheus’ crew appeared too refined and unbreakable in a sense. Michael Fassbender will lend a familiar layer to another unfamiliar vessel and voyage, as well as the return of the evolving Xenomorph species.

Noting from the trailer, it suggests ‘Covenant’ will be similar to its prequel in portraying grand scale with spectacular open terrain, but also harness the smothering environment and tension on the ship as the 1979 original mastered. Audiences will also be keen to find out how ‘Covenant’ will conclude and if it will perhaps give reference to the beginning of the Nostromo.

Overall, ‘Covenant’ will hopefully draw out the clinging terror that brought about the franchises original success, with ten times more Alien action and characters that you don’t want to be squashed by a spaceship donut.

 

 

May The 4th Be With You – More Than Just A Convenient Date

Articles + Interviews
Written by Chris Gelderd

The fourth of May… The day that comes but once a year.

To many, just another day of a season, but to most it’s a day beyond anything this galaxy could prepare us for. It’s a day to celebrate all things Star Wars. Is it official? As in a celebration made official by LucasFilm? No.  But it has transcended boundaries, as Star Wars always does, because it is now recognised by George Lucas himself, and even by Disney, as a day that means so much to fans of the franchise around the world.

The first organised celebration of the day only came later in the years in 2011 at the Toronto Underground Cinema, where fans gathered for trivia games, cosplay competitions and big-screen presentations of internet based tribute films, spoofs and sketches. And even now, Disney incorporates special Star Wars themed attractions and events at their parks on this day because, while not a national holiday, it has something stronger than a government backing to make it a memorable day – the backing of fans!

But even before then, going back to the late 1970s when ‘A New Hope’ blasted audiences into another galaxy, May the 4th became the day when fans could wear their t-shirts and costumes with pride, play with their toys in the streets and generally do anything related to Star Wars, because it was THEIR day.

And in the world media, the first official incorporation of the Star Wars-themed date was back in 1979 when Britain elected their first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Author Alan Arnold, who was working on ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ at the time, remembers:

“Margaret Thatcher has won the election and become Britain’s first woman prime minister. To celebrate their victory her party took a half page of advertising space in the London Evening News. This message, referring to the day of victory, was ‘May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations,’ further proof of the extent to which Star Wars has influenced us all.”

The date soon spread across the world and it was used by fans to further bring the escapism of Star Wars into their everyday life, almost as if fate allowed it to happen. However, the question is more than just landing on a convenient date, what garners a film franchise the right to be globally celebrated.

It is almost a day specifically created in perfect unison with the most ground-breaking and popular film franchise of all to allow fans to celebrate it, and say thanks to it, how they see fit. This is rather a beautiful thing when you look at it, because this day is something created by fans to share with other fans. Not by the studios or production teams, but by the fans who were given these films who now want to show how much they mean to each individual in any way they see fit. They also want to give something back to the people behind the films, the books, the toys, games, clothing….it’s the ultimate fan love letter.

So what better way to celebrate the franchise? It’s not like you don’t have much to choose from. How will you celebrate your love for Star Wars? How about one of the following;

The classic movie marathon. All current seven episodes and our latest spin-off ‘Rogue One’ in order. But, you have to include the ‘Clone Wars’ animated movie set between Episodes II and III, right? At just over 17 hours, it can be done and will take you right from ‘The Phantom Menace’ to ‘The Force Awakens’, spanning  66 years of galactic history and ready to continue this year in December with ‘The Last Jedi’.

Read a good book or three. With SO much material out there spanning some 25,000 years BEFORE ‘A New Hope’, a wealth of canon and non-canon adventures await you from acclaimed authors including Timothy Zahn, James Luceno,  A.C. Crispin and Troy Denning.

Grab a controller and get online for a day of gaming on a classic or next-gen console with a stack of Star Wars games that span the whole saga. Play as heroes and villains from both sides of the Force in land, sea or air adventures ranging from first person shooters, puzzle games, MMORPG and arcade classics.

As you can see, there is so much to do and it doesn’t stop there. Have a Star Wars themed house party! A trivia game at work! Bake Star Wars cakes for your friends! Spam social media with so much Star Wars knowledge your monitor implodes!

The possibilities are endless, but there is no right way or wrong way to smother yourself in Star Wars goodness and know that millions more are doing the exact same thing.

And let’s not forget the new date creeping into fan’s calendars following May the 4th. It’s the revenge of the 5th! 

So this is just a little glimpse into the formation of a day by the fans and for the fans to celebrate everything that is Star Wars. Let us know what you’re doing to mark the day and show us via our social media outlets on Facebook or Twitter.

Thank you, and remember….

Decade Definers: 1960s

Articles + Interviews
Written by Chris Winterbottom and Jakob Lewis Barnes

Throughout history, cinema has reflected, echoed and even preempted societal shifts that occur through the ages, and that’s where our Decade Definers series comes in. We’ll take a look at the world, decade by decade, and discuss how the films of that era represented the attitudes, fears, desires and innovations of our society.

In this, the first of the series, we take a look at the 1960s – a period which produced some of the most awe-inspiring, revolutionary and shocking moments in modern history. The swinging sixties; what a time to be alive! A time of political upheaval, technological revolution, sexual and ideological liberation and of course, rock and roll. Presidents were killed, people fought and died for freedom and equality, music transcended entertainment, and man even walked on the moon. In our lifetime, there have been many events that have shook the world – both positively, and overwhelmingly negatively – but perhaps not as frequently as the events seen throughout the 1960s. So, which really encapsulate what this fascinating decade was all about?

Siena Oberman: Making Waves

Articles + Interviews
Interview by Jakob Lewis Barnes

We always strive to support the women in film movement here at JumpCut UK, by highlighting the outstanding women making waves in the industry. Our focus here is Siena Oberman; a producer hailing from Los Angeles, a woman on a mission, hoping to inspire and effect change whilst telling the stories that matter. Her latest short film ‘Iconoclast’ just got accepted into Cannes 2017, and she’s got plenty more where that came from. 


Female-Led Remakes: Help Or Hindrance?

Articles + Interviews
Written by Gillian Finklea

Just over a month ago now, on January 21, a large and international march led by and attended by so many amazing women inspired me in many ways. Women, and supporters of women’s rights, came out in droves to support many different things, but one universal message was clear – that women’s rights need to be respected and upheld, and that women’s voices need to be heard. And since movies are always at the back of my mind, I hoped this woman-positive energy would somehow transfer to the screen. Then I remembered ‘Ocean’s Eight’, and the distant talk of ‘The Expendabelles’. And now there’s plans for a ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ remake, with Rebel Wilson. It’s tough to be supportive of female-led movies, when they are just retreads of popular movies that originally starred men.