Is Film Watching an Addiction?

cinephile_alert

If you define addiction as an overcome passion for something, then yes, many people are addicted to film. If you class addiction, more correctly and formidably, as something which causes withdrawal symptoms, then yes, film is very much still an addiction.

When going on holiday, I’m of course greatly excited, but my conscience never fails to tell me “No films for a whole week!” Though these symptoms never lead to genuine physical reactions (such as a drug habit would induce), I still have mental desires for the beautiful medium so much that it does affect my mental health (something which, in turn, does actually affect physical conditions).

A film can be comforting, mentally relaxing and ultimately soothing – if you stay clear of Michael Haneke pictures! It takes us into a fictional panorama, which allows our minds to drift and wonder for at least 90 minutes, and a day or two after (if the film you are watching has meaning and depth – undeniably a rarity in todays marketplace). It’s this form of escapism that allows for a fresh start once the credits roll. When this ability is reduced we may become frustrated and itching for a new realm – in the paradoxical sense.

“Our lives are a metaphor for story”, Robert McKee wrote in his treasure ‘Story’. And so, story, and the medium of film, can act as a metaphor for our lives too – something that we hope to reach out and grab on a trip to the cinema. This is cinema acting as the influential medium that it so transparently is.

In conclusion, a more correct term for the moviegoer’s addiction may just be pure obsession. But, within the obsessive mind, the latter does have the ability to lead on authentic symptoms of withdrawal.

If there’s something for one to become obsessive over, the cinephiles lifestyle is certainly an easy, tranquil and rather inviting place to start.

Your opinions? Do you crave film?

To Rome with Love – Weird and Wonderful

 

Directed by Woody Allen.

Written by Woody Allen.

Produced by Faruk Alatan, Letty Aronson, Giampaolo Letta.

Production companies: Medusa Film, Gravier Productions, Perdido Productions.

UK release date: 14th September 2012.

Review may contain spoilers. 

Weird and wonderful; a definitive taste of the inordinate relationship affiliated stories Woody Allen has to offer.

Despite To Rome With Love receiving a majority of negative reviews from the critics, I found that the film has a lot more to offer than may first appear. A conjoint interpretation is that audiences should expect a so-called ‘pay-off’ to the film with a climatic scene, but this just isn’t necessary and quite frankly wouldn’t do the script justice. The audience has already delved into four alternate stories, each quirky and highly fulfilling to tell the least: a working man wakes up to find himself a celebrity, an architect who revisits Rome superficially encounters a relationship comparative to his past, a youthful couple vacate to Rome on their honeymoon and an aggravated opera director uncovers a new talent.

Interpreting Allen’s other work, these stories may seem stale in comparison (Match Point, Midnight In Paris) but they are nonetheless still cunningly plotted and full of surprises. This work is no less intrinsic than the critically acclaimed which came out of notable nouvelle vague (new wave) directors over 40 years ago (Jean-Luc Goddard, Francois Truffaut, Claude Chabrol etc.). In fact, Allen arguably bestows his buoyancy to match the likes of Luis Bunuel and Alain Resnais – key contributors to the movement. For example, in one of the scenes, the Italian father (played by opera singer Fabio Armiliato) shares his undiscovered voice at the opera house after being confronted by Woody Allen’s character Jerry, but comes onto stage in a portable shower as to abide by his convention of only truly being able to do justice whilst singing in the shower. Here, the audience is presented with and rather shocked by a scene of surrealistic entirety, comparable to that of when Bunuel’s characters are eating dinner at the table in The Discreet Charm de Bourgeois and suddenly the curtains open to reveal that they are in fact on stage where a boundless theatrical audience eagerly awaits there non-existent performance. Again, similar themes come to mind in The Phantom of Liberty where Bunuel shows residences of a dinner party sat around the table on lavatories.

Moreover, in To Rome With Love, a character is established wishing to be a more prodigious individual and consequently be glamorous enough to ‘go to bed’ with his work colleague. Instead, he ends up becoming ludicrously famous for no apparent reason; subsequently he’s now able to sleep with this beautiful woman alongside many others! Scenes of a surrealist nature include the man being escorted away to a TV studio and interviewed about his morning procedures. There is no rational explanation for this other than the fact that Allen is displaying his aptitude for avant-gardism, and considering his status as an established auteur of cinema, this is deemed acceptable. It’s my personal opinion, but I love to see this trait in a filmmaker; push the boundaries. Okay, it’s been done before to great extent in the ‘60’s and ‘70s, but cinema repeats itself so why not repeat the latent areas that so often get left behind.

Rome is categorically the city of love and To Rome with Love obtains this concept and enriches it with exquisite elements of story-telling, undeniably not everyone’s understanding, yet the film is entertaining and more importantly, at least for some, culturally embellished.

Olympus has Fallen – America. America. America.

olympus

Directed by Antoine Fuqua

Written by Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedikt

Produced by Gerard Butler, Alan Seigel, Mark Gill, Antoine Fuqua & others.

Production Companies: Millenium Films, Nu Image Films, Gerard Butler Alan Seigel Entertainment, West Coast Film Partners.

UK Release Date: 17th April 2013

Review may contain spoilers. 

Epic in a purely cinematic sense, treacherous in any other. Packed with headshots and preposterous puns, Olympus has Fallen gives the audience a virus of predictability and ingenuity stardom.

You guessed correct: The Whitehouse is taken over by a group of terrorists, hence the title Olympus has Fallen. Due to this customary act of The Whitehouse ‘falling’ happening within the first half hour of the movie, the audience is left with ninety minutes of unadulterated guns blazing and unadorned acts of terrorism.

I’m not saying there are no good films that fall into this ‘action raging, hostage, thriller genre’, there are. Take, for example, Heat, Leon, Con Air, The Dark Knight, Red State, these are all films I’d happily watch over and over. But there’s far more plot entwined into the above listed films. Subconsciously they have a far greater impact on our emotions and senses, yet more importantly they have great casts or at least a great director behind the picture. Moreover, there should be something consequential to take away from the cinema – a message, a lesson, a thought, some stimuli, a perception– but with Olympus has Fallen there’s nothing to take away from the cinema except maybe an arrogance or self-regard for taste. Arguably, the only experience gained is directly to do with what takes place in the auditorium, and it’s not a valuable one at that. In my mind, a good film, a film worth watching, should only just begin to play on your mind as you leave the cinema.

It’s hard to imagine what more there would have been to the spec screenplay other than “White house gets overthrown by Korean terrorists. President’s previous head of security (arguably responsible for the death of the president’s wife) comes back on duty to infiltrate the Koreans. He succeeds and all seems once more at peace (yet overlooked is a significant death toll and destruction of half of Washington).” Can this writing credit even be counted for writers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt. This plot could be conjured up by Grandfather thrice removed. However, realising the script certainly will have taken some doing, no doubt a successful collaboration between Antoine Fuqua (director) and Conrad W. Hall (DoP) was in place. Hall has to be credited for his efficient and generally impressive cinematographic work. Great sweeping wide shots and extensive fast-paced tracking shots are in place; though one has to wonder how much of this camerawork is now done through the digital construction of a set in post. It’s a shame Fuqua couldn’t have come back stronger from his exhilarating and Oscar winning work on Training Day. I presume Fuqua will be desperately looking for another collaboration with the screenwriter David Ayer in the future; give him that prodigious spec script he must be searching for, although David Ayer has now established a successful career in directing himself: Harsh Times, Street Kings, End of Watch.

Talent aside, I can’t begin to exclaim how prejudicial this film is to the American ideology. The White House is taken over, its ludicrous, absolute mayhem, America appears doomed. But then, a single man steps up to the challenge (notice a similarity in plot to Die Hard yet?), kills numerous Koreans on his undercover excursion, and saves the nation. The audience is captivated by this heroin figure, put into his shoes i.e. turned into an American hero. They leave the cinema having never felt stronger, feeling powerful enough to conquer the world, or at least enough to feel in control of their own lives. Is this response from the audience a good thing? In the simplest sense, it gives us a boost; it’s idolisation in its purest sense. Yet, it is a supremely false ideology, one that is played upon time and time again by action movies coming straight out of Hollywood and dominating screens worldwide. This film brought in over a million dollars box office in each country as foreign to a Western audience as Hong Kong, Malaysia and South Korea. American movies account for over 90% of their annual box office. Just imagine how inflamed Asian minds must be with the dogma of our industry. This is no new feat however and has been blithely happening for arguably a whole century. Furthermore, following my punitive notion, the caption on the movie poster reads: “We are never stronger than when we are tested”. Are the Americans trying to summon a terrorist attack?

Despite this blockbuster conundrum, Olympus has Fallen is actually categorised as an independent film; at least Millennium films themselves seem to think so; “Millennium films is one of the longest-running independent film companies in the history of Hollywood.” Yet with a $70 million budget for Olympus has Fallen (yes by no means blockbuster but certainly not independent) and a track record of recent films such as The Expendables 2, The Iceman, Homefront and The Big Wedding (a cumbersome pile of rubbish I have already critiqued) it is hard not to believe that significant amounts of studio funding were involved. Though I am not having a go at Millennium Films, I’m simply saying that they don’t do the ‘real’ independent filmmakers out there much justice with releases like Olympus has Fallen.

All this said, if you love action and headshots then you certainly won’t be let down by this film. If you go to the cinema simply for the two hour-long destruction of sight and sound then this film is precisely for you. I have had enough talking about this film, there is nothing valuable to note, not that this film is even worth anyone’s analysis or interpretation, as there clearly is not a meaningful one to be given – other than rants peripheral to the picture itself!

Sideways – A perfect film?

sideways

Directed by Alexandre Payne.

Novel by Rex Pickett.

Screenplay by Alexandre Payne and Jim Taylor.

Produced by Michael London and George Parra.

Production companies: Fox Searchlight Pictures, Michael London Productions, Sideways Productions Inc.

UK release date: 28th January 2005.

Review may contain spoilers. 

Dare I say it, a perfect film?

I wish I had seen this film back when it was released in January 2005 so that I could have viewed it at least ten times by now. It depicts so much about life as a body of expression, our search for a better life as human beings, the disconcerting notion of growing old, relationships and more ineptly, the search for woman (sex) and wine. Wine is uniquely symbolic in the film; the exploration of the vineyards by the two main protagonists ultimately sanctions them to search for their identities.

This vineyard trip which some may prefer to call a road trip – though this film does not discernibly conform to those injudicious ‘road trip’ genre conventions like most – takes place throughout California’s wine country. Miles (Paul Giamatti) is an expert on the subject and takes pride in sharing his knowledge with his best friend, and decadent actor from College, Jack (Thomas Haden Church) who is more concerned about getting laid with as many woman as possible before getting married.

The two characters serve wholly contradictory views and attitudes towards life. Keeping it concise, a common stereotyping of Jack would be ‘that guy who never grew up’, whereas Miles is ‘that anxious kid who never ‘came out’’. Their dialogue interlaces perfectly, generating a constant battle for integrity between the two, not to mention that the performances are flawless in cadence and pertinent reality.

Another perfect construction of this film lies in the well-executed linear narrative as it counts down the days of the week, arguably as if each day accounts for a separate chapter in the story (shown on-screen with title cards). This storytelling essentially increases the audience’s apprehension to find out if all will resolve itself come the Saturday of the wedding. For a lousy period, I thought the film might suddenly turn out like The Hangover, but soon realised that would not happen due to how impeccable the script had been thus far. Fortunately, the underlying meaning of the film was kept at the forefront and the shabby moments of hysterics, all to common in contemporary comedy, kept to a credible minimum. Credit to an excellent screenplay treatment of Rex Pickett’s novel by Alexander Payne and fellow writer Jim Taylor; a significantly efficacious writing partnership retrospectively winning the Oscar for best adapted screenplay that year.

There is still more to this film than first meets the eye. Payne immediately puts the audience into the life of a depressive, recently divorced, middle-aged man who is consistently failing to get his book published and ultimately struggling to get any where with life; a somewhat common beginning to a film indeed. However, through a great deal of primeval characterisation, the film evolves to reveal the inner secrets and constraints of this character almost immediately; a delineation of the character develops to an even greater extent than Tarantino achieves for his quirky, profane gangster figures. It is not only our main protagonist Miles who is beautifully characterised, as Jack (arguably a main protagonist) and Maya (Virginia Madsen) were in fact both nominated for Oscars in supporting roles.

Moreover, Sideways is actually a love story; a love story which embraces more than one form; a love story that discloses inner secrets and certainly one whereby binary oppositions are displayed in great breadth – marriage vs. divorce, love vs. sex, depression vs. feigning, lonesome vs. prevalent etc.

Sideways is two hours of viewing pleasure that will leave you with a warm heart and in a state of positive reflection.

Lastly but not least, the film does what any film (story) is conventionally supposed to, and that is simply to take the viewer on a journey alongside a fascinating character, and a remarkable one that this is.