Box Office numbers, Marvel, and cinematic stories

                                                                           -May contain spoilers-

Any story can be a good story. Any story can convey powerful messages and touch human hearts. Be it a story about a boy growing up in the streets without guidance, constantly on the run, or a story about a super hero in tights, fighting crime. What I have come to understand though, is that the creator’s motivation in telling a story, ends up defining the story itself.

With Captain America: Civil War making over a billion US dollars in less than 20 days we can all pretty much guess what motivates those guys in making movies. If we take into consideration all the other Marvel films that have broken Box Office records in the last 5 years, plus the tons of money made by superhero paraphernalia and the rest, Marvel makes billions of dollars each year. And Marvel is affiliated with Disney, which -we know- is a money factory. I sincerely hope none of you are under the misguided impression that all that money goes to productions or -heaven forbid- the creators of those works. Not that these guys don’t make tons of money but please, let’s be real. It’s all about the marketing. Shareholders and CEOs, marketers, business associates and advisors, people who care about the numbers -any and all forms of them-, before anything else. Where is the story in all this, one would wonder.

Well, after these guys have worked out a plan, they hire people to make the product. Under strict guidelines and with specific needs. And somewhere inside the labyrinth of introducing future products and reacquainting the audience with said other products and connecting present product with previous ones, a story is written. Let’s not forget that marketers generally think of audiences (and the much talked of general public) as a troop of baboons, with the attention span of a fruit fly and the cognitive abilities of a cabbage. Which means everything should be written in a level that will be understandable to us and with enough action that we will not grow bored and leave the theatre.

And now I bring the question to you, what kind of stories can one tell under such conditions?

It’s painfully apparent, that these guys -the creators- not only know what they are doing, but they also like it. They like writing about these heroes, they like making these movies and -from what I’m reading in their interviews- they like and know their characters. Which makes me wonder, what stories would they write if they were able to roam free with them?

Take Captain America for example. I was never a big superhero fan (although as a kid and a teenager I read enough comics about them to know a bit on the subject) and certainly never a Captain America fan, but even I can see the greatness in the character. The poor sick boy (from an immigrant family no less) with the golden heart, who allows himself to become a lab rat, because he wanted to be of use to the world. Poster boy for integrity and loyalty and honorable to a fault, he finds himself challenged by having to choose between loyalties in a world foreign to him (was in the ice for 70 years) and dealing with issues that bring countries to wars in the actual world. Free will and individual freedom in today’s highly terrorized societies. How much is too much meddling in another country’s affairs when it comes to global organizations? What do we protect, freedom or security? Where is the line drawn? The tales one could tell with such material.

In the end, the movie has excellent effects and is filled with amazing action scenes. Unfortunately it only scratches the surface of what could be and is found wanting in lots of ways, story-wise. Even more character-wise, considering the potential.

At this point I will seize this opportunity to complain -as many have done before me- about the lack of female presence in the film and -let’s be honest- generally the Marvel cinematic franchise.

I find the reasoning “female leads don’t fill theatres” disgusting. When the female with enough dialogue to be considered a main character is as awesome as Black Widow is, that reasoning is also idiotic. Hunger Games made more money than Iron Man and evened out Captain America so that argument is invalid as well as disgusting and idiotic. Especially when the Black Widow is a spy with more back story and development than James Bond could ever hope to be.

And since we’re talking about character development, I for one would be interested in finding out how an orphaned girl from Russia, who was taken by an organization to be raised and trained as an assassin, who was tortured and brainwashed and used as a puppet all her life, finds herself fighting the good fight of her own free will. Chooses to continue fighting, to subject her will and freedom to others for the good of the people, in spite of being considered a dangerous individual instead of a beloved hero and in spite of the fact that she had only recently become her own person, and not somebody’s asset. And, if that was not enough awesomeness for you, she chooses to become a fugitive of the world once again, to protect a friend. Now that’s what I call a good story. It was given about 8 minutes of screen time.

A piece of advice to productions everywhere: People are people, not fruit flies. We can take a good story whenever you choose to tell it. We’ll even pay for it (even though we shouldn’t at least not as much, but that’s another story). So go ahead and use that potential!

P.S. I’m a good girl and I will try to leave this in a more positive note. You can find making of videos below that will make you go “how do they make these films?!”. I’ll just say it involves much less cgi than I originally thought, which is shocking and fun to watch. They break things a lot.

 

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Officially an animator

Hello everybody!

It’s been a long long while I know. But, I took August off, and by off I mean I didn’t touch a computer for almost the entire month and I practically spent 10 days on the beach. I live in Greece, we may be poor but the sea is like, right there.

So after a month of detoxification, I spent September buried 10 ft deep into my thesis (because I need to get my degree someday) and I got a job in October! Yes, I am by all accounts, an animator. Happy, happy, happy, busy, busy, busy, but I’m here now and I have some nice videos for you!

I’m gonna start with THIS truthful, awesome video from Vox, about how special effects make movies suck. You hear that Hollywood?! Get some damn good scriptwriters back and push the computer gang on the back seat, because movies are about stories and characters, not HD explosions.

Stay in tune for more!

135 Shots That Will Restore Your Faith In Cinema

This video is exactly what it says. It’s a montage of shots from many films with amazing cinematography. It’s  a lesson in great editing and it is going to captivate you for sure. Enjoy!

I’m such a good person I have found a list of all the films shown here. They are listed below if you are interested, along with the cinematographers’ name.
Continue reading

The fountain

I should really be more cautious when I decide to rewatch something….

This masterpiece of a movie came out when I was 14, I think. I remember crying a lot about it but its core, its meaning, didn’t really get through to me, obviously. So, after a long talk on cinematography with a colleague of mine, I decided it deserved another go.

I am of the opinion that the script is the most important part of a film. A film tells a story, the better the story, the better the film. Also, good material can highlight the beauty of the film as a whole, its cinematography, music etc. Everything becomes more meaningful when there is a strong message supporting it. This movie had such an excellent script. Such beauty, romanticism, reality and meaning all combined in this wondrous piece of work. The idealism behind the novel (written by both characters) gives us such strong imagery, it speaks strongly about the meaning of love and life and death, about how we wish we could keep somethings forever. And then we have our protagonist above his wife’s grave, grieving, but in the end moving on. Because that’s life.

It’s painful to know that with all our ideas and dreams of that something more, of meaning and eternity in our existence and deeds, we lead mortal lives and as our lives go forth and change even if we don’t want them to, so does everything else.

I find myself weeping once more because of this film. I know that like my colleague, lots of people are going to argue that it’s the one film by Aronofsky that didn’t quite hit the mark. I say it’s probably one of the most underrated films I have seen. Its subject is so theoretical and elusive that it demands vagueness. One cannot speak with certainty about life and death and human nature. And Aronofsky, excellent director and writer that he is, caught that and left us hanging.

I started writing this post wanting to speak about the beautiful cinematography and I ended up talking about why it was so beautiful. You can see and learn about the science behind it in these videos. Enjoy!

The Departure

Has any of you guys seen and/or read “a Streetcar Named Desire”? Either way, you’re gonna have to see this prequel by the Young Vic theatre.

I read that play a few years ago and I had the pleasure of seeing it by the aforementioned theatre in September. It was an amazing experience. It swam around in my head for weeks, it was hard to let go. This short film has the same atmosphere they created for the play, very melancholic and beautiful. Their interpretation of Blanche’s life before we meet her in the play made my heart clench all over again. Damn you people.

Anyway, enjoy!

http://www.theguardian.com/stage/video/2015/feb/06/the-departure-gillian-anderson-streetcar-named-desire-video?CMP=share_btn_fb

Cruisr-All Over

Excellent movement, excellent blend, very stylish and considerate of the amazing references. Making good use of them too. See if you can watch it without trying to recognise every single film and you will be stronger than I was.

Credits:

Client: Vagrant Records
Concept, Design, and Direction: Chris Carboni
Animation: Chris Carboni, Elaine Lee, Matt Everton
Compositing: Chris Carboni

Created @ Carboni Studio

The Golem

After watching “The Adventures of Prince Achmed” (an unbelievable masterpiece from so long ago that it seems out of this world) I got interested in the man who was half the inspiration for it ( a man named Paul Wegener) and found one of his films on youtube. It is called “Der Golem” and if I am not mistaken, it is one of the first horror films ever!

Don’t kid yourselves into thinking this movie is anything close to scary today. It’s actually a bit difficult to watch at some points because we (I can’t be the only one) are accustomed to a much faster pace in films. And more variety in camera angles. Life was not as hectic back then (this is a 1915 film) as it is now, so their films ought to be slower. But still, it has a very eerie feeling to it and I always feel like I’m time-traveling when I watch movies from so long ago. Plus the direction is remarkable so it was a good experience.

The camera reminds me of an old man’s memory. It’s actually the way I used to picture the world whenever my grandparents told me stories from their past. A little dim, a little unfamiliar. A little black and white (because I always thought that such a different world ought to have different colours, so those as well are toned down a bit in my brain). Movie makers seem to agree with me, since they always use such tricks to show us footage from the past.

P.S I don’t know about you, but I have this strange habit: whenever I watch an old film I end up wondering about how many of those people are probably dead by the time I watch it. In this one, they are all dead. Without a shred of doubt. Which makes me feel weird and makes the film seem more wondrous. Because today, cinema has an actual history, with lots of people who used to create awesome films, and who are now dead and remembered by their work. And that is awesome. And gets me always. Bye!