#30DayFilmChallenge – Week Two

Cineworld’s campaign on social media is the perfect fit for my blog, so I decided to do a post a week for six weeks, combining brief answers with more comprehensive rambles.

It’s interesting to ask yourself these questions and try to think of anecdotes, because it’s those experiences that truly resonate – and why we love films and the cinematic experience.

That is what I miss the most, and will miss even more the longer that I can’t safely return to my local cinema!

(Read part one, including days one to five, here)

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Day 6 – A film you put on when you feel sad

I find it quite hard to answer this, as I’ve watched films regardless of emotional state for my entire life! But to make me feel better and lift my mood, it could honestly be any comedy or action film. I know that’s fairly vague, but we all know what picks us up when we need it – like comfort food!

With the lockdown, I’ve not really been watching many films but have instead binged on TV series (maybe there’s something psychological there about watching a series that will take you ages, and the comfort compared to a film done in two hours). But I know quite a few people have taken this approach with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is a good idea (you literally have all the time and no excuse not to watch them in sequence at last).

If I had to choose one right off the bat though, it’d be one of the last few films I watched with OTHER PEOPLE in the SAME ROOM before – the epic, hilarious and quality John Wick. How can you not fail to be removed from real life watching a film about a legendary assassin in a heightened reality?

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This film has everything – it came from nowhere, spawned an improbable franchise, reignited the Keanu Reeves renaissance (the Keanuassiance? The Reevesnaissance?) and gave action cinema a realistic, stylistic kick up the arse most big blockbusters are now imitating (mainly by hiring the two stuntmen geniuses behind this film, Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, to make their films or action sequences more realistic/engaging).

It has a wry humour and a kickass, rock tinged soundtrack; is populated by a rogue’s gallery of character actors and famous faces; and above all it’s got the best hook for any revenge thriller (which I am newly invested in as a dog owner) – slaughtering hundreds of gangster scumbags after your dog has been killed. GO KEANU.

Day 7 – A film that you would love to see on a big screen

Anything?! Unless I bought a projector and screen (and I’ve recently invested in a 50 inch 4K TV and a dog, so no) I couldn’t possibly replicate the experience fully, and it’s going to be a while before any of us feel safe enough to do it. 

However, drive in cinemas are about to boost the UK given that this is the perfect opportunity to watch a film safely (as long as the summer plays ball). We’ve booked to go and see Reservoir Dogs at Blenheim Palace, which ought to be an interesting film on the big screen but at the same time isn’t one that particularly needs it.

We want to be able to go and see films that deserve the big screen treatment – one such highlight of 2019 was being able to do this with The Matrix for its 20th anniversary. I had only seen it on TV screens, so seeing it blown up to cinema proportions was great despite knowing every beat of the film! Everything is enhanced, grander and more immersive.

There are SO MANY films I could suggest, but in terms of those I love I’d want to see on the big screen, one sticks out because in 2018 I went to see it at the IMAX in London while on a work trip for JUST THIS REASON. I’ve seen it in the cinema more since its release than any other film…

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This was a truly epic (and in every sense of the word) experience onscreen, and each time I’ve seen it again in a cinema (one particular highlight being at uni during a campus cinema marathon, complete with free Dominos after Batman Begins), its sheer cinematic punch and propulsion hits like that lorry hits the pavement.

I remember the HUGE event this was when it came out, particularly due to the tragedy of Heath Ledger’s death, and from the first scene and that uncomfortably terse Joker theme through to “You and I, we could do this forever” it’s his film. Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, somehow deemed better by idiots, would be hired by Heath Ledger’s to “introduce a little anarchy” and then probably get shot in the head when he’d done his job. It’s an incredible performance and you’re pining for more every time you see it.

It’ll be hard to ever top this Batman wise (with the honourable exception of Lego Batman, who is after all the best Batman), and Nolan, Bale and the late great Ledger (along with the oft imitated, never bettered Hans Zimmer/James Newton Howard score) make this classic a classic. Everything about it still absolutely smashes home on the big screen too.

Day 8 – Your favourite film that is set in space

This is like the week of difficult questions! So many brilliant films take place in space, some you wouldn’t necessarily mention and others that are painfully obvious. However, only one film has really crystallised the horror of outer space so impressively for me – Gravity.

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Honestly, seeing this in the cinema was the epitome of that experience. You can’t, without a cinema screen, a 3D projector and glasses or a huge surround sound system possibly do this film justice (he says, owning on bluray). It was perhaps the only film in the brief 3D fad that was actually worth seeing in 3D, having been natively filmed with 3D cameras and not converted into it.

Combining spectacular special effects – whether believably austere orbital views and destructive fragmentations, or the clever lighting effects used for the astronaut’s points of view – with the most tense soundtrack ever made, Gravity was so excruciating and jaw droppingly exciting that I almost forgot to breathe. I remember seeing it with my family and my parents both having the same reaction – those shared experiences yet again making the film stick in the memory!

In depicting space as it actually is – cold, dark, terrifyingly dangerous and yet awe-inspiringly epic – this film is unparalleled.

Day 9 – A film with a soundtrack you love

This is SUCH a difficult question because I’m a massive soundtrack nerd and I don’t want to use up some films I’d like to use for different answers! I’ve listened to one particular soundtrack so much in the past 10 years that it’s actually a bit ridiculous, especially seeing as I’m well overdue seeing the film again.

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Trent Reznor, if you aren’t already aware, is the musician behind industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, of whom I am a big fan (ironically, I became aware of them in late 2006 at uni when the trailer for 300 came out using ‘Just Like You Imagined’, so my connection to the band was forged by and strengthened via cinema).

His first ever foray into soundtracks won him and bandmate Atticus Ross an Oscar for Best Original Score – something that I know most NIN fans are still almost dumbstruck about a decade on. This glitchy, electronic score has soundtracked my rainy commutes, train trips, frenzied essay writing and all sorts of other computer work – it brings up images and places in my mind within a few minutes, and I always return to it when I want something I know well and can comfortably compartment in my brain while I concentrate.

The film is still unbelievably relevant, and it shows how big an impression Facebook made in the late 2000s with how soon after its global expansion this was produced. David Fincher is one of my favourite directors, and his austere, driven vision plus Aaron Sorkin’s quippy, snappy script combine perfectly with the music to make the Machiavellian manipulations of Mark Zuckerberg (iconically portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg) feel so much more devious.

It also has an industrialised synth version of ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’ aka the Alton Towers theme – the symbolism is not lost on me, and the track is an embodiment of the whole score’s techy, digital style (which is why I think the Oscars rewarded it, seeing that it was the first in a digital wave of soundtracks).

Years on, and with Facebook’s role in the world under constant question and criticism, Zuckerberg remains the evil bastard in charge. If anything, the film is more relevant now given the clearly petty and pathetic human being who devised the network continues to spearhead its harvesting of our data (yes, the irony of me using both FB and Instagram to promote this blog is not lost on me).

Day 10 – A film that is also a book that you love

And the week of difficult questions concludes with another absolute bastard of a choice. I’m saving some of the potential answers to this for future questions, so I’ll lazily hark back to a film I reviewed on here and love: The Martian.

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If you’ve not had the pleasure of reading this, and you enjoy space, science fiction and hilarious nerdy references, get on it! If not, and you’re not overly keen on too much science speak, this is such a good adaptation that I’d make the rare suggestion that you watch the film instead, because it’s so loyal to the original yet its changes are perfect.

The book is such a witty and engrossing read that the idea of it being adapted was quite surprising. Hiring Ridley Scott almost seemed like a small football team hiring a global superstar – this has no aliens in it, what would Sir Ridley want to do this for? It ended up being one of his best films, because he recognised the unique story and was able to bring the characters, no matter how incidental, to humorous and realistic life, while also portraying Mars and space in the way we’ve come to expect from his peerless scifi movies.

It’s also very tough to give voice to a protagonist so entwined with the book as this, but Matt Damon was legitimately perfect casting – and Drew Goddard’s script adapts Andy Weir’s book perfectly, from its twists and turns through to expertly timed outbursts of hilarity and tension. Just writing this has made me want to read the book and watch the film again – the mark of a perfect adaptation!

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