Tag Archives: Steven Spielberg

A Stupid Opinion about The BFG Movie

3 Jun

Over the last 18 months I’ve read a lot of children’s literature while teaching English to Korean children. More often than not I’m bored to death with the Captain Underpants, the Arthurs and the Katie Kazoo Switcheroos to the point where I water down literary theory and writing techniques and watch a classroom of blank faces as I give the most rudimentary explanation of allegory or metaphor solely for my own amusement. But I get a little more interested every few months when I get to read a Roald Dahl book. It’s not just me though, the kids seem to perk up more too. The students try to understand the story more and one class even grasped the concept of similes while reading one of his books.  Thus, proving a universal truth that children everywhere love Roald Dahl. His imaginative stories tickle the children’s minds in ways much different from CGI films pieced together by slightly different sight gags and word play. Then combine Dahl’s stories with simplistic style of Quentin Blake’s illustrations and there is a nice uniform feel to his books that instantly puts children of any age, from any country at ease and piques their interest in creative fiction. As a teacher, I’m a fan of the books. Which is why I’m a little upset that Steven Spielberg is going to direct the feature version of The BFG.

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The BFG is a story of a Big Friendly Giant who takes an orphan, Sophie, to giant land after she accidentally sees him blowing dreams into the room of a kids on her street. It’s a fun little book that has some nice world building and plays with language in an especially whimsical way, even by Dahl standards. And being a fan of cinema I would usually love to see a beloved book come to the silver screen, but not a Dahl book and not by Spielberg. He’ll make a fine movie, but I don’t want to see his version of a Roald Dahl book. Well, at least not one as fantastical as The BFG. This book is going to require a lot of special effects and at this point of his career he’s just going to make The BFG into The CGI. And I don’t care how much Andy Serkis enjoys wearing spandex and ping-pong balls, but I don’t want to see more motion capture giants. Or anything thing from the mind of Spielberg or his team of creative mercenaries. 

I feel not every book needs to be turned into a film. The trend of seeking out properties that already have a built-in audience is miserable. By making movies and TV shows from books, comic books, articles and twitter feeds it is just a step toward discounting the original creations. There is the argument that adapting brings a new audience to the original, but for every one person inspired to read a the original because of the movie there will be a hundred who will come to think of the film as the only variant of that story. Which isn’t a bad thing, but without understanding the nuances of filmmaking, cinematic techniques and the same type of filmic grammar as there is taught about the written word the film versions will just be empty intellectual calories and delegated to the snack shelf in the pantry of pop culture. I’m glad there is going to be more of Roald Dahl in the world via Spielberg’s The BFG, but I’m sad that now the unlimited reach of children’s imaginations will be lassoed in to contain the CGI world portrayed on-screen. Every generation will produce its own great art, but this constant piggy backing, remaking and rebooting seems to be society saying “Everything’s been done. Nothing is original. Might as well not try.” Which could very well be a product of the unlimited access we have to information. Every good idea can be found before and therefore it’s just easier to draw TARDIS in a thousand and one different ways or relaunch Star Wars, Batman and everything that already has a loyal audience. It is a sad era. Can art change or are future generations just doomed to continue to paint Darth Vaders helmet and call it art? Jonathan Franzen is right when he says “It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.” And without good fiction not only will there continue to be no new properties to adapt into movie trilogies, but it also means that I will have suck it up and find some new way to teach Korean children English.

-C.Charles

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A Stupid Opinion about Man of Steel

17 Jun

Battle of Algiers used cinema verite techniques to build up the atmosphere and bring the events of the film to more personal level for the audience. But everyone involved with the film thought, “We really aren’t making the most out of this format. We can really go further.”

Flash forward to Denmark circa 1995, a film collective gets together and tries to create a cinematic movement that will finally be able to use cinema to its fullest ability. But even after their ten-year run that launched/fostered the careers of Lars Von Tier, Harmony Korine and Anthony Dod Mantle, they realized that what they were doing with the medium was still falling short of its potential.

Then in 2002 director Doug Liman and cinematographer Oliver Wood were saddled with an action heavy script and an A-list star who’s most physically active role to-date had been walking around a golf course with Will Smith. They knew they were going to really have to reinvent the wheel to justify their bid for a new product placement franchise. And re-invent they did. They were able to shoot scenes in such a way that they were able to convince people a drama kid could take out a guy with a machine gun using nothing more than a magazine. Even with the mountains of success, they still realize that it wasn’t enough.

Then the mix of Zack Snyder, a billion and one videos posted to YouTube, and the most iconic superhero of all-time, and we finally get the most realistic handheld camera work in the history of cinema. It was just such a pleasure to watch as a man flying across the sky and sliding across pavement and up the side of buildings in the gritty way that cinema verite really aspired to be all those years ago. Finally, everyone can bask in the full potential of movies.

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That the was the longest most hyperbolic introduction to any Man of Steel review you will read. The movie was a good film, and as Carl correctly predicted there were some cheesy and unnecessary pop songs, it was a tight film that looked pretty good. I can’t remember a second of slow motion footage in an action sequence, and there were plenty of action sequences in the film. As far as comic book movies go, it was of the highest quality. But my stupid opinion about the film goes beyond the confusing choice to give the movie the raw handheld look, I just wonder how long this formula will continue to work for comic book films.  And I can’t even add “spoiler alert” to this because it is in every single blockbuster tentpole film, the equations can vary for the first 40-ish minutes of the movie, but it always ALWAYS ends with the good guy and the bad guy in hand-to-hand close proximity combat at the center of massive amounts of collateral damage.

These films have become the equivalent to the dumb action movies from the eighties and nineties with just tighter fitting clothes. I equate comic book movies to the Doritos of the cinema world. There’s an old suburban legend that Doritos have been so carefully engineered that the taste is supposed to vanish in a matter of seconds after it is registered on the brain, therefore making it so easy to eat an entire bag in one sitting by ourselves. This is what these comic book movies are they keep upping the ante, the effects get bigger, the characters and villains more outlandish and unbelievable, but the story just stays the same. And you can’t just have one, Iron Man 3 broke all kinds of records and Man of Steel is on the same path. There are going to be comic books every summer every year for as long as I can imagine. All I’m asking is can’t there be a different ending to one of them?

When I was growing up, I loved it when people asked what my favorite movie was. I’d think about it and mull over the movies that I’d seen, and I’d finally come to the conclusion that my favorite movie was the last movie I’d seen. Just because that was the way my kid brain worked. I loved going to the movies, and it wasn’t until much later that I realized there was more to films than just the latest thing, and that films were not necessarily better the flashier and more polished they were. As I grew up and narrowed down the films I’d seen I was able to finally name a favorite film just about the same time that comic book movies really began to take off. Can you imagine trying to pick a favorite comic book movie? Well, you’ve got a pretty solid Batman sequel that is slightly ahead over of everything else, but after that. . . their all the same fucking movie. And that’s even before Warner Brothers began to emulate Disney with their plans for a Justice League film.  The Dark Knight is the only comic book film that is coming to mind where the climax isn’t this battle of mass destruction and instead this small battle philosophical battle between hero and villain. I get it, endings are hard, and having a lot of stuff explode is a good way to make people think they’ve got a good ending, when really all it was was a loud ending.

I know that I’m not saying anything new here, Steve and Steve have recently both been claimed the sky is falling when it comes to making movies. I can see a Heaven’s Gate of comic book movies coming right around the corner, but the sad thing is that this film will probably bomb because it tries to do something that is different. I would have loved to see The Avengers by Robert Altman, Fantastic Four by Soderberg, a Wes Anderson version of Aquaman, or a French New-Wave homage to Superman, but I favorite-movied myself right out of the studios key demographic. They have no interest in making movies for me anymore, or really any interest in making any type of movie that is different at this point.

-C. Charles