What Some Films Really Cost to Produce: Accidents When Filming

They’re extraordinary, these special effects guys and stunt guys. To watch those craftsmen at work…There really should be an Oscar for stunt work. These guys are incredible and they’re so careful and so professional. And they’re artists. They do amazing things.” (Helen Mirren, British actress, quote taken from slashfilm.com).

The intention of this post is not to depress or offend anyone. As most of you will know, yesterday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts announced a new category of award called “Achievement in Popular Film”. My point is that, rather than devising this preposterous category, it would have been better for the Academy to finally recognise the invaluable contribution of stunt performers, who sometimes risk their lives to make a great scene for us all to enjoy. What follows are ten instances where the process of making an action film did not go as planned so as to demonstrate that film-making can be dangerous and, thus, the bravery, artistry and contribution of stunt performers (crew/coordinators) should be recognised. In no particular order: 

Harry-Potter-and-the-Deathly-Hallows-Part-1-poster1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2010) – David Holmes

David Holmes worked as a stunt double for Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) on the set of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows“. He was also a stunt double for Radcliffe on all previous Harry Potter films. He flew broomsticks being attached to wires, as well as performed various other “magical”, but dangerous actions. Tragically, on the set of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows“, when shooting an explosion scene, Holmes was thrown against a wall and is now paralysed from the chest down. He now races modified cars and has started his own production company.  

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Mirrors in Films: Duality, Secrets and Revelations, and the Passage to the Otherworld

Snow White MirrorI love mirrors. They let one pass through the surface of things.” (Claude Chabrol, French film director)

This will be my 300th post, and, as now customary, I am writing on objects in films and their (symbolic) meanings. For my other similar article, check out Gloves in Films: Hiding True Character and Desires, when I “celebrated” my 200th blog post. Mirrors can play many roles in films. (Narcissistic) film characters can utilise them to satisfy their vanity (“Gone with the Wind” (1939)); to ego-boost (“Taxi Driver” (1976) or “La Haine” (1995)); for self-examination or to marvel at their transformation (“The Aviator” (2004) or “Vanilla Sky” (2001)); Gone with the Windor films use them for dramatic showdowns (“The Lady from Shanghai” (1947)), among many other roles and meanings. However, in this piece, I would like to focus on three interpretations in particular: (i) the usage of mirrors as they demonstrate the character’s dual nature (often revealing the character’s evil/bad nature when that character otherwise appears good); (ii) mirrors used to emphasise secrecy or to reveal secrets; and (iii) the use of mirrors as certain clandestine passages to the Otherworld.    Read more of this post

“Up” (2009) vs. “Above Then Beyond” (2006): Simple Coincidence, Unmentioned Inspiration or Stolen Idea?

Up PosterAbove then Beyond Poster

I will first introduce the two animations, then detail the similarities, and, finally, will argue that the French short animation “Above Then Beyond” (2006) and Pixar/Disney produced-animation “Up” (2009) share so many similarities, including shots which are almost identical, that one must have influenced greatly the other, and this is not a question of pure coincidence. Even given the timelines in which the two animations were produced, there is strong case to be made for the French short influencing Disney/Pixar’s final product. Going further, it also seems that, rather than being a mere inspiration, all evidence point to Pixar/Disney covertly using the main idea present in “Above Then Beyond” to fledge out the very essence of their Academy Award-winning film.

Gloves in Films: Hiding True Character and Desires

audrey-hepburn-breakfast-at-tiffanys-costume-wallpaper-2This will be my 200th post on the blog, and I thought I would do something different. I have always been fascinated with objects and their symbolic meanings in films, and some object-placements in films evoke powerful imagery and are open to different symbolic interpretations. On the face of it, gloves in films do not present a big conundrum: they can be worn for warmth; because of an unspoken societal rule/etiquette; as a result of a fashion trend; in the course of a professional pursuit, such as medicine or sport; or in the course of a crime. However, arguably, gloves may also sometimes have a more symbolic interpretation in a film, and represent a character’s “camouflaged”/hidden true intention or desire, or emphasise a character’s subconscious attempt to distance him(her)self from others, hiding their true character.

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Film vs. Book: M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Village” & M. Peterson Haddix’s “Running Out of Time”

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The Village is a 2004 film directed by M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense” (1999) and starring Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt and Bryce Dallas Howard. The film tells of a 19th century village whose inhabitants live in a constant fear of some creatures that start terrorising the village population. One of the protagonists of the movie is a blind girl named Ivy. Although the movie is not as bad as critics claim and its soundtrack is absolutely beautiful, it has a needless array of well-known star-actors involved, which is distracting. Running Out of Time is a popular 1996 book by Margaret Peterson Haddix for young adults about a girl (Jessie) in a 19th century village who is sent on a mission to town to look for medicine to cure a diphtheria epidemic in her village.

Even though the plots of both “The Village” and “Running Out of Time” look different, there are considerable similarities between the two. The ways in which the book and the film are similar speak volumes when one considers the most important things of both: “Running Out of Time”’s narrative and “The Village”’s final plot twist.

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“Perfect Blue” (1997) vs. “Black Swan” (2010): Is Aronofsky’s Black Swan Perfectly Blue?

perfect-blue-movie-poster-1997-1010247694affiche_black_swan_by_linds37-d3fp171

Darren Aronofsky’s 2010 featureBlack Swan” is an Academy Award-nominated film, telling the story of a young ballerina Nina Sayers, whose transformation from a shy ballet dancer to a leading heroine ballerina of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” production causes a psycho-sexual breakdown. “Perfect Blue” is a lesser known 1997 Japanese animated movie based on a novel by Yoshikazu Takeuchi, telling the story of Mima Kirigoe, whose rapid descent from an admired pop-idol into a “tarnished” rookie actress has disastrous consequences.

In this piece, I will compare the two films closely, arguing that the two films share substantial similarities in terms of the plot, character, style, design, execution and the little details, pointing to the conclusion that the very underrated “Perfect Blue” was – at the very least – the direct and main inspiration for “Black Swan” (and even something much more than that), though Aronofsky himself denied the claim. Going further, the similarities are so striking that it could even be said that Aronofsky essentially re-made “Perfect Blue”, but changed the setting to a ballet, and re-modelled some characters, disguising them as others. 

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“The Double” vs. “Enemy”

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The question of personal identity and its duplication have been fascinating people for centuries. From Edgar Allan Poe’s “William Wilson” to Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”, the theme has been pervasive in almost every form of art. When it comes to movies, such films as “Sommersby” (1993), “Face/Off” (1997), “The Prestige” (2006) or “Black Swan” (2010) may immediately come to mind. However, just recently, scriptwriters/directors have decided to approach the topic more directly, and we now see two films – Denis Villeneuve’s “Enemy” (2014) and Richard Ayoade’s “The Double” (2013) gracing cinema screens in the hope to awe. Although these two movies have their share of differences, e.g., “The Double” is far wittier and more satirical than “Enemy“, these two films share the same theme, and, therefore, it may be interesting to make a brief comparison between the two. Also, besides the “doppelganger” theme, what these two films also have in common is the relative novelty of the directors’ productions. “The Double” is Ayoade’s directional debut and for Villeneuve, ‘”Enemy” is only his second truly mainstream movie after “Prisoners” (2013), also starring Jake Gyllenhaal (“Donnie Darko” (2001), “Zodiac” (2007)).

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