As a new monthly feature on the blog I've decided to pick the brains of various figures inside (and outside) the film industry and get their likes, dislikes and general opinions on some burning movie related questions.
Q1. How does film making today compare with years gone by? What are the changes for the better or what do you miss about film that seems to be lacking in modern film?
I grew up in the mid-eighties, and my first influences were films like Rambo First Blood, Terminator 2, Poltergeist, Hook, An American Tail, Braveheart, Jurassic Park and loads more. A somewhat eclectic mix I know. Our house was liberal, and we watched want we wanted, it’s different now because parents are so afraid… for me, it fed my creativity and the power of storytelling. Emotionally, I was affected deeply by films themes, music, characters, and their stories.
It’s easy to say that we are running out of ideas and that’s the main problem, and I don’t think it’s that. I study storytelling almost daily, and it’s the ‘Storytelling’ aspect of filmmaking that’s suffering. Although, I am someone who likes artistic and aesthetically-driven films such as Nicholas Winding Refn’s work or in another way some of Kubrick's films that wouldn’t necessarily focus on traditional storytelling. David Lynch is another example, but only some filmmakers can pull this off.
I feel the real epic well-developed stories are last on the list for a lot of filmmakers. Including myself at times. We can be focused on getting names, budgets, what cameras we are using, cool shots, and posting behind-the-scenes videos of how we are shooting the film before the film gets made… it seems we are falling in love with showing off rather than telling unique well-crafted stories.
Some great stories are being told still to this day, but too many films are produced that are a focus on superficial elements such as Star Actors, Effects, Budgets, Merchandise, Franchise, Ticket sales, etc. All is not lost though; there are positives such as the 4dx experience in Cineworld in Dublin (every crappy blockbuster will get a new lease of life as the experience of the 4dx compensates hugely for a terrible story, i.e. Jurassic World)
Also, TV or Streaming is filling the gap of the lack of compelling storytelling. It’s a golden age of TV DRAMA that’s for sure. Honestly, I am blown away by certain shows, their writers, directors, actors, creators and production teams. I would give up film right now if I had the chance to work on TV Shows for the rest of my life as I feel it’s a huge market share.
Q2. What were your favourite films of the last twelve months?
Perfectly honest, haven’t been to the cinema a whole pile. I watched the odd film but focused on TV Drama which is why I include two lists.
FILMS (that I watched in the Cinema):
IT -- an outstanding remake, one of the best I have ever seen. Edge of the seat and unbelievable choices made by the creative team. I am worried about the follow-up. I feel the story and films needs unknown or at least unknown to most audiences for us to submerge ourselves in the story. The follow up to the remake has prominent named actors attached.
PHANTOM THREAD -- if it were up to me, he’d get another Oscar for this performance. Anderson and himself have a way of creating characters like no one else. Phoenix and Hoffman did the same in ‘The MASTER.’
STAR WARS - THE LAST JEDI -- biased but I was shouting about Kerry every time I saw Kerry on the screen. Think it surpassed everyone’s expectations regarding the promotion of our beautiful county.
TV DRAMA (Netflix & Amazon Prime):
VIKINGS -- Ragnar Lothbrok was genius from Michael Hirst and Travis Fimmel. All round an unbelievable feat plus practically and Irish production.
STRANGER THINGS -- hit all the right marks for an 80’s kid. Great show. Almost genius-level of nostalgia.
HOUSE OF CARDS -- even with Spacey’s troubles, this show was probably the greatest political show ever made and it’s very poignant how Underwood ended up and how Spacey is right now. They say be careful of the myth you create.
Q3. What film has left you pleasantly suprised over the last year and also what film has monumentally disappointed?
Watching Jurassic World in the 4dx experience in Dublin’s Cineworld left me speechless. It was great fun, and I highly recommend it to anyone. What I would say is to have a laugh, and it’s not for good films only blockbuster popcorn eating movies. For me, it feels like the future of the modern blockbuster as we all know they are hitting a plateau. The reasons why it’s so good: it’s 3d, there’s wind, water, smoke, you feel like you are experiencing the scenes as they are progressing. The final battle was spectacular, and I knew if I weren’t in the 4dx I would have hated the film.
Everyone loves “Baby Driver” -- everyone. I hated it. I am not a fan of Edgar Wright at all. Shaun of the Dead was good, but I do not like any of his other films. It’s a matter of taste. I can understand why people like his work, there’s a culture growing for that type of humour, storytelling, etc. Just not for me. I wrote on Facebook before about why I hated it, and people attacked me… fanboys basically. Ridiculous. Even though they all admitted that the ending was terrible. I think the music thing was gimmicky. He is getting a pass by popular culture… for some reason, people are seeing his work as something extraordinary. When Christopher Nolan gets slated for “Interstellar”, and it’s last 20 minutes… there’s no denying that the film itself breaks a ton of ground and deals with serious themes and powerful storytelling and characters… but Edgar Wright cuts to the music composes to the edit, I don’t know, and somehow that’s fantastic… I don’t get it.
Q4. What is the biggest obstacle in the way of the modern day film maker?
Too many films being produced by weak filmmakers, and by influential filmmakers. Breaking through the noise is hard. Your movie or story is not unique. That’s the reality. There’s a focus on social media and how we present ourselves to the world rather than what we are really doing or who we are… the process of developing stories and production takes years… most people don’t want to do that including me before everything is rushed, and the final product is crap. Everybody’s a director, or an actor, or a writer, or a filmmaker; what’s the prerequisite? For me, my films, all of them were my film school. I am a student. Not attending college but I am a student. The real filmmakers are the ones making money from royalties. The rest of us are students. Yes, even the ones who are super-successful are still learning but we are the students, and they are the professionals. The obstacle: checking into reality. Go to Cannes and experience the film market and see how special you are and your film(s). It’s the "reality of the industry" and how huge it is that’s the biggest obstacle. Nobody really cares about you or your film. You have to rise above everyone through process. Real process. And, that takes absolute dedication and resolve. Most people won’t do it.
Q5. What is your favourite Irish films over the last year? How strong is the current crop of filmmakers in this country?
To be perfectly honest, haven’t seen any, will watch Black ‘47 at Galway this year. Tickets booked. Barrett has his “Brain on Fire” on Netflix so will watch that. I am not sure if the story is something I would like, but I’ll give it a go.
Q6. What actor/actress is a favourite of yours? What actor/actress makes you want to reach for the remote?
There are a good few in no particular order: Daniel Day-Lewis, Carey Mulligan, Leonardo Di Caprio, Jessica Chastain, Jake Gyllenhaal, Cate Blanchett, Sean Penn, Penelope Cruz, Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy and I love Aidan Gillen (definitely want to work with him) All the Vikings, Game of Thrones, House of Cards cast, the main ones.
Q7. Desert Island Films- What are your 3 all time favourite movies and why?
The Shining - the depth of it, it’s been analysed and analysed and no definitive answer yet.
Braveheart (although it's starting to feel old) - it changed me I believe, the story and the music. Just awe-inspiring.
Hook (I know, I know) - for inspiration to fly off the island. :) (adored this as a kid and still do, it’s magical)
Q8. What upcoming films are you looking forward to seeing?
Black ‘47 (first famine film)
Sicario 2 (loved the first one)
Hereditary (heard it’s a fantastic horror)