Getting Back On The Horse…

I was, earlier in the year, writing a blog a day, posting every day – not here, I have a few blogs – but definitely posting consistently. A few things happened to derail my posting; laziness was one, I visited the cinema less frequently and I decided to make a film after an almost four-year hiatus.

So I made the film – The Good, The Bad And The Tennis – and then…nothing. I have been messing about with editing and Da Vinci Resolve colour correction software and looking into all sorts of myriad FCPX plugins – they really need audio enhancement!  – basically, I have been procrastinating.

Though I have begun writing a sequel to my last short, even though I am not a massive fan of sequels, not bad ones anyway, there are a few classic ones – Godfather part two, Rocky two, Terminator two.

I am feeling that I need to get back to blogging, writing random thoughts at least, so as to allow space for creative, plot and story breaking thoughts. That’s the hope anyway. I am determined to not let another extended period of navel-gazing halt my filmic output.

It is my desire to be a filmmaker, storyteller, and since it is entirely my decision if I pursue that particular goal, let the pursuit begin.


Worthy Sequels

As an aspiring screenwriter, I, like many, sometimes get caught up in the haughty conceit of thinking of film sequels as a tasteless, feeble and gratuitous attempts to elicit the hard earned from the film-going masses.

   Why can’t they write something new? We wail, convinced that if – when – they read one our brilliant works or even just an outline, they would find the next great tentpole movie. Of course, if that were to happen, we would never do a sequel. No. Nope. Never. A sequel is the laziest kind of movie. What self-respecting scribe would take on a sequel gig? Stop shouting about Joss Whedon and Alien 3! He was trying to help! Never diss Joss!

   Anyway, as much as there are one or two films that may have gone somewhat sequel-mad, following the tried and tested formula of getting progressively worse – Police Academy, The Terminator, Die Hard, The Matrix, Resident Evil, Jaws – to name a few. Sequels are not always a terrible idea, some stories naturally lend themselves to an extension. You want to know what happened next. Sometimes the sequel tops the original.

   One of the best sequels ever made (if you have not seen it, stop reading now and go and watch it! You should hang your head in shame!) is The Godfather part two.

     Generally speaking, films of books tend to depart from the source material. Sometimes it’s because some aspects are unfilmable or would be prohibitively expensive to make, though with the rapid advancements in CGI a lot of things that were considered unfilmable in the past, are now even possible on a home computer! There was also the egos of creatives involved, director or writer thinking they have come up with a better filmic view, or even the studio just wanting a more audience-friendly film.

    Whatever the reason many a book to screen translation has ended up an unholy mess. The Godfather and its brilliant sequel were written by Mario Puzo. Puzo also wrote the book so understood the nuances that needed to stay in the film and script. As an aside, he also happened to write the Christopher Reeves’ Superman one and two. Pity he was no longer around to help Zack – it’s too damn long! – Snyder! Though studios generally like to keep the authors away from the films – looking at you Anne Rice – director Francis Ford Coppola, a man known for getting his way,  was team Puzo. The Godfather part two is truly an astounding sequel.

   Another egomaniac director, James Cameron, who generally hits home runs, though his insistence that the truly awful Terminator: Genisys was a good film has put him on my laminated hate list forever, what he did do was make one of the greatest sequels ever in T2.

   The advance of computer graphics in the intervening seven years between films, allowed Cameron to bring an exciting, bigger spectacle to the screen, whilst still retaining the relentless urgency of the first film. Not only did we see a newer and more dangerous terminator, we believe the story.

   For an X-men fan, especially of the Chris Claremont era, Bryan Singer has a lot to answer for when it comes to the X-men canon. Having taken extreme liberties with almost every aspect of the X-men history, from their ages, group make up, founding members and costumes, it’s a wonder his X-men is watchable at all. Of the films he has made, the sequel to his first X-men film is probably his best. With a cracking opening, introducing a battling, teleporting Nightcrawler/Kurt Wagner, the film thunders along nicely, showing fantastical set pieces amid a modern take on oppression due to differences. After the first X-men film, with all its faults, fans were unsure as to whether he could follow it up. X2 tops the first film.

   Staying with the super powered, the most surprising sequel, especially considering its predecessors, is Logan. If you suffered the two previous standalone outings of the Wolverine franchise you have my sympathies. What is truly surprising about Logan is not how utterly brilliant it is, it’s that it was directed by the same person who did the Wolverine! James Mangold directed the risible The Wolverine, a film so bad it made me angry. Logan is possibly the biggest improvement in a franchise I have ever seen or heard of. From the opening scene – no spoilers – through to the final resolution, Logan is as close to a perfect X-men film as cinema has ever got.

Going old school

Toward the back end of 2013, as work slowed and the holidays came into focus, I turned my attention to that which dominated my life for the last two months of the year: film. Obviously it was my own film that was dominating my life, which I enjoyed greatly, but it also inspired a renewed appetite for all things film and television. A general craving of knowledge along the lines of ‘how did they do it?’. So I ended up watching a lot of films. Some I had seen before, others for the first time.
Having made a couple of films myself now, I can appreciate the effort and dedication and focus and sheer will it takes to get a project completed. It is hard and mentally draining work. I mean it is easy to be an armchair critic, trolling on YouTube clips and declaring how awful a performance, story or director was, safe in the knowledge you have not, nor will not, ever do it. The wonderful web gives any chimp with a keyboard the ability to vent an opinion. I have read disparaging remarks on Scorsese’s Goodfellas, seen verbal wars over Twilight saga, Star Wars saga, LOTR, watch the websphere almost explode when various actors are mooted to play fictitious comic book characters. Everybody has an opinion.
I’m no different. I have seen a few films deemed masterworks in my time and wondered what the hell all the fuss was about! I have watched films that I know are kind of awful and enjoyed them immensely. I understand that films are entertainment. It is nice if you can learn something some times, but I really want a film just to entertain me, whether it be with brilliance or sweetness or clever plotting or basic good vs evil. As long as it entertains me, I am good. As long as it entertains me!
Like I said, I watched a lot of films over the holidays. Let me tell you, there is nothing quite like a terrible film to put you in a foul mood on a winters grey day. If you want a really shitty mood, watch two terrible films! Such was my fate on a few occasions over the festive period. Netflix and its ilk are great services, ready to watch films when ever you want. Unfortunately the volume of dross to quality or even passably good films on offer is soul destroying. I mean these film companies do realise how many films have been made in the past century don’t they? There is really no good reason to be allowing a person to pay money for some of these films! I swear even people related to the stars of some of these films would not watch them!
I have two subscription services I pay for and though their post nineties fare is adequate, they only seem to go back as far as 1970! Have they not heard of Frank Capra? Or Cagney, Stewart, Flynn, Davis, Fontaine or Marx Brothers to name a (very!) few?
I have suffered films so appalling that I have truly pondered how they possibly got funded. Somebody green lit Kick Ass 2! Even after reading the script! No wonder Jim Carrey bailed on the promotional tour. Against violence? More likely against association with god awful films! Rappers should also stop being allowed to make films. Man with the Iron Fist? Wow. Really not good. There is a reason Rza (even with my name I am compelled to ask what kind of a name is Rza?!) that filmmaking is collaborative. Other people are suppose to be involved to minimise the chance of a massive ego turning a film into an almighty turd. Take note. Not as bad as Kick Ass 2 though. And whilst I’m at it, ranting that is, Bruce Willis must be stopped! The last Die Hard was so risible that I turned it off after half an hour. Only Sly Stallone can milk a franchise and most of the films be watchable – though he may be pushing it with The Expendables.
No doubt I too will make a film that will make people want to hunt me down and ask for those hours of their lives back, through some financial recompense. Hopefully it will be on a film I did not write!