Did I miss anyone from this list? Let me know in the comment section below!
2018’s Oscar nominations arrived earlier this week, offering a hopeful change of pace to shake up what most of us have come to expect from Academy voters. While an Oscar statuette is considered the highest praise an actor can receive, they’re not always awarded for the best performance on a star’s resume. Let’s take a look...
Let’s not bury the lead here - 2018 is shaping up to be Gary Oldman’s year, with the screen-vet and twice Academy nominated star looking likely to take home an Oscar for his immersive turn as UK Prime Minister and friendliest person you’re ever (not) likely to see on the tube, Winston Churchill. If he does win big, it’ll be no big surprise. Oldman’s made going to the cinema worthwhile for the better part of twenty-five years and while his take on Churchill is impressive, it’s hardly the role he’ll be remembered for. True Romance’s Dexyl Spivey or The Fifth Element’s Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg may not be welcome in the Academy’s Kodak Theatre but they’re more than welcome on the DVD shelves of die-hard fans. Will Oldman's turn as a prickly PM be as fondly remembered? Don't think so.
Is there anyone who so clearly wanted an Academy Award more than Leo DiCaprio? Pick a film at random from his IMDB resume. Go on. Take a look. No matter which title you land on, his performance in that movie could easily be considered as a contender for Best Actor. Here’s someone who not only seems to pick his roles based on their ability to blow socks off but who carefully curates his personal life off-screen to maintain the illusion and allow for easy immersion whenever we see him in a new character’s shoes. The guy even started strong; making his mainstream debut with a enviable performance in 1993’s What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. After missing out with classic turns in 2002’s Catch Me If You Can, 2004’s The Aviator and 2006’s The Departed, it took him literally crawling though the mud and putting himself through hell to get what he was after. Is it his best role? Nope. Did it do the job? You bet.
You’d be forgiven for thinking Jeff Bridges had some sort of advantage when it comes to industry recognition. As the son of Lloyd Bridges and younger brother to Beau, acting was seemingly in his blood and while it never appeared that he was all that interested in awards, that didn’t stop him from turning in performances that were worthy of them. It was his role as grizzled country singer Bad Blake in 2009’s Crazy Heart that won him his Academy Award, melding two passions that are clearly close to Bridges’ heart: acting and music. However the film is almost forgettable when it comes to his extensive back catalogue. Crazy Heart better than Tron, The Fisher King or The Big Lebowski? That’s just, like, the Academy’s opinion, man.
Sort-of-cockney-sort-of-American sounding actor Christian Bale is known for going to extreme lengths in the name of professional pretending AKA acting. Sometimes he’s losing an uncomfortable amount of weight, like when he appeared in 2004’s The Machinist. Sometimes he’s losing an uncomfortable amount of hair, like he did when he starred in (and won a Best Actor Oscar for) 2010’s The Fighter - and sometimes he’s just plain losing it and it's uncomfortable, like when he got all mad at that lighting guy whilst shooting 2009’s meandering sequel Terminator Salvation. Either way, the guy’s committed, and the Academy clearly acknowledged that - even if it did take them almost 25 years. While it’s undeniable that Bale is an actor worthy of an Academy Award, it’s hard not to think his talents should have have appreciated straight off the bat in Spielberg’s 1987 epic Empire of the Sun or even 2000’s unnerving American Psycho. Perhaps, like Patrick Bateman, his early work was a little too new wave for their tastes.
Did I miss anyone from this list? Let me know in the comment section below!
It may seem like all cinemas have to offer at the moment are glossy CGI superheroes and audience-dividing Star Wars adventures but look between the frames and you’ll see something that’s currently going unnoticed - and for good reason. It’s the waning dregs of the franchises that audiences forgot. More specifically, the would-be young adult franchises. You know the type - the ones that were adapted from popular young adult novels and came complete with soundtracks chock full of floppy-haired indie bands - and to everyone's surprise, they’re not quite dead yet.
It feels like ever since the whirlwind success of series like Twilight and The Hunger Games studios have constantly been on the lookout for the next tween-tale they can spin into Hollywood gold. However the formula for success isn’t always as cut-and-dry as simply finding a colourfully dystopian future and a couple of beautifully moody sentient cheekbones to lead it to peace. For the past few years the powers that be have been trying to preempt the inevitable conclusion of their biggest money makers by fast tracking new stories with sequel potential but despite their very best efforts, almost none of them have actually succeeded in doing what they set out to do.
Instead what these studios were left with was a sobering lesson in why you should never count your chickens before they’ve hatched. And us? We got to watch countless trailers for movies that had already been abandoned by their audiences but were determined to limp over the finish line. Films like The Divergent Series, a franchise with a plucky chosen-one hero, a society divided into five factions and a - wait, isn’t that just The Hunger Games? You may vaguely remember the release of part one back in 2014 but did you know that the franchise has released a sequel, a two-part threequel and still has an as-yet unmade conclusion in the pipeline? Didn’t think so.
What about The Maze Runner? With its down-trodden lead, trapped within a deadly-game that’s all that’s separating him from freedom… hang on, that sounds familiar too but were you aware that part three (yes, part three) is due later this year? At last, some surprising news! And these are just two of the films that made it this far. Others weren’t so lucky, like 2013’s The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones or 2014’s Vampire Academy, two movies that cut their losses after failing to impress at the box office.
While it may be true that anything can happen in the movie business, one certainty is that if something's popular, audiences are guaranteed to see more of it. However if the trial-and-error track record of the young adult genre proves anything, it's that more of the same is never a shortcut to success.
Do you think we need another young adult franchise? Let me know in the comment section below!
Cinema-wise, 2017 ended with a rift more divisive than a light-sabre swipe. Rian Johnson’s eagerly anticipated trilogy sandwich filler The Last Jedi hit screens and immediately split the opinions of seasoned Jedis and fledgling Padawans alike. Some (including Disney) thought it was exactly the breath of fresh air that the series needed, a gasp-inducing continuation that refused to let you get comfortable from the get-go, either via character twists or Porg humour. Others meanwhile felt that Johnson’s episode played a little too fast and loose with the universe, characters and Star Wars story tone that they hold so dear. For the first time ever, there was a clear love-it-or-hate-it vibe about the Skywalker saga. Talk about a disturbance in the force.
It raised an interesting point though: What is it exactly that makes a film any good? Can a film be purely good or purely bad or is the worth of each cinematic outing based purely on personal taste alone? December was an interesting time to talk about good and bad movies too, notably due to the release of James Franco’s The Disaster Artist. Debuting just a week or so before The Last Jedi, Franco’s film revealed the story behind The Room, Tommy Wiseau’s infamously terrible movie that’s since gone on to become a sleeper cult-hit with movie fans. With Franco likely to win big during award season (scratch that - already winning big) thanks to a pitch-perfect performance of a character once deemed too terrible to succeed, it blurs the lines even further on what constitutes good art in the eyes of viewers.
With movies like Star Wars, the task of earning the accolade of ‘good movie’ is an even trickier task. Fans have had years to paint their own personal futures for their favourite characters and dream up bespoke swan songs and additional adventures that no Disney-released canon storyline can ever hope to compete with. For every person who admired The Last Jedi’s unexpected new direction, there was someone disappointed that their latest trip to a galaxy far, far away left them a little short of satisfied. Try as you might, you just can’t please everyone - not even if you’re a money spewing powerhouse like Disney.
And yet it gets more nuanced still. Perhaps a film’s worth depends less on the quality of its story and performances and more on the the personal impact it has on viewers when it lands on their radars. As time has told, box office returns - despite often feeling like the be-all-end-all signifier of a film’s overall worth - mean little-to-nothing in the bigger picture of a movie’s lifespan. There’s a reason why Best Picture winners are often hard to recall but no one has any trouble fondly remembering the movies they grew up with, no matter how shoddy or bizarrely constructed they are. Rarely are the latter included amongst the former yet its these movies that shape our tastes, fill our DVD shelves and adorn our walls. What makes a movie any good? Whatever you bring to it.
What do you think separates a good film from a bad film? Let me know in the comment section below!
We hear about the shortcomings of films all too often these days. It feels like sometimes a movie’s fate can be sealed even before the lights have started to dim in the cinema. Like it or loath it, the Internet has given everyone a voice and it seems that everyone has chosen to use that voice to bad mouth movies as soon as they hear absolutely anything about them. On the flip side of the coin, praise for good movies can be all too rare. Riding a wave of word-of-mouth buzz can literally make a decent film transform regular old film frames into statuette gold come awards season but what happens when a film becomes too successful for its own good?
The immensely successful Harry Potter franchise is a perfect case in point. Under the careful guidance of Producer David Heyman, a handful of talented and distinctly different directors and most importantly of all, series author J.K Rowling, the team pulled off a near impossible feat in fully realising a totally immersive Wizarding world. For eight movies, we lost ourselves on the big screen in a richly populated universe full of colourful characters and the money rolled in faster than a Snitch on a mission. And then it came to an end. With the story told, Rowling’s Potter anthology wrapped up naturally, leaving a nice neat package for us to enjoy and fondly revisit for decades to come.
At least that was the plan. Despite raking it in at the box office, spawning a bespoke studio tour, multiple merchandise offshoots and its very own theme park, franchise owners seem reluctant to let it retire that easily. What followed was Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, a spin-off tale set in the same universe that, while still canon, left our original hero’s story untouched. Successful, a sequel was soon announced and as we get our first looks at Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald, it’s hard not to think that it’s the beginning of the end for yet another beloved franchise.
It seems like whenever a film does marginally well, a sequel (or trilogy) is all but inevitable. For some these seem warranted - Back To The Future kept the fun going for three movies (for the most part) and cemented itself into cinematic lore. The Godfather undeniably improved itself in part two, even if it did get a little shaky in its lackluster third feature. However more often than not it feels like studios act too quickly, dooming a successful film to a fate of watered down future instalments, making you forget why you even tuned in in the first place.
Bear in mind that while we may have only just met Newt Scamander and his magic briefcase, Warner Bros has already planned five (yep) sequels for the character. Proof, if you ever needed it, that can be a double edged sword. Newt’s certainly not the boy who lived but seen has he’s not going anywhere in a hurry, we better hope he’s the bloke who survives.
Do you think sequels can improve films? Let me know in the comments section below!
Xenomorphs weren’t the only extraterrestrial terror hunting humans throughout the eighties. Not long after James Cameron pulled the trigger on his testosterone-charged sequel Aliens, Director John McTiernan introduced us to a new intergalactic hunter with Predator in 1987. Two war movies, two alien franchises, two very different legacies. However as Predator closes in on its thirtieth birthday, it’s hard not to think the series somehow failed to capitalise on its full potential. With Shane Black’s upcoming retooling The Predator all that could change - but what went wrong during those intervening years that set the Predator so off course?
Maybe it can all be traced back to one single event: the mishandling of the film’s original sequel. The late eighties were good for John McTiernan. Having unleashed Predator onto audiences he doubled-down on the machismo theme with Die Hard a year later. However when the time came to follow up his alien movie with a sequel in 1990 his asking salary had doubled, pricing him out of Predator 2’s scant budget. To make matters worse, star Arnold Schwarzenegger dropped out too, due to either a salary dispute, clashing schedules or an unsatisfactory script. The exact reasons are still up for debate but one thing remains concrete: audiences were denied the continuation of Dutch’s story.
Had the pair signed on for another round, their combined presence may have given the Predator franchise a lease of life worthy of challenging Sigourney Weaver’s still-developing Alien anthology. Salvage attempts were reignited throughout the 90s with ideas for a proposed third movie entitled Predator 3: Deadlier of the Species reintroducing us to Dutch in a blizzard-ravaged New York City for another space-invader scuffle. Then there was The Zoo, an amalgamation threequel that bundled Dutch with Danny Glover’s Predator 2 hero Harrigan and shipped them both off for a stint in the wilds of the Predator's home planet. Both intriguing concepts that unfortunately never saw the light of day.
Instead, the Predator found itself relegated to bargain-bin adventures. There was ‘meh’ crossover cash-in Alien Vs Predator in 2004 and its equally tedious 2007 sequel AVP: Requiem. Then Robert Rodriguez took a stab in 2010’s Predators, a stand-alone sequel that felt more like a Friday night popcorn movie than a worthy continuation. While new directors certainly don’t spell doom for a franchise, stripping Predator of both its original helmer and star so early on seems to have inflicted wounds that are difficult to heal. Perhaps the key to Alien’s continued success is down to the lynchpin figure of Ripley, tying things together either in person or in spirit. With the Predator currently lacking a concrete foe to face, it could be some time before it emerges from the wilderness and into a worthy battle arena.
Where do you think the Predator franchise went wrong? Let me know in the comments section below!
Halloween - That time of year where we celebrate our love of cult horror movies in place of whatever actual significance this spooky holiday originally held. Odds are most fancy dress parties this year will be populated by cobbled together outfits of genre icons. While it’s reassuring to see the films that terrified us all growing up get the attention they so deserve, the future of would-be-cult-classics could be in peril. It’s not an output issue - dodgy horror films are being made faster than ever these days but the way they reach us has changed dramatically.
Think back. The majority of movie-fans will no doubt have fond memories of spending countless hours perusing the shelves of pokey, family run video rental stores. Sure, they were filled with cigarette smoke and pretty much always out of copies of the video you came in to rent but they provided great exposure to titles you wouldn’t get a chance to see otherwise. Movies had a harder time grabbing your attention back then too. There was no internet on which to drip-feed promo clips of your low budget indie horror. Filmmakers had to pump all their efforts into crafting artwork worthy of catching your eye.
Today, audiences don’t seem to have the same patience or sense of discovery. For every Stranger Things-sized hit released on Netflix, there’s probably another ten or so just as inventive indie horrors dwelling in its dark streaming depths. Despite being faced with a seemingly neverending abundance of choice, it feels as though viewers are actually watching less these days. It’s a strange counterintuitive turn, perhaps brought on by people wanting to use the little free time they have wisely and in turn choosing a show everyone’s talking about instead of taking a chance on something new.
Nothing wrong with that on the surface, however with your desired content delivered straight to your eyeballs with minimal fuss the shows that go ignored, stay ignored. Chance encounters, just like those you experienced back in Blockbusters a decade or more ago, may now be a thing of the past. Remember when you picked up that cool looking VHS on the bottom row after an hour of searching and it became one of your so-bad-it’s-great all time faves? Savour it. It’s unlikely to happen again.
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Do you miss the days of video rental stores? Let me know in the comments below!
With Thor: Ragnarok, Marvel has once again flipped the tempo of their long-running superhero saga by recruiting someone not known for world-saving action epics. It’s yet-another smart move from the studio giant, especially if all those glowing early reactions are anything to go by. Asgard’s family drama may have reached Jeremy Kyle-like proportions but through the lens of Kiwi filmmaker Taika Waititi and his kitchen-sink adlib comedic style, the whole thing feels fresher than ever. It’s a small tweak to the formula and undeniably a bit of a gamble but looking back at the ups and downs of the superhero movie perhaps it’s a sign of something far more important. Could comedy be the secret ingredient behind the longevity of the entire genre?
It’s far from an unbelievable thought. Laughs certainly have had their place within the world of capes and tights, providing a much-needed escape from the more-often-than-not dark and gritty route these films can take. When used properly, comedy has even helped the superhero genre transcend to new heights and break new ground. Just look at Tim Miller’s surprise smash Deadpool - a movie once deemed too much of a risk to realise that went on to prove what we all already knew - that audiences want a hero that can drop F-bombs just as easily as they drop maniacal baddies bent on global destruction.
Miller’s ‘Merc with a Mouth’ movie may have officially set the bar but switching things up with the help of a few belly laughs - and the filmmakers that specialise in them - has clearly been the key to Marvel’s continued success. It helped them hit the ground running with Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr as they kept things loose with billionaire Tony Stark, it made us care about a ragtag group of largely unknown heroes in James Gunn’s addictive Guardians of the Galaxy and it let their rendition of Spidey come out swinging with a web-load of laughs.
Compare this track record to the rocky output of studio rival DC and the importance of humour becomes all the more apparent. Sure, in the right hands a little deft and dark storytelling can make for an unforgettable superhero experience (The Dark Knight, we’re looking at you) but there’s only so many pensive looks, slow-motion action shots and movies helmed by the same Zack Snyder-shaped director an audience can take. Comic book movies seem to work far better when they prioritise laughter over layers, both onscreen and off. Forget God-like Kryptonians, rogue mutants or magical hammers, the real hero here of this genre is humour.
This blog is now on Nerdly.co.uk, take a look here!
Are Infinity Stones more important than humour to superheroes? Let me know what you think in the comments section below!
Author: Simon Bland