Isle Of Dogs (2018)

Have you ever seen a Wes Anderson film? Or even the poster for one? Did you hate it with every fibre of your being? If so this is not the film for you. The reasons you hate it: the colour schemes, the odd idiosyncratic nature of it all, they’re all prevalent here. But if you’re a fan of his work, then the reasons you love it: the colour schemes, the odd idiosyncratic nature of it all, they’re all prevalent here (thank you copy+paste). Personally, I adored it, and I chose that word specifically. I didn’t love it, it’s not the kind of film where I have a deep personal affection for it and will sing its praises to all and sundry. It’s not a film where I can spend hours talking about how it’s brilliant and everybody should love it. But it is a film I have warm feelings for, it’s the film equivalent of a cosy chair by a fireplace. You watch it and everything just feels, I dunno, right.

Part of that is down to the look of it. The stop-motion REALLY helps this. The style suits the story and is a great example of animation-story integration. If this was a heavily polished CGI film it would lose some of what makes it work. Even if it was animated like a 90’s Disney film it wouldn’t quite work. Characters are roughed up and damaged, this is great as it makes them seem real, like they’re actual things which have been damaged. So when someone is hurt in a fight, the damage stays with them throughout. The vocal work is great too, sometimes in animated films with all-star casts (and with Bryan Cranston, Bill Murray,Ken Watanabe, Scarlett Johansson etc, this is a definitely an all-star cast) it can be hard to be truly invested because every time a character speaks you go “hey, I know that voice”. You don’t really do that with this, probably because of how well suited the voices are to the characters, the characters sound exactly what you expect them to sound like when you look at the character designs.

The way the voices were handled was actually really well done too. The human characters mostly didn’t speak English, but Japanese, because the story is set in Japan (I know that seems obvious, but you’ll be amazed how many films make everybody speak English no matter what the location). The English come from either the dogs, an American, or a translation service, where the Japanese is still audible under the English (they essentially find an in-universe method of dubbing voices, and it’s genius).

So would I recommend seeing this? Definitely. Not if you’re a kid though (and if you are, why are you reading this?) Despite being marketed as a kids film I’m not sure how well this will be received by them. Also, it’s not quite as twee as the marketing and visual style might have you believe. It’s incredibly dark at times, one of the opening moments of the film features a dog dying of starvation, and it doesn’t lighten up too much in terms of story. If you’re a fan of Wes Anderson, watch it, if not, this won’t change your mind.

Secret Life Of Pets/The Boss

Two very different films, but both suffer from from the same flaw: the background characters are the best ones in the entire film. Not the only problems however.

Secret Life Of Pets

I have two problems with this film:

  1. As I alluded to earlier; the main characters are the least interesting ones, which, considering one of them is played by Louis CK is kind of unexpected. It’s not just the characters, the main plot is not that interesting either. The entire main plot is shown in the trailer, nothing new or exciting. There is, however, a fantastic B-story that shows up; the idea that animals that were once pets were thrown away and are now bitter and angry and ready to get their revenge. THAT’S a film, that’s the kind of thing that Pixar or Disney would do. On the subject of Disney there’s already been a lot of controversy about Finding Dory. People are saying that it could lead to an increase of people having exotic fish as pets and then discarding them when they get bored (like they did with owls after Harry Potter And The Quantum Of Solace or whatever it was called). The idea of an animal-led film that has discourages people from getting pets just because they saw them in films? Not only would that be good but it would also be a subtle attack to Disney and Pixar, a “This is why we have a problem with you, you’re irresponsible, not like us, we’re truly wholesome and safe for children to watch with their families”.
  2. The realism. I know, it’s an animated film aimed at kids so I shouldn’t expect 100% realism. But at the very least I should expect it to stay consistent within the world it’s created. The world within the film is supposed to be our world. This is decided very early on when a human character hear’s one of the main characters “talking” and it’s just barking. Yet there’s lots of moments in here which break that realism, moments such as a rabbit and a dog driving a bus off a bridge. Pixar usually does this kind of thing very well. Look at Finding Nemo etc, it takes place in our world, and we do see humans, but the interactions between the humans and the main characters is minimal, and the main characters, although living in a human world, don’t effect that world that much. This film has way too many instances where the animals have a major influence on the human world, there’s the aforementioned bus crash, there’s a break in at a sausage factory, a rabbit beating up a dog catcher etc.

But other than those two problems how was it? It was thoroughly ok. The closing shot was beautiful. It’s one of the great things about animation is that you can occasionally get absolutely gorgeous visuals, but apart from the closing shot it never really does that. In fact it doesn’t look great throughout, the animals just look ok, and the humans in it look like they’re made of twigs. The story is serviceable and does what it needs to, but I don’t feel I need to see it again. It’s biggest flaw isn’t the fault of the film, it’s just circumstance. A lot of times studios release films which (judging by poster alone) look very similar. Has happened a lot before: Antz/A Bugs Life, Finding Nemo/Sharks Tale etc. This films competitor? Zootopia. For this film to come anywhere close to that would be difficult. Zootopia (so far) is probably in my top five films of the year. This? Well be at the bottom of the top half so far. But considering Kubo isn’t out yet, this can easily be pushed down. Although this film did have a subtle Mario green shell reference, which is kind of cool.

The Boss

Nope. Just no. Here’s my massive problem with this film: you have a character get arrested, then when they’re released they go to a Girl Scouts meeting and decides to set up a new business luring Girl Scouts from their group into a new group helping her in a business with communist workers overtones (their logo is a red badge with a picture of a girl raising her fist in the air and wearing a hat). When one of the mothers at the group objects to this, she calls her a cunt, then insults her daughter, whom she later knocks out. The daughter’s age? Between 11-15. So, the “hero” of this story bullies and beats up a school girl just because she doesn’t like her mum. Comedy!

1401x788-mccarthy

Actually this film, tonally is kind of weird and all over the place. It attempts to get cheap laughs and sacrifices story to do that, destroying all story momentum for the sake of a joke. For example: there’s a scene where she goes to her old business associates, and they all tell her they hate her and want nothing to do with her. It’s the kind of scene that’s like a large roast dinner, it’s a lot to take in and you need to give it time to settle. Instead, just after the scene takes place the film makes her fall down a flight of stairs, thereby pouring custard on the emotional roast dinner of the previous scene. It’s like the film was written by different writers who never contacted each other to check if their bits lined up. You have important characters turn up for one or two scenes and then are never mentioned again.

It’s a shame as I really want to like Melissa McCarthy; she was great in Bridesmaids, and Spy was excellent. I just feel she has a habit of picking bad films, films where she is only asked to do her usual shtick and doesn’t allow her to stretch herself (otherwise known as Jim Carey syndrome). Which is a shame as when she’s good she’s amazing, check out the aforementioned Spy for evidence of that, and St. Vincent, where she manages to be one of the best characters in a film which contains Chris O’Dowd and Bill Murray (or to give him his full title: Bill Fucking Murray). She can do better than this, and her continual choosing of below-par films just provides ammunition to her increasing number of detractors. Luckily the next film she has lined up is Ghostbusters, I’m sure that is under no pressure.

The-Boss-2016-HDRIP-Release

I also saw Independence Day; a film which (ironically) seemed like it was written by aliens, completely devoid of human emotion and everything seemed slightly fake and contrived.

How we (I) made (wrote) Projector.

So as my Troubled Production’s colleague so subtly hinted I should, I’m gonna talk about my influences on writing Projector and how it came to be. There’s not much else I can add about the production, but this is where the story came from, before that.

Projector neon version jpg
The original concept poster. And don’t worry, the tagline is explained.

Well if you’ve seen the film, there’s a flashback during the lengthy Film Noir section where two characters discuss a film idea as they throw a ball, called ‘The Great Party’. In short, its a Great Gatsby  themed film about a guy looking for his girlfriend at a surreal party, where every room uses the same actors to play different characters. That’s the idea Projector stemmed from. But it became something so different; we could still make that film without any crossover of story or events.

The real foundation of Projector started when I decided I needed to tell a story that really meant something to me, something personal, for my final film at university. And not just the typical murder mystery, rom-com, with suicide probably in there, party films, that a lot of film students tend to crap out. So of course I made a film about a struggling filmmaker in the middle of a quarter life crises (I pride myself on originality).

Orginal thought]

A lot of the idea developed from a scheme to make a film where typical film mistakes, audio glitches, double shadows, crew reflections ect, where actually part of the film, with the whole film within a film concept. An idea I thought of mainly as a bit of a middle finger to the people who (rightfully so) complained about the lack of quality in Schism.

get to wrok
Saying its just about a play within a play is actually overly simplifying it a lot.

The films I stole most of my ideas from where mainly Charlie Kaufman’s (a personal favorite writer), Synecdoche, New York and Adaptation. The former, a film about a play writer who’s lines of reality and fiction start to blur as he puts on a play within a play within- you get the idea, and the other about a fictional version of Kaufman writing the film he’s in. Synecdoche ended up having a more lasting impact overall, because in early drafts Projector was about me, I mean of course it’s about me, I mean literally, it was about fictional versions of me and people I know, in a uber-meta self-indulgent kinda way. Luckily the rest of my group had the sense to talk me down from that ledge.

allen

So instead I went the Woody Allen root and just made the main character so blatantly me, everyone wondered where I got an actor who resembles me so much. Woody’s Star Dust Memories (the first of his films to make me understand why he’s a big deal) was also a key inspiration for me, dealing with a filmmaker in creative crises whose reality blurs into his own films (though oddly enough I wasn’t the one who added his name drop in the script, twice). Now I’m sure for those of you who know a bit about cinema are wondering, “how can you talk thus far about your surreal meta film about film making, without bringing up Fellini’s 81/2?” Well, that’s because I didn’t see it till after I’d written the script. I knew about it, and its influences on the other films that did influences me, but it was only inspiration by association.

scrooged
But Scrooged was clearly my one true inspiration.

The idea to make parallels with A Christmas Carol came a bit late in the writing, after the first draft I believe. I’d just seen Wild at Heart and loved the way it paralleled The Wizard of Oz, so I thought adding an underline theme of classic literature would be good, but what I thought? What? And I had no idea, till I picked up the mail one day and there was a flyer for a local production of A Christmas Carol, and like Diana on prom night, it hit me; the perfect story to wrap Projector around, three films, three ghosts, and a lead character with a barrel of regrets.

What’s next?

projector

As it was said, the plan is to adapt Projector into a feature, the idea being to add a whole new parallel narrative on top of the already existing one, as well as to develop the original out. The new narrative would follow the same aspiring filmmakers Christopher and Phillip on an odyssey of a night out, going from parties to dives to who knows where, as Christopher talks through Projector with Phillip. Cutting back to that story as he goes, as the night-out starts to parallel with the film and the two- in a complete breakdown of the meta-verse – coincide. But when we’ll write that still waits to be seen.