Hereditary: the good, not so good and the weird

I went to see Hereditary and decided to share my views on it with you.

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If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you have either seen the film or don’t intend to. For that reason, I’m not going to hold back on talking about the whole film so consider yourself warned.

The Good in Hereditary

Hereditary falls into that category of a horror film if you like actual horror films. What do you mean by “actual” horror films Kieran? I hear you ask.

Simple, if you’re watching a movie that isn’t reliant on jump scares then you’re watching an actual horror film.

Hereditary is one of those films.

That’s not to say that there are no jumps. The person I was with told me that I jumped on several occasions, who am I to argue? The point is that the jumps in Hereditary are well integrated into the plot. Integrated scares make for a more enjoyable experience.

I’m not a fan of the Paranormal Activity films for that reason. The reaction that you have to them is physiological. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a Pixies song. Paranormal Activity films are quiet, quiet, loud. You can’t control your reaction. If I whisper continuously in your ear and sporadically shout as well, you’re going to be on edge.

What I liked about Hereditary is that when the scares were coming, it was built up. You were expecting the scare.

When the moments arrive, it is a release of tension.

Cinematography

I loved how this film used cinematography to create the creepy atmosphere.

There are many long shots at wide angles on static cameras.

The lighting is effective. Mainly when there may or not be something lurking in the shadow. There is a moment towards the end, it’s a shot of someone smiling through a doorway. The low light makes it creepy because you’re struggling to see and your mind fills in the gaps.

You can consider it high praise when I kept hoping that they used the style more.

Acting

The acting in this film is high quality. Gabriel Byrne does well as the put-upon father whose family is falling apart. Alex Wolff does confused and afraid well.

The stand out performance is from Toni Collette who carries the majority of the film.

What is it with horror being an excellent genre for female performers?

Don’t forget that Collette did one of the most excellent “listening” scenes in history right at the end of The Sixth Sense.

In Hereditary she has such a nuanced role. Is she losing her mind or is there really a demonic cult trying to get to her son?

There is a great scene where she talks about how she used to sleepwalk and almost set her children on fire. Her delivery injects so much uncertainty that you don’t know if she is telling the truth or not.

There is also a scene where she is at group therapy and tells her family backstory. She goes through an emotional journey, and you believe that journey.

This film is an excellent showcase for Toni Collette. You probably think that horror films have cheesy acting, but Collette’s commitment elevates the subject.

The not so good

Spirit Mediums

I’m not a big fan of films that rely on spirit mediums to further the plot. It’s a matter of personal taste. Hereditary had one, I’m not a fan. It took up a substantial portion of the midsection.

Getting there and then dealing with the aftermath. I wish that Ari Aster, the writer and director, had gone for something a little less conventional.

You might think that I’m missing the point. That the whole idea of the spirit medium is subverted. It was part of the cult’s plan, but it wasn’t differentiated enough for my liking.

Could lose 10-20 minutes

Hereditary is two hours long. It could have cut about ten to twenty minutes, and I don’t think we would have lost too much. Especially when there are a few scenes of people watching each other. This had already been established by this point. You don’t need to repeat your points.

Hereditary also features a dream sequence. Doesn’t matter what genre you are working in doesn’t have dream sequences. Nothing makes me think that you are padding the runtime quite like a dream sequence. Hereditary is an even worse offender because it’s a dream within a dream. There are also some interesting dramatic questions raised in the dream. These questions could have been integrated into the main plot.

Soundtrack

Hereditary’s soundtrack is excellent. There were a few moments where it became overbearing.

There is a moment of ADR  that is done so badly “Make sure everyone is in the same room house” it stuck out like a sore thumb.

Ambiguous about ambiguity

The film tends to have its cake and eat it in some instances of ambiguity. Are the events happening or is it all in her head? If Hereditary could have been a bit more sure of itself and picked a lane.

Had the events of Hereditary unfolded from Gabriel Byrne’s POV it may have worked better. Just a thought.

I would have enjoyed the ambiguity even further if they cut the film off a little earlier. Instead, the last minute of the film is an exposition dump.

“Oh my mother made mats like this”

The majority of the film has good dialogue that deals with character. So when this line is uttered it’s almost as if someone walks out, looks at the screen and says, “I wonder where this is going?”

This line and the last minute of the film are the only real bad moments of dialogue.

The weird

Hereditary is concerned a demon that is born into a girls body but desires to be reborn into a boys body. The girl is killed, and the rest of the film is about how the demon strives to be reincarnated into the boy’s body. The process destroys the family.

Could you view the film as a metaphor for transsexualism?

This is part of the reason why I love horror so much. It deals with social themes in an extreme way.

I hope you will consider checking this film out at some point even if you don’t like horror as it is worth a watch.

As far as “actual” horror films go, I still think that It Follows is the one to beat. Hereditary is a definite contender, and I look forward to Ari Aster’s next film.

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Ocean’s 8 will flop: 8 reasons

Ocean’s 8 is out today

Ocean’s 8 is in cinemas from today so I’m going to write about it.

I’m on a bit of a roll writing-wise. Did you read my update from Saturday?

Ocean’s 8 will flop and here is a totally non-gimmicky list of eight reasons why.

Zero hype

Did you know this film existed?

I didn’t, maybe that speaks more of my ignorance than anything else, but there has been zero hype for Ocean’s 8.

I know that it’s all female but after that, what’s the hook?

No one is excited about this film, no one asked for another Ocean’s film and no one is going to see it.

It’s champions lack enthusiasm.

This film will probably be fine.

It’ll be bland because most movies made today are inoffensive, insipid forgettable trash. Ocean’s 8 will be no different.

It’ll lack passion because it’s a film put together by committee.

There haven’t been many bad reviews but read between the lines of the “positive” reviews.

Several critics have said that the Ocean’s 8 isn’t perfect. Pointing out that something isn’t perfect is the most non-committal milquetoast observation you can make.

Of course it isn’t perfect; no movie is perfect.

Even films that I consider perfect contain imperfections.

In Ghostbusters how does Venkman know they have to empty their heads? Robocop, it isn’t clear if Clarence recognises Murphy as the cop he murdered. In Shadow of a Doubt there is, when, the, you know what, that film is perfect.

They’re damning Ocean’s 8 with faint praise.

Releasing on a Monday

Releasing a film on a Monday shows a lack of confidence from the studio.

Friday is the standard practice day to release a film. Release on Friday and you take the weekend gross to work out if the film is a success or not.

That’s because a film usually drops it’s revenue by 50% by the second weekend. Even films that most people consider to be “good” have this sharp decline.

If a film releases on Thursday that means that the studio is confident in the product and are hoping for good word of mouth to get the weekend crowd in the door. Look at Hereditary as a recent example. It’s been getting critical buzz even though it is splitting audiences, it will do well.

Releasing on a Monday means the studio don’t have any faith in the film.

Remember from Monday-Sunday is counted as “opening weekend”. Studios will count the whole weeks gross as opening weekend. You’ll hear that the film did great but don’t forget they’re counting seven days as three.

If the film does OK it will be because there is no competition. Solo was as genuine certified bomb and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has been out for a while.

Heist films are meh

Does anyone like heist films? I’m personally not a big fan. The moral tends to be crime doesn’t pay or if you’re the lesser of two evils, it does.

Heist films tend to have a significant portion of the run time spent looking at maps and planning stuff out.

The stakes in heist films are too low. No one dies in heist films. The hero may get sent to prison, but usually, they come up with “one last job” while inside, so incarnation is no big deal.

Characters in heist films tend to be selfish assholes. You accept men as selfish assholes because we tend to be that way. Will people take women in the same way?

Good heist films tend to not be about the heist itself.

Reservoir Dogs doesn’t have a heist. Inception is about dreams. The Killing is probably the best film about a heist, which has a heist in it.

Ocean’s films are even meher

Is there a nostalgia for the Ocean’s films? If so I’m unaware.

Full disclosure, I’ve never seen any of the Ocean’s films. Not the Sinatra one, not the Clooney ones.

The films never interested me. All people ever said was that Brad Pitt eats in every scene, does that mean it’s good?

Were the sequels not famous for being bad, even by sequel standards? They had a whole bit were Julia Roberts character poses as Julia Roberts.

So good for you Ocean’s 8, you have brand recognition, score.

Women working as a team

This is the point you were expecting weren’t you?

I can’t go on too much about my thoughts about a group of more than three women working together harmoniously John Mulaney does a far better job.

What is going to kill Ocean’s 8 is that they are going to portray the women as these angels who walk among us. You can’t have them fall out because that might be sexist. Women not fighting may be politically correct or some nonsense, but it is not dramatic.

Look at Gone Girl, one of the finest films about male and female relationships. It was brutally honest about men and women, both were shown to be assholes and it was considered misogynist.

The Bechdel test is nonsense.

You will probably hear that this film passes the Bechdel test.

What is the Bechdel test?

If your film has a scene with two named female characters talking about something other than men, congratulations you passed.

It makes a film more female-friendly because women struggle to empathise with others, isn’t that right? If women don’t see other women in movies, they can’t relate.

I know this pain because I can only enjoy films with tall men in them (my favourite films, therefore, are Space Jam, Roger Moore James Bond, and Steel)

Examples of female-friendly/Bechdel test passing films: Annihilation, Alien saga, Die Hard and the first Terminator film.

Enjoy ladies.

Examples of films that don’t pass, Kathryn Bigelow’s entire filmography.

The Bechdel test is pointless, most real-life women wouldn’t pass it so who cares if fictitious women do?

Half-assed feminism

They never go all in on the feminism gimmick they always half-ass the job. Why stop at all-female principal cast? Make the crew all female?

Why do these “all-female” gimmicks stop at the cast? Why is the director always male.

Ghostbusters 2016 had a male director, Paul Feig. I hate Paul Feig’s directing, this video explains many of my problems with him.

If you’re going to make something all female then why not go all in, get a female director and all female writers.

Who directed this? Gary Ross, great the guy who hired Michael J. Fox to be his camera person on the first Hunger Games film.

I also see James Cordenmeofffromthepublic is in it too, wonderful.

So what’s the matter Hollywood, don’t you believe in women?

One final observation, did they spoil the “twist” in the first image they released? Is an antagonist going to be in on it from the start?

Why is Anne Hathaway on the train with them?

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Muliplex and it’s slow death may be good

The multiplex is dying but it’s not all bad news

The multiplex may be dying but I’m going to tell you why that isn’t a bad thing.

On the Outside looking in

“What’s on?”
“A few films are starting soon, did you have any preferences?”
“No.”
“OK, I’ll tell you the next films are coming up. There’s a superhero film, an indie drama and a rom-com.”
“What about Austin Powers 4?”
“That doesn’t exist.”
“I heard they made it.”
“If they did our cinema isn’t showing it”.
“Oh, doesn’t matter then.”

I’ve worked in a multiplex for almost a decade, and if trends continue as they have been, I’m not going to last another ten.

First, let me make my bias’ clear, I love the cinema. Not just movies but the act of leaving the house. They go with people you know to sit in the dark with other strangers and look at images projected onto a screen. If the filmmakers have done their job correctly, then we all feel an emotion.

There is a nostalgia attached to the experience. I remember the Curzon, my local cinema (not a multiplex). I remember going to see Independence Day, feeling like a rebel because I wasn’t twelve yet.

The point I’m trying to make is that I love movies. The cinema and sitting in the dark with strangers watching people’s faces blown up by the size of houses. It is frustrating to see the direction cinema is headed. There are two kinds of films that are available at the multiplex. You have the issue film awards fodder. There is the big-budget invincible people punching each other for three hours.

A defence for the multiplex

There should be some sympathy for the multiplex. The multiplex has had to bend over backwards for the distributor and the customer. There was when Disney ransomed Star Wars for theatre space. Odeon was going to boycott the Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland over the home release market. There was also the 3D mess where everything had to be 3D, and then a few months later everyone was sick of 3D. Despicable Me is notable for being marking the beginning of the end for 3D as it’s 2D sales outsold it’s 3D.

More recently we had the film vs digital argument revived over the summer with Dunkirk. The cinema I work in holding onto one film projector, so we were able to give customers a choice between the two. Honestly, it’s not a great idea to provide customers with more choice. Customers don’t care, and they want things simplified. As a cinema worker, the best way is to give them the best quality of sound and picture possible.

There is a chance that cinema has always been two films. I’m starting to notice but there used to be degrees of difference between the two. The middle ground of film is disappearing. These films still get a release in the theatres. More rarely, the last notable example being The Nice Guys. That is what I want to see on the big screen, a bit of banter, boobs and some grounded action.

The multiplex is at war with technology. We have so many ways of taking in movies and so many more films being made it’s impossible to take them all.

The elephants in the room

There is something important to address when it comes to modern cinema that is ruining the experience; other people. The multiplex has transformed into an extension of people’s front rooms. In a means to pack in as many people as possible, there is no code of conduct for the customer. Do what you want, make yourself at home, use your phone, bring in the stinkiest food you can find and talk as loudly as possible to the person you’re with, absolutely fine.

The multiplex itself must bear some responsibility for this. The ticket is checked, and we hope not to see you for at least another two hours, no one has ever come out midway through a film to say that things are going great. Cinema ushers can’t enforce any rules because there are none of the customers. Customers can be asked to keep it down or leave, but the power rests with the disruptive customer and how open they are to peer pressure.

The slow death of the multiplex

The multiplex is dying a slow death; prices rise attendance is down. As disheartened as the circumstance is it is for the best. The multiplex is for people who don’t care about film. This sounds like a contradiction in terms, but there is a logic at work.

Seeing the film on the opening weekend is one of the great cons that the industry has performed on the audience. The argument has more clearly shifted from is does the film work to how many people were we able to trick into seeing it before word gets out that the film is terrible.

The subjective experience of enjoying a series of images edited together to elicit an emotion is comodofied. from us has turned into how many zeros are we looking at on Monday morning.

The people that show up on a Friday night for the showing of Flying Man 2: Punch Harder are not always die-hard fans. They are more that they are easily manipulated by the marketing machine.

The multiplex only cares about wanting your money from the concession stand. That’s why cinemas will try to fob you off with tickets if you are less than satisfied with the experience.

Cinema can look back.

The most pleasurable experience I had this year was when the cinema I worked at put on the 1980 Blade Runner. The cinema screen was packed out, and during the show there was silence. These were people who wanted to be there. There was respect for one another and a mutual degree of understanding.

One of the biggest draws for our cinema was Hocus Pocus over the Halloween weekend. We got two thousand people in over that period whereas Star Wars: The Last Jedi got in…

There is over a hundred years of film history, so many classics from years ago. The multiplex could do with taking a look back every once in a while. Filmmakers are so cineliterate.

Customer cinema experience and how to improve it for you

Hello customer, last time I wrote about why I work in one of the best cinemas in Northern Ireland. Now I’m going to tell you how you can help yourself to better customer service.

1: As a customer DYOR (Do your own research)

I don’t know if you already do this as a customer, but before you come to the cinema have an idea what you want to see.

“What’s on?”
“Are you here to see any particular film.”
“No”
“There is Star Wars, Avengers and Deadpool”
“Is that it?”
“Yes”
“Never mind.”

I understand that you can roll into a cinema and not know, hold on, you know what I’m trying to come across as understanding but I can’t. Who goes to the cinema not knowing what they want to see?

Who are these people

You put the time and effort into leaving the house, going through traffic and entering a cinema. What is stopping you from putting in that little bit more effort to find out what is on?

These people aren’t the norm, and none of them will read this article. I would guess that these people make up a third of the cinema-going population. You and I know who they are. They’re also the ones who sit in front of you, and that unmistakable glow emanates from their lap.

These people don’t actually like cinema. They only go because they feel they have to. Have you ever been to an event with a group of friends and there is always that one person who you think doesn’t really want to be there?

These people exist because I have been that one of them. I shouldn’t tell you this, but I’m not that big a fan of live music, especially open-air concerts. I went to see Aerosmith, and it was meh, I spent the money but if you had said: “Kieran you have to go before Aerosmith play and you won’t get your money back” I would have said, “OK”.

You’re probably thinking what the hell has this got to do with not knowing what to see at the cinema? They’re related, but it feeds into my overarching hypothesis. People aren’t that into things they just like congregating in groups.

The main takeaway at this point is, if you are going to the cinema, have an idea of what you want to see and what it is about.

2: Just ask

I’ve noticed that the customer would prefer us to come to them rather than the other way round. People will stand at one end of the concession area so that we have to walk down and offer help. Rather than them coming to us and directly asking for what they want.

All interaction that you have, whether with customers or friends are exchanges of status.

Here’s an example two people talking about holidays:

“I’m going to Australia” (Taking the high status)
“Oh, I’ve been there, it’s alright if you like racism” (I’m better travelled than you, high status)
“Australians are lovely people you must have annoyed them”,(You being a horrible person has led to negative experiences, high status).

Do you get what I’m saying?

There is a status struggle in all customer/seller interactions. The question is this, who has the power?

You’re probably thinking that since the lowly cinema attendant’s job relies on customers, the power resides with the customer.

That’s cool and all but let’s break that down. In the UK there is minimum wage and cinemas don’t have any kind of commission on sales made by staff.

Whether you buy or don’t buy it makes no difference to the cinema employee. I don’t know what percentage of cinema staff are shareholders in the cinemas, but I would say it’s negligible.

The point I’m trying to make is this: It’s in your own interest to ask for what you want.

Decision restriction

There are a couple of interesting quirks in customers that I’ve found through trial and error. You are standing at a till and a customer who comes and asks what’s on, they say they don’t really know what they want to see.

You look down and see three films are coming up. Usually, you would give the customer all three choices. I discovered that if I only gave them two options, they were more likely to ask about the third.

I’m looking to do more research into this, but you can try this out for yourself. If someone is being indecisive get them to choose what you want by removing an option.

Final point before moving on

Cinema seems to be the one place where you can be vague when ordering. You don’t go into a restaurant and say “One food, one liquid please” yet in cinema people say “A drink and popcorn”.

You could ask for specifics, but you will usually have to list every item on the menu. I’ve found a far more efficient way, and that is telling them what I’m giving them, it’s up to them to correct you.

3: Our opinion doesn’t matter

There is this weird thing that also happens were customers will ask you for an opinion on a film. What are you supposed to say if the movie sucks? Do you lie to them tell them it’s fantastic or do you tell them it’s not great? It’s a moral quandary.

My taste isn’t great either, I love Killing Them Softly, everyone else hated it. You and I probably don’t have the same taste, so asking my opinion is pointless.

What I’m trying to say is that who cares about my opinion, all that matters is your own.

There’s also an element of power dynamics in their too that I’ve noticed thanks to this video. Some people are there to belittle you over your taste.

A personal example, you remember the Hobbit films? As well as standard screening they were also shown in HFR (Higher Frame Rate). I’ll write about why HFR is terrible some other time, but the brief version is this, it looks like it’s been sped up and hurts your eyes.

One set of customers asked me which one I would recommend, standard or HFR?

I told them that standard was way more enjoyable and made a case against HFR. Of course, they picked HFR. Why did they ask my opinion? It annoys me a bit but now, knowing some customers want to go against what they are advised it makes it easier to get them to do what you want. If you want people to follow your advice, tell them the opposite.

4: We’re on your side until you abuse us

Eventually, something will go wrong at the cinema. Cinema, like all other human-made industries, has it’s uniquely human problems.

You got sick, you came on the wrong day, there were rowdy kids in the screen. We get it we understand. I don’t think anyone working in the service industry dislikes customers. You can get frustrated with them at times, but overall customers are the real bosses that keep us employed.

In short, we want to help.

We are on your side. If you have an issue, we’ll listen and try to help you.

That is until you verbally attack us. I understand that it can get a little frustrating at times, but cinema staff, service staff in general, are on your side.

Don’t swear at us don’t rant and rave.

When a customer complains what they are saying is “I’ve wasted time”. This is the essence of most customer service complaints. People don’t mind wasting money as much as they do wasting time. You can make more money you can’t make more time.

I would add that you are further wasting your time by getting upset and not being able to let an issue go. We understand that you are angry you don’t need to tell us. We want to save you as much time as possible, let us get on with that.

5: Not bringing stuff in is a myth

This one is a biggy. I don’t know where this myth has started, but it is just that, a myth. I have never stopped anyone bringing in their own foods.

There was a colleague who tried to stop people from bringing a coffee from outside. “Sorry you’ll have to finish that before you come in” We gave him dogs abuse for a few days after.

One thing that I will mention is that if you like the cinema, occasionally buy a drink and a popcorn.

Not because I think that it’s an essential part of the cinema-going experience, I don’t. Popcorn and fizzy drinks shred my stomach.

I say that you should buy because that is the central area where cinemas make their money. Cinemas make little money from ticket sales. Disney is the leading big-budget film producer, they take high percentages of ticket sales.

If you want to support a cinema you like, get a popcorn.

This Cheat Sheet will make you master genre Part 1

Intro

Genre can be difficult to pin down. You know what works but you find yourself grasping for something but you don’t know what.

First of all, this is by no means a comprehensive list. I’m not an expert either so treat the following accordingly. While I’m not an expert I have a skill for pattern recognition in film.

I’m going to be looking into what are the subconscious undertones of each genre.

If you’re a writer and are considering working within a genre there’s no harm being prepared.

Even if you’re not a writer you understanding a genre can help why you watch something that is fine, but there’s a missing element. Usually, it was because the creators have deviated from some of the staples of the genre in an unsatisfying way.

A quick example is Kill Bill. Revenge movies have to end with the death of the character getting revenge. The heroes purpose in revenge stories is to right a wrong and then die. The hero cannot come back from the underworld and return to the normal world, certainly not whole, they have to lose something on the way.. Kill Bill not only has the hero returned from the underworld alive she has returned unscathed. That may be good filmmaking, but it isn’t great storytelling.

Know your genre.

I’m going to be talking mainly about screenwriting but this applies to other forms of fiction writing if you can see the patterns at work.

If you are considering writing a script, then I recommend The Hero With A Thousand Faces, anything on Jungian archetypes and The Uses of Enchantment.

Genres

Sci-Fi

Sci-fi is about the quest for higher knowledge about ourselves and our universe. It ends with the hero transcending, either by dying or disappearing.

Sci-fi in it’s most simple terms is “Where is god, there is god, I am god”

By god I don’t mean Yahweh the Christian God I mean god in the sense of being a higher being, higher knowledge, the next step in evoloution.

Sci-fi deals on the subconscious level about shedding the ego and the id to be part of something greater.

There is always an element of the religious when it comes to sci-fi. That is because the Bible is the basis for all sci-fi. That is why you will see a lot of Jesus imagery in sci-fi films. 2001: A Space Odyssey ends in death and rebirth as does the Matrix. Even low key sci-fi taps into religion Children of Men is the Nativity story. Battlestar Galactica is Moses in space.

The key to creating good sci-fi is reading the Bible.

Horror

I love horror; I made a horror film that you can watch here. Horror is the inverse of sci-fi. Sci-fi is an outward optimistic journey whereas horror is a pessimistic journey inward. Consider 2001 and The Shining. In 2001: A Space Odyssey the Discovery travels from Earth, and David transcends to become the Star Child. In The Shining Jack Torrance enters room 237 and goes insane.

At a basic level horror is a fear of death but let’s look at it on a deeper level. If sci-fi is the voluntary releasing of the ego, then horror is the taking of the ego. Horror is the loss of identity before the self is ready.

In slasher horror like Halloween, Evil Dead, Cabin in the Woods, Texas Chainsaw Massacre there tends to be five main characters. This number can deviate, but five is a number that represents psychological wholeness.

When the characters enter the world of the film, they are stable but as the numbers dwindle so does their psyche.

The characters in horror aren’t individuals, but together they make a whole. Cabin in the Woods spelt out Jungian archetypes for audiences. That film is a good resource for anyone wanting to develop their horror writing skills.

Monster Monster Monster

Let’s talk about the monsters of horror in broad terms.

  • Vampire stories are about the fear of promiscuity and sexual diseases.
  • Zombies are about the fear of losing your identity and becoming part of the crowd.
  • Werewolves are about the darker side of male sexuality.
  • Demonic possession is about our dark shadow, the evil that exists in the best of us. There is an argument to be made that demonic possession with the dark side of female sexuality, in Evil Dead the first victim has been raped by a tree and Regan from The Exorcist gets possessed right as she enters puberty.

Ghost Stories

Ghost stories are a genre onto themselves. They tend to have less death and any deaths that there are tend to be less violent.

The basic structure of a ghost story is as follows: There is a ghost, you are a ghost, I am a ghost. The Shining follows this structure as does The Others. There are ghostly goings-on that start small. Creaky floorboards etc. Usually ends with the hero finding out that they have been dead the whole time.

Ghost stories are about repression. It’s not uncommon for the ghost to be a symptom of the repression rather than a cause. An unsolved murder or a past wrong tend to be the centre of ghost stories.

Fantasy

If you had to sum up the fantasy genre into a sentence, it would be: Let’s set aside our differences and tackle bigger problems. You see it in Lord of the Rings; the kingdoms must unite to take on Sauron.

Even the anti-Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones you can see the structure asserting itself. The four houses are now having to unify to take on the undead.

Why You Find Star Wars a bit dull

Part of the reason that the new Star Wars films are boring is that there is no advancement of what went before. Star Wars is a fantasy film within a sci-fi setting. I tried to rewatch Return of the Jedi recently, I struggled, it’s a boring film. It should have steered into the fantasy structure.

Instead of a pointless rescue mission that takes up forty minutes of a two-hour film, you could have raised the stakes. Princess Leia is on diplomatic missions to win over more worlds to the rebellion. Meanwhile Luke goes to confront the Emperor and in doing so becomes the new one.

I may go into how I would have written Return of the Jedi. Even though I’m no longer interested in Star Wars, I still fanboy over the prequel trilogy and the missed opportunities in the saga.

To be continued

I didn’t expect to have so much to say about the genre. There are still more to cover so I’m going to split this into two and I’ll post part 2 on Monday.

You have a great weekend now.

What Brian DePalma can teach you about life

Brian De Palma says, “Most of us don’t know what we’re doing; we go from one thing to the next. Something gets delayed, and we do that.”

De Palma, the film, is Brian De Palma, the filmmaker talking about his films. Brian sits in front of a camera for an hour and fifty minutes. While Brian talks we get cutaways to the films that he talks about.

This may not sound entertaining, but it’s a captivating watch. Brian is open and honest as he looks back over his life’s work. De Palma pulls back the curtain and lets the viewer in on what makes him tick and how his life fueled his films.

I like De Palma’s films but am not a huge fan. I was hoping for a scandalous tell-all about what went on behind the scenes on his films. The documentary isn’t about that. Instead, it’s about a man who can look back and be objective. There are a few lessons not only for wannabe filmmakers but all of us. Hidden within the film are lessons that you can apply to your own life.

You have to keep at it.

I was mistaken in thinking that Carrie was his third film. De Palma had made ten feature-length films by the time he got to making his breakout hit Carrie. The industry has changed since then. When I was growing up the nineties, it was Tarantino who was the one that you had to emulate. Now with the nature of the industry directors have to make a masterpiece straight out of the gate.

A director’s trajectory goes as follows: make your indie microbudget film (Safety Not Guaranteed, Kings of Summer, Hunt for the Wilderpeople). After that, you do a big-budget summer movie (Jurassic World, Kong: Skull Island, Thor: Ragnarok). After that who cares, either it’s a hit or a bomb.

De Palma was coming to Carrie a veteran of his craft; he had developed his style by then. DePalma had made a good deal of mistakes by the time he made the adaption of the Stephen King novel.

Film directors don’t have the chance to develop. Tarantino has said that he is going to retire once he has made ten films, that’s when most are hitting their stride.

In life, like in film, you work with what you got. You keep plugging away with what you have. What you’re doing may not be perfect, but by working more, you increase your chances of creating perfection.

Know as much as you can

De Palma says himself that he was a science nerd who wasn’t interested in film. He had to learn a lot of aspects of filmmaking himself. He did this so he would know how to pick up the slack if someone let him down. The expression about “Jack of all trades” is only half the expression. In full it is “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but often better than a master of one”.

De Palma had a talent stack. He was a good camera operator, could write scripts and work with actors. Brian was able to combine his OK talents to become a brilliant director.

Even if you are average at a couple of things that is better than being amazing at one discipline. If you ever notice how people who aren’t particularly good rise to the top of their field. That could be because they have a stack of talents.

Look at Nicola Tesla and Thomas Edison. Tesla was the more clever of the two, but that’s all he had, and he died a pauper. Edison wasn’t a great inventor, but he was good at business and PR. That’s why you associate Edison with more inventions.

In my case I can sing OK, comfortable with public speaking and, while I’m no Arnie, have strength and endurance. This led to me, a non-musical person being able to front a comedy band. That band headlined several gigs, released an album and performed at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Think about some of the skills you have; they add up.

“Be healthy.”

De Palma advocates for physical fitness if you are going to be a director.

Filmmaking is a gruelling process. Directors are working on a project for the guts of two years. David Mamet and Sydney Lumet write in their respective books about how as soon as a film is complete the director gets sick. Their immune system collapses after months of twelve hour days and food from the craft cart.

I’ve started taking my health seriously within the last few years. I am beginning to feel the benefits. Fitness does not just make me feel physically stronger, but I am starting to reap the mental benefits.

You have to remain strong. “I’m old” or “I deserve it” is the battle cry of the person who will die of a heart attack.

I used to be cranky and snappy with people. Don’t get me wrong I still am like that, especially if I have a load of white bread, but I recognise that I get into moods. I avoid sugar when I can although I will always love chocolate. Once I get into lifting more, I know that my energy levels are going to go through the roof.

Lying to yourself about how you are in the short term comforting. Long term you are killing yourself. I call it, passive-aggressive suicide. You can’t bring yourself to kill yourself outright. Do the next best thing. You do it slowly over several years. You have so many problems. Physical, emotional and mental that could be avoided if physical health was maintained.

Take Brian’s advice, stay healthy.