PR, Films and Fantasies

Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

It’s been a while since I talked about films here, so I thought about updating you on some titles I watched over the past weeks…

First of all, The Fighter – I finally got to see it (I know, quite late) and I have to say I got what all the fuss about Bale’s performance as a supporting actor was all about (although it seemed more than just “supporting” to me). These parts (Machinist style) fit him amazingly well and it seems like the Batman is just a weekend fun. Also, as we’re talking performance, the women in the film were brilliant. I really didn’t think Adams had it in her and Melissa Leo can easily get the Oscar for world’s worst mother (competing with another which I’ll mention further on)! Mark Wahlberg was just…Mark Wahlberg. This is where I think the film could’ve gotten a bit better. Anyway in terms of the story, the plot is quite simple and based on a true story of a world champion boxer and his drug addict brother. Many criticised the “real” people appearing at the end, but I think that gives the film a more realistic touch pushing it towards the documentary side. And it also proves that Bales’ performance was not over the top and actually perfectly accurate as you can easily see teh relationship between the brothers and both their personalities. Directing and Cinematography seemed so British to me :) Warm colours and reality push again.

 

The Animal Kingdom – I have to say I was quite surprised by all the promotional efforts with this film. The UK marketing for this Australian production, winner of Sundance 2010 is overwhelming compared to others coming from the same area. However, I have to admit that despite all the posters, trailers and pushes I’ve seen, I don’t think I would’ve picked it for a night at the cinema. A gangster film in Australia didn’t seem right for some reason. And I am still not 100% convinced by it. I absolutely loved Jacki Weaver’s character (and yes, she is the other candidate for world’s worst mummy) and the overall idea of the plot, but in some parts is seemed way too slow. In some way I found that as being “very Australian” with time running slowly and absurdly, but all the family ties and the nicely packed violence only managed to turn it into a decent action movie trying to show a different side of the gangster genre.

And one very different, but still worth mentioning: Kolya. A 1996 Czech production following the life of a cellist, confirmed bachelor in the Communist era who finds himself with a little gift after an arranged marriage – a baby boy. I found it very sensible and touching and I definitely think the kid’s performance was the best child-acting I’ve ever seen! He was brilliant!

 

 

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been working on my dissertation for a few months now (going slowly but surely). Overall, it covers film promotion within today’s promotional culture when we get stuck in a vortex of publicity and at a point, loose track of what is marketing pushed material and true media content.

My case study will be Sex and the City 2 and no, I did not chose it because I’m a fan of the franchise (although I don’t hate it with a passion either) but because despite the fact that the film was a review disaster, it did make the over 100mil BO and billions still went to watch it. I am really curios how bad press mingled with articles on the S&C lifestyle and the “Carrie On” pages as on the one hand the media destroyed it, but on the other it promoted every single usp the marketeers emphasised.

Anyway, for now, I just wanted to present a few really good books on Film Marketing and Promotion that I found in my research. I think they are quite helpful for anyone in the industry or aspiring to be part of it. Let’s start with the classics:

Justin Wyatt – High Concept: Movies and Marketing in Hollywood – 1994 - It covers promotional techniques for movies in the “high concept” category which are the crowd pleasers. They go beyond blockbusters in following rules of BO and Wyatt covers many case studies of such productions where marketing starts from the first page of the script (Top Gun, Baby Boom, Basic Instinct and so on…)

Tiiu Lukk – Movie Marketing: Opening the Picture and Giving it Wings – 1997 – One of my favorites as it really helped me in my own research. It follows the promotional campaigns of different genres and styles from the romantic comedies (4 weddings and a funeral) to the independent films (Pulp Fiction), action, documentaries and so on. I really wish I could find something similar from our decade. (this website tries to present case studies, but it doesn’t analyse them so in depth: http://www.moviemarketingmadness.com/blog/ check it out!)

Thomas Austin – Hollywood, hype and audiences: Selling and watching popular film in the 1990s – 2002 - again this is key for my own research as it combines the sold image of the films (which appeared in the media reviews and through advertising) with the audience response and reactions. Basically it analyses how the promotion influences the viewer’s expectations and to what extent this changes the messages he/she receives from the production. Again Basic Instinct is among the case studies, as well as Dracula and Natural Born Killers.

Janet Wasko – Hollywood in the Information Age – 1994 – even if this doesn’t cover film marketing to the point, it helps the reader understand the background of the big studios and how the function in order to relate that to the way the movie are being produced and sold. This goes hand in hand with:

Janet Wasko – How Hollywood Works – 2003

And now, for the pure film marketing ones:

Robert Marich – Markting to moviegoers: A handbook of strategies and tactics – 2009 – up to date marketing toolkit for the film industry.

Finola Kerrigan – Film Marketing – 2010 - great read which combines the business approach with the cultural theory. I think it’s quite a bible for the field

Angus Finney – The International Film Business: A Market Guide Beyond Hollywood – 2010 – Goes away from Hollywood recipes and looks at how the industry works in other countries and within the independent sector.

Hope this list will help others so please feel free to ask me any questions about the titles or maybe others. Also, I would be really grateful if  you could suggest more that I could use in my research and add to this list!

Film marketers and scholars out there, I salute you!

I know I promised a sequel for Film Appreciation part 1 so, almost a week later, here it is. Sorry for the delay but dissertation issues as well as applying for an MA and trying to keep up with the PR duties can keep one quite busy.

Anyway, here it is:

Films portraying reality – documentary versus fantasy

We have to admit that one of the basic things that make a film “good” is the extent to which it seems REAL. Are the characters sincere enough, are the stories realistic? And all this because throughout the 2hours of the production, the story in the film supersedes life for the viewer and he expects to live, breathe and be the character. Basically, all big technological innovations in the industry were meant to make the films more…real: sound, steadicams, special effects and of course 3D (even if we are still to get used to it in order to fully “live” the effect)!

In the end all the Free Cinema movements pushed it towards the “real” in comparison to the glam and the shine of Hollywood and that is what made them more valuable in an “artistic” way. They were shot in the “real” world with “real” people who act and talk like they do in their everyday life.

Let’s take a few examples: Salesman by Maysles Brothers – it’s the documented life of a salesman… however, is it a documentary? is it fantasy? and if it is a documentary, then as it offers just one position, form one angle and from a certain artistic point of view, isn’t it still reality turned into art and therefore a type of fantasy? (sorry if I puzzled you even more)

Lars Von Trier’s famous Dogville. No set, no design, no real objects that can define space and still we engage with the drama and the characters as the story draws us in. The cinema always had a problem with TRUTH, but it’s all part of its grammar, of its genius – you know you are watching an artistic product but you still engage with all its aspects as realistically as possible in the level of imagination.

Then we have Blair Witch, a film that marketed itself as a true story, as well as Paranormal Activity. Think about the way in which people reacted when watching them. We know they are fantasies, but somewhere deep inside we think… what if?

One of the most shocking reality versus fiction films has to be Waltz With Bashir. It’s an animation that relates to real facts and people… where is the barrier between fiction and life in it? And how does the final scene challenge the viewer by showing shocking news-style pieces?

This weekend The Guardian organised the first Film Appreciation Masterclass, part of a series of workshops, talks and short courses on different topics. The two days were put together by famous film critic and BBC 2011 presenter, Danny Leigh and were meant to take us (60 students coming from a variety of fields and backgrounds) through the history of films, genre by genre, director by director and masterpiece by masterpiece.

A few facts about comedy – The Guardian and Xan Brooks

Saturday morning started with comedy and a short talk by Xan Brooks who introduced us to silent comic geniuses of the first screenings ever: Linder, Lloyd, Buster Keaton and obviously the amazing Chaplin. They all had vaudeville  backgrounds as most of the stars back then when stage still had a major influence on the big screen productions. As comedy is a universal language, their works were incredibly well received all over the world and thus gained them fame and recognition. However, with the introduction of sound in cinema, the silent comics gradually disappeared making way for incredibly talented groups such as the Marx Brothers or the hilarious Laurel and Hardy.  By the 1940s the history of comedy has been written and all films that followed in the genre were and still are bastard offsprings of the original acts as they have all been influenced throughly by the original acts. We couldn’t have gone through comedy without mentioning Woody Allen with Annie Hall or the more recent Farrelly Brothers There’s Something About Mary.

Obviously, once you start analysing comedy it slowly dies and looses its charm because in the end it is the stereotypes, little disasters, violation of social rules and hilarious chaos in the lives of others that make us smile. Seldom do we see 5* ratings on comedies or award praise due to the fact that they generally go a bit too far in touching taboos, but they are there to amuse us and we should just relax and enjoy them. Also, one key aspect when watching productions from this genre (and actually any other film) is the communal experience, as fun is always fun-er  when the laughter is shared.

Oh and if you wonder where all the recent American comedies get their inspiration from, well try Freaks and Geeks.

Love stories in films – with Danny Leigh

I absolutely loved when Danny said that “the history of film is in fact a great gallery of faces” as that is in the end what cinema is all about: the face. And where else are faces so expressive and incredibly touching than in love stories?

Many times, it is not the 3hours productions about love itself that touch our hearts but the emotional scenes scattered throughout all genres (let’s say in The Bride of Frankenstein for example). However, the romantic titles we’ve been through at the course are brilliant in terms of exploring human relations and feelings. We started with Munrau’s Sunrise as the silent love story which didn’t hit the BO or became a hit back in the 1920s as it was launched one week before the first film with sound and therefore lost all public attention. The 30s and 40s were famous for their romanticism (Hell’s Angels, Clark Gable and Joan Crawford, La Belle et la Bete the original). We couldn’t leave Marilyn out of the talk and explored a bit the stereotype of the man and the woman who can’t stand each other but develop a burning desire for one another in Some Like it Hot. We also had a bit of destructive and mad love in Laura where a detective falls in love with the woman whose murder is investigating.

A few more titles that are on my must see list include: the neurotic Les Amantes Du Pont Neuf!!!!!!, Bonnie and Clyde and Before the Sunrise and Before the Sunset.

As there is quite a lot to include, I’ll leave reality films, horror, sci-fi and thrillers for parts 2 and 3 of Film Appreciation at The Guardian with Danny Leigh.

However, until then, please feel free to tell me your favourite titles on the comedy and love story list!

 

5 reasons to Love it:

Coen Brothers (doh!) You never know what to expect form them… It can be amazing, it can be weird, it can be funny or it can be heartbreaking. And this expectation is what makes them brilliant!

Jeff Bridges (double doh!) Since Crazy Heart I started to absolutely love this man and his acting! The hard part in this film is to actually understand what he is saying… and that makes him perfect for the role!

Hailee Steinfeld (who?) Amazing actress! She’s really beyond words! I couldn’t believe she is only 14!!!! Her character is crucial to this production and she is actually a lot better than her “Oscar awarded” partners!

True Grit the original – The 1969 version which brought and Oscar for John Wayne.

The West – Since Doctor Quinn Medicine Women, I have a guilty pleasure for anything Western… I love the little wooden houses, the dust, the horses, the wilderness.

And one to hate it:

The ending – too sudden, too thin, too bad! The encounter between Mattie and Chaney just didn’t give the story enough strength! But maybe it’s another Coen thing which I missed…

P.S. Loved the OST and fell in love with Johnny Cash’s God’s Gonna Cut You Down!!!

 

 

 

I’ve been waiting for The King’s Speech for months now and just didn’t have a chance to watch it anywhere before its UK release. In this time I read both amazing and terrible reviews, I heard people praising it and other destroying it claiming that it had no right to be on the list for the awards as it was soooo made for the money and fame. So I honestly didn’t know what to expect even if I am a declared fan of Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter.

Funny but dramatic in its comedy, sensible and strong in the same scenes, with a beautiful cinematography that portrayed the years perfectly and a very intelligent script, this film dragged me into the story from minute one. It is obviously hard not to love the sympathetic King as he desperately tries to overcome a deeply engraved problem which shows once more that royal blood doesn’t come with less issues but actually with more and even more powerful than a regular subject could realise.

The perfect performance given by the entire cast (even little Elisabeth was brilliant!) definitely deserves recognition, but what I loved more than anything was the powerful silence in the film. My favorite moment was the scene after the King’s Speech where so much could be deciphered from the tension and the facial expressions. Also, the lovely lessons about life, awards and credentials that we are given throughout the story are nicely and funnily inserted.

As a non-British I probably saw this film in a very different way to the other English people in the cinema. Never before have I felt such intensity on the chairs as there was absolutely no sound from the audience. No fizzy drinks popping, no popcorn bags, no chatting… just the shy laughs when the moment was right. And believe me the screen was full! Orange Wednesdays and 400 souls under one roof. Therefore I wonder if there is something more to this film that I couldn’t understand due to my different cultural background and history, coming from a country where the royal family has been absent for the past hundred years and only causes trouble when coming to visit their lands.

How do the British relate to their royal leaders and how has that changed with the media which turned them more into public goods with each development?

One really interesting aspect portrayed in the production was how the new media technologies changed the lives and activities of the famous. Considering the huge impact of radio, just think what TV and even more the internet did to the ones in the spotlight as private and public boundaries have completely disappeared. To what extent is this fair? Do we, the public, actually own their lives? As more and more dream of that kind of attention and do anything to get it, how about the ones that are born with it and simply can’t get rid of the paparazzi eye?

Quite controversial questions and with a million of answers…

Anyway, I love this scene (hope it’s legal to post it here :)):

P.S. Click for great article in the Guardian covering something similar!

Youth in Revolt – Parody of teenage drama – wanna be comedy/ I didn’t laugh (maybe I’m getting to old for this) – 2/5 – is Michael Cera desperate to act like Jesse Einsberg?

Marry and Max – adorable, animated, deep sadness – such a perfect portrait of today’s society – 5/5!!! – real story

Never Let Me Go – this one deserves a full review but deadlines are killing me so I’ll resume to “heartbreaking, mind-blowing and completely frustrating for the normal and simple human being who simply can’t understand what life is for… ” – 4/5 – a bit disappointed about Keira’s performance  – little girl who plays Carey’s young character looks amazingly like her!!!!

Catfish – as with Mary and Max, the beginning of the film might put you off, but believe me, you WANT to watch this, especially if you are a social-media freak as I am – frighting, intriguing, extremely sad and such a wise story which can give anyone some really valuable lessons – I think the thing that keeps you stuck to the screen is the curiosity if this is actually TRUE! Can’t answer that question, but this is definitely how the makers packaged and sold the film – 4/5 – real people playing themselves, it is a documentary after all…

Whip it! - I was actually looking forward to this film – not happy – not impressed – quite disappointed of Drew Barrymore as actress and director, thank God for Ellen Page’s brilliance – 2/5


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