Archive for the ‘Films’ Category

[LINKS AND IMBEDDED VIDEO PROBABLY CONTAIN SWEARING]

I can’t watch Star Wars anymore. I do not like it. That is a massive admission for me. As a cinema manager, film maker and a film lecturer I am often asked why I like film so much, and that wonderful trilogy was always the answer.

For three decades I have, at various points, collected the stickers, purchased the toys, played the board games, the computer games, the card games. I quoted the films and used them as a source of strength and comfort when life became hard. I even proposed to my future bride with a line from Star Wars.

“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side … and you, are a good blaster, and I want you at my side for the rest of my life”

So what went wrong?

Of course the new films did not help, but I feel Simon Pegg summed up our feelings on that subject in Spaced.

I also hated the tinkering. The added special effects and the whole Greedo shooting first fiasco.

Filmmaker Kevin Smith used humour to point out the racism and the injustice of Star Wars. Just how many innocent plumbers and catering assistants died on the Death Star?

But what actually killed my passion for Star Wars was fandom.

The first time I noticed this was the last time I watched the trilogy. It was in Blu-Ray with surround sound, which was an amazing experience, but I did not get immersed as much as normal.

The reason for this is that I kept seeing and hearing the many parodies and satires, rather than watching the films.

Family Guy is a big culprit, but it is Vaders loss of villainy that has been the most damaging. Freddie (Nightmare on Elm Street) should not Rap and Darth Vader should not dance to M.C. Hammer.

There are videos of Vader being a jerk and being re-voiced by Arnie, but it is the video of him voiced by a character from Snatch that has changed the way I look at one of cinemas greatest villains.

All of these videos are funny and were never meant to be taken seriously. I laugh at them and share them, as I am doing now.

But it all seems like sunshine and giggles until you come to watch the original source material and realise that you can no longer see past the fandom.

As Danny says in Withnail and I –

“If you’re hanging on to a rising balloon, you’re presented with a difficult decision – let go before it’s too late or hang on and keep getting higher, posing the question: how long can you keep a grip on the rope? They’re selling hippie wigs in Woolworths, man.”

Star Wars has become a joke to me, and I am letting go of the rope.

For as long as I can remember I always wanted to be a trucker.

As a child this career path seemed AWESOME!

As an adult I have realised that the lifestyle I dreamed of having no longer exists. Even that relationship with vehicles has changed. Cars and trucks no longer symbolise freedom, they represent high fuel and insurance prices and being stuck in a traffic jam.

So where did my romanticized view come from? As is often the case with my life, the answer is film.

SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT

This was understandably the second highest grossing film in 1977 (second to Star Wars) and like Star Wars it had a big impression on me. The theme song “East Bound and Down” by Jerry Reed speaks of overcoming obstacles “doing what, they said, couldn’t be done”. The phenomenal Pontiac Firebird that the “Bandit” (Burt Reynolds – who really should have been in my Manly Hats post) drives is still one of my all time favourite cars.

Even in my child hood fantasies I did not have the confidence to imagine being the lead, I was much more comfortable in the side kick role – The Trucker “Snowman”. It felt achievable. Besides, he had a dog, and the Bandit seemed to spend too much time chasing a woman (Sally Fields), and at that tender age I thought girls were stupid.

THE CANNONBALL RUN

Not so much a trucking movie, but one that existed in the same world. Released in 1981 with a great cast, it’s not nearly as good as Smokey and the Bandit (also directed by Hal Needham), but its worth watching just for the outtakes at the end of the film. The cast was having a ball. (Roger Moore plays a man who believes he is a Secret Agent!) This was the 80’s and its easy to see why we all had posters on our walls of a Lamborghini Countach (and lady tennis players scratching their bums)

In this world even the Police have a Pontiac Firebird.

But once again its the theme song that has stayed with me.

“It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. Be anything you want to be. It’s not what you got, it’s how you use it, you be you, and I’ll be me. It’s just a matter of sty-le”

These films are Modern Day Westerns. They can only exist in America and they embody a sense of individualism, adventure and anti-authority that as a child, and now as an adult, I really responded to.

CONVOY

I just found out Sam Peckinpah directed this! Oh its a Western alright. I was aware of the theme song long before I saw the film, which is the least entertaining of the three I have mentioned. However that song is full of mystery and sparked many a day-dream.

“It was the dark of the moon on the sixth of June and a Kenworth pullin’ logs. Cab-over Pete with a reefer on and a Jimmy haulin’ hogs. We’s headin’ for bear on Eye-one-O ’bout a mile outta Shakeytown, I says “Pigpen, this here’s Rubber Duck” “And I’m about to put the hammer down”

I still have no idea what they are talking about, and until just now I thought it was “Big Ben” not “Pigpen”

So that’s it. The three films, with theme songs, that made me want to be a trucker. The open road, the sense of loyalty and comradeship, pulling on that horn, bar room brawls, huge burgers, beer, sleeping in the cab. Looking back I can see how they also shaped my film preferences, (John Carpenter, one of my favourite directors, Westerns, particularly Rio Bravo, Rocky and more) particularly due to the ideology and the casts.

Oh actually, in the words of Yoda, “there is another”.

Kurt Russell in Big Trouble in Little China

Some people have said to me that they would rather stay at home and enjoy a film on their big HD TV, Blu-Ray player and surround sound system, than spend money and go out to the cinema where they will be annoyed by people talking, moving or pretty much existing. (You shouldn’t say things like this, when you do, a puppy dies somewhere)

“These hermits are clearly mad”, I would think to myself, as a well managed cinema is a delight and is the rightful home to enjoy film as it was intended.

However I recently went out and bought a Blu-Ray Player with surround sound speakers, to go alongside my Sony Bravia TV, and the improvement has been astonishing.

I am sure it wasn’t always this good. I remember seeing a friends HD TV 4 years ago or so, and I thought the image was really off putting. I am starting to think that Blu-Ray Discs were, and are, still so advanced that equipment such as TVs, Blue Ray Players and HDMI cables are having to run to keep up. But they are gaining.

So far I have only watched Beauty and the Beast (which I had free from a Disney Road show), the musical numbers are spectacular in surround sound and the Beasts roar made my bum tingle. But the great thing that this new kit has done is re-ignite my passion for film.

You can get films free with newspapers, pick DVDs up for £2 in a supermarket, download them, watch them on the many, many channels now available, or, if you are so inclined, pirate them.

So why own DVDs at all?

My Home Entertainment System has changed that. I am giddy once again and I am about to go on a spending spree to re-watch pretty much any film I have ever seen, but this time it will be in HD and the glory of surround sound. Blu-Rays are often packed with even more extras too, they have more value and deserve a place on your shelves.

Home Entertainment Systems allow cinematic films (such as Inception and Tron) to have a stronger survival rate when watched at home, and that can only be a good thing.(Where as literary films such as The Kings Speech make the transfer to home viewing far easier)

The way we watch a film matters, and being in a cinema is still the best way to enjoy them. The build up as the adverts and trailers pass by, the ever so exciting Pearl and Dean fanfare, the hushed tones as the lights dim, and the SHARED experience of enjoying an art form.

To laugh, cry, be thrilled or terrified amongst a crowd of strangers is a beautiful thing. It is society at its best, people coming together to hear a story.

Cinema will always stand alone and fear no competition (as long as they provide a good customer experience) but home entertainment systems should have you buzzing with excitement at the prospect of re-watching The Thing, Jaws, The Godfather, Once Upon A Time In The West, Kung Fu Hustle, The Terminator, Aliens, hell even Road House.

Film is ACE. For a little while I think I forgot that.

Further Reading

This is the Kit I got. I wanted one with small speakers, and you could send off for the original Star wars trilogy on Blu-Ray for free.

And this is the awesome Pearl and Dean music.

We have a wonderful customer base at the cinema who are happy with the service we provide and the prices we charge. As Penrith bites and scratches to hang on to its position as a tourist destination we also have many customers from outside of the area who are delighted at how little we charge in comparison with their home town.

But prices are, and have been increasing, and there is the occasional customer that takes their frustration out on my staff.

I can remember, of course, when chewits were 10p, or those small cans of coke were 7p (I think they are 40p now?) We all remember when petrol was cheaper and each week we notice that our food shopping costs are ever increasing.

According to the UN’s latest update on global food prices, the cost of basic foods is still 37% higher than it was last year

Sadly this does not look like it will change, but we do our best at the cinema to remain competitive. We have rising costs of course, as do our suppliers. At least three companies we dealt with have gone bankrupt in the past year or two, it’s a challenging situation to be in.

Many understand that we are only actually making money for the 20 minutes before a film starts, and that the ticket price is split between the cinema and the distributor. We have no where near the buying power of a supermarket, so of course they will be cheaper than us when it comes to food. But we try to come in lower than a motorway petrol station.

But none of this really matters. Perhaps the issue is the value we put on goods and services? Sadly, due to piracy, £2 DVD bargain bins and newspapers giving away films for free, the perceived value of film is decreasing. It is becoming disposable, which is made worse by the industry responding to these new challenges by making broader, appeal to all, dumber movies … which we will have forgotten about the following year.

So how much is a cinema visit worth? Lets take Transformers 3 in 3D as an example (which cost over $400 Million to make – even more for print and advertising costs). An adult can come to our cinema and pay £7.50 (with the glasses) and watch a film on a big screen with 3D effects, for well over 2 hours and (hopefully) be entertained and have a respite from the stresses of life. With other films (probably not in 3D) perhaps the audience will be moved or inspired. For £5.50.

For an adult to go and look at some animals in a zoo it can cost £12.50.

Laser Quest will usually be around £4 – £5 for 20 minutes or so.

Bowling will be around £5

Last year I paid £4.50 to walk around a Maize Maze for a few hours. (and had a thoroughly nice day)

There are even people paying £10 to put their feet in a bucket of fish for 10 minutes.

Perhaps that’s the future of cinema. Each seat will have a bucket of fish in front of it so you can relax your feet whilst watching the film.

Let me be clear. I am not attacking any of the above. Each one provides either fun or relaxation, and a diversion from work, chores and bills.

They have value …. but why is that perceived value often seen to be greater than engaging with an art form, with culture. (I know, I know.. I am on shaky ground using Transformers as a case study and then talking about culture)

I understand that is annoying to pay more than you did a few years ago to watch a disappointing film. It is therefore important to read reviews, talk to those that have seen it and make an informed decision as to whether you want to risk it.

But if you do risk it, and get lucky, you may just watch a film that will make you laugh or cry, that may touch your soul, that could stay with you for the rest of your life and change the way you perceive the world.

Thats got to be worth £5.50 surely?

Further Reading

My friend Darren Connors film blog, who sadly passed away recently.

An article on cinema costs at Wise Geek

Men get sexier as they age

Posted: May 23, 2011 in Films, Manliness
Tags: , ,

I turn 34 today. Which I am okay with.

Actually I really like getting older. However there are people in my life that like to point out the grey hairs that are starting to appear in my stubble and my hair. They delight in pointing out my wrinkles, or the grunts I make whenever I get out of a chair.

But what they don’t understand is this. Men…. get sexier… as we get older.

It’s true. Women may have the upper hand throughout school, and throughout their twenties….but the thirties start to even the playing field, the forties the men edge ahead…. and after that…well the game is ours.

As men get older we finally mature, we get wiser and more confident. We reach an age at which we can smoke cigars and not look foolish.

Pirates of the Caribbean 4 is now at the cinemas and women still flock to see Johnny Depp. He is nearing 50. Aye…. 50. He is sexier now than he was in Edward Scissorhands or in Benny & Joon.

And he is not the only one.

Whilst women seek to look younger, use a wide range of products to keep their skin fresh, and go to plastic surgeons seeking cures to the ravages of age, men should embrace it. (Actually, so should women, as those that age gracefully are beautiful, as Lauren Bacall shows)

If men want plastic surgery it should be to look older. They should be chanting demands for Tommy Lee Jones wrinkles and Steve Buscemi eyes.

We need to look like we have lived. That we have gained wisdom through hardship….that we have suffered.

Don’t believe me?

Further Viewing

Standing in the doorway to the cinema over Easter weekend I noticed many young men walking past with their tops off and wearing a baseball cap. What is it about baseball caps that make them so popular among teenagers and those in their early twenties? Don’t they understand that only Magnum P.I could truly get away with wearing one?

A baseball cap is a strange piece of clothing because it seems to signify youth (in this country at least), and yet many of these males want to be taken seriously as men. Defining what a “man” is, is a tricky task indeed and I wonder if that is partly because of the lack of initiation rites in our culture. When do boys become men? It can’t be when we breed, because we have 12 year olds doing that now. It cant be when we get a mortgage, because I did that and nothing changed. So it must be something in our behaviour, in our wisdom and in our morals.

For me being a “man” is linked closely to my on screen role models. Put simply, it is doing the right thing. A quick assessment of any strong male role model in cinema will show a distinct lack of baseball hat wearing heroes (okay maybe Kurt Russel in Big Trouble in Little China, but he was more charming baffoon than Hero). There are several far more manly hats than a baseball cap and I have come up with the 7 best which will no doubt stir your ire.

Indiana Jones – The 100% Fur Felt Fedora that helped make archeologists sexy. He fought Nazi’s, saved child slaves, and still mantained a touch of the badboy fortune and glory hunter about him. Shortround wore the baseball cap. Who would you rather be?

The 100% Fur Felt Fedora that helped make archeologists sexy.

“It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage.”

Mick Dundee (Crocodile Dundee) The 100% Beaver Akubra hat (I think) with a crocodile leather hatband.
Yes he could kill a crocodile with his bare hands….and a knife, but he was also a genuinely nice bloke who accepted everyone just the way they were, and wanted the best for them all.

"That's incredible. Imagine seven million people all wanting to live together. Yeah, New York must be the friendliest place on earth."

John Wayne (Westerns)
John Wayne wore a lot of hats and played a lot of roles which often had this similiarity; they were AWESOME. His characters had integrity, courage and perseverance. He always strove to do the right thing and was loyal to his friends.

"Out here a man settles his own problems."

Rick (Casablanca) Fedora.
So many good acts under the guise of being out for himself, but it is the ending for which he will always be remembered. Bogart wore a Fedora in many of his films, the stand out ones being The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep.

"Are my eyes really brown?"

Solomon Kane
Solomon Kane was a 16th Century badass created by Conan creator Robert E Howard. He was an anti hero that turned to the path of rightousness and now stalks the land vanguishing evil …whilst wearing an absolutely phenomenal hat.

"There are many paths to redemption, not all of them peaceful."

Rocky – (Rocky 1 and Rocky Balboa) Another Fedora.
Rocky may be as thick as a whale omlette, but he has got it where it counts. He is a good man, that is polite and respectful to all and just wants to do his best. No matter what life throws at him he gets back up and gets back in to the fight. Yeah he does.

"The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place. It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it."

George Stone – (The Untouchables)
Sure Elliot Ness brought them together, and Sean Connery as Malone is an audience favourite, but it is Andy Garcia as Stone who has the coolest scene by far as he slides across the floor saving a baby, throwing a gun to his unarmed friend and getting the bad guy in his own sights. Yes they were untouchable, but they were also friends, striving to do the right thing against overwhelming odds.

"If he pulls a knife, you pull a gun. If he sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue."

With so many great hats on offer why choose a baseball cap? I suspect it is the desire to fit in. I read somewhere that we comprimise 95% of our personality during our school years, in order to fit in. (I hope thats not true.) A year ago I bought a Fedora, and as I stepped out of my house I hesitated and had a moment when I feared the reaction I would get at work. Isn’t that crazy? A 32 year old worrying about how people will react to a hat? None of the above worried, and so neither will I and neither should you.

So cast off your baseball caps and wear a hat that shows off your desire to me a man – whatever that is.

Further Reading

The Art of Manliness guide to hats and hat etiquette.

Hat Shop – where I got my Fedora