The US midTerm elections are 18 months away, and as long as nuclear war doesn’t break out before then, then just like you, we’ll continue biting nails and praying that the Donald continues to be at least partially contained…
In the meantime, we can highly recommend healthy doses of cinematic diversions to relieve the tension…. As if by perfectly-timed magic (or the fact that some gems take longer to come to our notice) the Guardian newspaper went and and quizzed some of the UK’s funniest and finest living comedians for THEIR nominations of great comedic masterpieces.
Luckily, the inclusion of Borat, Best in Show and Life of Brian make up for a noticeable lack of Withnail and I. Any Best Of List worth reading wouldn’t be complete without someone feeling unrecognised and ending up having an argument about it.
There are almost too many gems here to count. So, let’s laugh ourselves to November 2018, it’ll beat crying.
The Game to Movie Curse may have been a supernatural jinx on any attempt to turn a video game into a feature film… OR maybe it was just the result of game-to-movie productions never stopping to pick up a STORY along the way. In either case, from Mario Bros to Assassin’s Creed via Angry Birds, the genre is littered with less than critically acclaimed cinematic outings. (despite Resident Evil delighting Zombie fans everywhere…)
This recent Onion piece offers us light-hearted insight into how some screenwriters must struggle with the next Game Adaptation request
The Avengers have been Movie GOLD for Marvel Films (owed by Content Behemoth Disney), and has provided the proof of concept of the Endless Series Universe, the idea that sequels in a successful series can run practically forever.
Not only has this worked amazingly so far for Marvel with its IronMan, Avengers, Thor and Captain America streams of major blockbusters, but has also inspired studios to repeat the formula most notably with the Star Wars universe (now 8 films and counting, with a new mega-release planned for every year from now until… well, forever.
One wannabe contender in the movie universe game which has so far experienced a shaky start with this strategy is DC Comics, Marvel’s big rival. With Superman and Batman as two of the best known characters in movieland – success is practically a foregone conclusion, right?
Well, it might have been until Zack Snyder was recruited for 2016’s bleak and messy Batman v Superman which was critically panned although a Box Office success, just. The opening gambit of the ‘Justice League’ universe set a dark and difficult direction for this series… and opened the door for the following mockery, faithfully reprinted here from the Onion:
DC Executive Worried Batgirl Script Not Interesting Enough To Be Movie, 3 More Movies, 2028 Reboot And 4 More Movies
BURBANK, CA—While giving creative notes on the screenplay in a Friday meeting, DC Comics president Geoff Johns reportedly said he was concerned that a recent draft of the Batgirl: Origins script was not compelling enough to support a movie, three more movies, a 2028 reboot, and four additional movies. “Frankly, I just don’t see this having the legs to carry a feature film, a follow-up trilogy, a video game franchise, and then another prequel trilogy,” Johns said, adding that while the script’s first act “definitely works,” he worried the narrative would drag when stretched to a full 90-minute runtime, several more 90-minute runtimes, and a dozen more 50-minute runtimes as part of the Netflix tie-in series. “I’m just worried this starts running out of steam well before the end of the movie, the comic book adaptation, and the standalone spinoff movies telling the Huntress’s backstory. If a narrative can’t even sustain a single movie and a Lego set, let alone more than one syndicated animated series, maybe it needs some heavy revisions.” At press time, DC executives had decided to ask for a total rewrite after concluding villain Killer Moth was not an interesting enough antagonist to hold people’s interest for two hours and the length of several Six Flags roller coasters.
As the new US administration ricochets from ignorant via cruel to appalling, one group of entertainers are suddenly charged as never before to hold power to account and through the use of satire, standup and surgically delivered soliloquy, sound the alarm bells and also add perspective to what’s going on.
Finding ourselves in the hinder years of Johnny Carson, David Letterman and John Stewart, their successors have been propelled into tumultuous times, and have developed some brilliant routines and formats to help us stay informed, but also, just as we need it as never before… to laugh.
Here are our top five sources of political and social satire for this moment… To help keep us resisting and laughing together.
This stalwart of the Late Night world somehow never quite rivalled Jon Stewart’s pole position on his daily Show, but breaking out in 2005, he honed his own act in the pseudo-rightwing satirical Colbert Report. Incarnated now as his dry, lightning-quick and razor-sharp self on The Late Show, we’re watching a comedian and writer at the height of his wit.
The previous NYC-sided half of the Trans-Atlantic genius comedy Podcast ‘The Bugle’ with Andy Zaltsman, Brummie Oliver has recently hit career gold with his own HBO series ‘Last Week Tonight’. Setting his own tone by NOT being afraid of attempting 17 minute monologues on such hilarious subjects as Net Neutrality or Child Welfare are what make John authentic, concerned AND enjoyable watchable, all at once
Like the other ex-members of Spinal Tap (as Derek Smalls, just in case…), Shearer has gone on to created his own special flavours of comedy excellence, voicing many of the funniest Simpsons characters (Burns, Flanders, Smithers, Skinner and Reverend Lovejoy!) and hosting his seminal Radioshow now Podcast ‘Le Show’ every week for over 33 years. Apologies of the Week, News of the Warm and Karzai Talk are a few of the many highlights Harry has been delighting andscaring the crap out of listeners with the Truth for decades..
Following in the footsteps of the great man himself, any successor was going to be up against it on The Daily Show. Noah has in many ways lucked out with Trump, in his native South Africa has had to deal with the autocratic tendencies on an arseholic scale with Jacob Zuma for years. So, he comes prequalified to know what the US is in for, but also as a black South African, with a deep cultural heritage of such things… how to resist.
Jon Favreau, Dan Pfeiffer, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor (Pod Save America hosts)
These four ex-Obama administration friends have trailblazed the podcasting comedy landscape since January of this year with their cutting critiques of the new Idiot-in-Chief and his ramshackle crew of chaos seekers. ‘Pod Save America’ seems very fluid at 2 months old, but is only going good places with its experts’ views of what’s going on. Yes, we still like experts’ views.
On television and in films, American and British education appear to be very different. With contrasting images of Mean Girls’ social hierarchy and Hogwarts students feasting in great halls, you may wonder what the differences between American and British education actually are. Here are a few of the most common ways UK schools are at odds with our friends’ across the pond.
1 – Term Time
American students receive an average of about ten to twelve weeks of Summer holidays! Schools can let out any time between May and June and generally recommence at the beginning of September. While British students typically get only six weeks of Summer holidays, they do receive more in term breaks. Most schools in the UK offer half-term in October, February and May and are more likely to offer students longer, two-week holidays at Easter and Christmas compared with American schools.
2 – Dress to Impress
While many private schools in the US require students to don uniforms, state (or public as they’re known across the pond) schools normally have dress-codes but no formal uniform. This is one of the biggest physical differences between British and American schools seeing as most UK institutions, whether state or private, require uniforms. Brits also appear to have a general consensus of school uniforms with many schools asking students to wear a tie; shirt; jumper and blazer, differing only in colour from one another.
3 – The Magic School Bus
While students across the UK may have school-arranged transportation, London lacks school buses. Whether hopping on the tube, grabbing a bus or braving rush-hour traffic with parents, most students in the capital find their own way to get to school. At the end of the day, it’s only too common to see migrating groups of students chat in their uniforms while navigating the London Underground.
In the USA, whether you live rurally or in a big city, every public school student is entitled to a ride to and from school every single day.
4 – What’s the Plan?
The National Curriculum is enforced at every UK school meaning that students at different schools more or less all follow the same lesson plans. Although needing to adhere to national and state education requirements, American teachers are granted more freedom when it comes to creating their curriculums. This however has a tendency to create a national education bias that is uneven and favours students who’ve gained private and more liberal educations.
While UK students face both O-Level and A-Level exams, American students only take national exams in their final years of schooling. This results in British students tending to be far more familiar and experienced when it comes to standardised testing.
5 – Brain Food
While both American and British school lunches are dependant on the school itself, the attitude towards food differs enormously. Most UK schools do not allow students to consume food or sugary beverages in class while it is perfectly common to see students across the US chow down on a bag of Cheetos and a red bull in homeroom.
British school canteens usually also offer a wider variety of food options on a day to day basis while American cafeterias only offer students one or two choices a day, although milk is almost always on the menu.
6 – Outside the Classroom
Although both US and UK students can take advantage of extra-curricular activities, Americans have the British beat when it comes to the options available. With huge sports teams, pep-rallies and on-campus driver’s ed, American schools have everything that would keep a student to stay past the last bell.
Whilst it’s debatable which country offers better education, clearly both the American and British systems have a lot to offer students.
The efforts and sacrifice that go into filmmaking are what make it great, and can also inadvertently make it hilarious. These memes below share the lighter-side of what makes filmmaking so simultaneously challenging and satisfying.
1. Client Brief Vs Client Budget
2. How not to treat your Camera
3. … or your tripod
4. Get used to an Irregular Diet
5. … and working for ‘Exposure’
6. GoPro 1960
7. Using what you got (when you don’t have a child at hand)
8. Be decisive about that Final Cut
9. … as long as you didn’t build your editing suite like this
10. In the end, be prepared to learn from your mistakes!
When most people think about visual effects in films, their minds jump to the big blockbusters produced by companies like Marvel, Lionsgate and Lucas Films. The films and often franchises that are known for their stellar effects are generally huge commercial successes and sit in cinemas for weeks after their initial release. However, visual effects are not just for action flicks and many believe that the best use of Visual Effects (VFX) technology is when it’s barely noticeable. Visual effects can add value and setting to scenes as well as help increase production quality on low-budget or independent films.
By incorporating visual effects into a film, many makers are able to add elements to the shot itself. For many filmmakers, budget and scheduling becomes an issue when shooting on location. It’s often impossible to control the conditions we shoot in. Any on-location director has suffered weather that’s completely indifferent to what the shoot is trying to capture, and this will affect not only the narrative but also continuity. With elements like snow and rain, visual effects often save the day when hiring equipment is too expensive or a change in the forecast affects the desired outcome of your shoot.
VFX can help add elements and features to locations which better represent a director’s vision, for example with the use of a green screen. A long loved secret of the film industry, green screens are not only used in both commercial and independent cinema but also for television commercials and the ever growing creative community of YouTube. Whether you’re using a green screen to create an otherworldly landscape or to give a stationary car the illusion of movement, a visual effect supervisor can help add value to what is otherwise a far poorer shot.
Besides being able to add elements to a shot, visual effects can also help eliminate mistakes made during filming. Whether it’s a boom mic that shouldn’t be in frame or a lamp that throws off a period narrative, visual effects can help remove any imperfections and film mistakes in post-production.
Visual effects can therefore be flashy and grandiose or subtle and barely noticeable both in large and low budget films. 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story shocked viewers by digitally manipulating the appearances of two actors to resemble the late Peter Cushing as well as Carrie Fisher as a young Princess Leia. It was a subtle and almost unnoticeable use of visual effects in a franchise that has been Oscar-nominated repeatedly for Best Visual Effects. Similarly, lower budget films like 2012’s Chronicle, a found footage sci-fi superhero film, work with seamless visual effects that mirror those of large-scale action films without being too flashy.
While indie films like District 9 manage to snag Oscars from blockbuster films for their detailed and in-your-face VFX, many big commercial films use visual effects in an additional, subtle way. You can bet that almost every film you’ve seen in the last decade has used visual effects, whether you may have picked up on them or not. Often VFX supervisors are brought on simply to adjust the temperature of a shot or eliminate the elbow of a crew member that was inadvertently captured. Visual effects are no longer just for Hollywood heavy hitters and digital technology is now available to filmmaking productions of every size. So, ANY production that needs them can take advantage of the benefits VFX bring.
With the advancement of smartphone technology over the last decade, it comes as no surprise that smartphone cameras are now able to capture motion-picture worthy images. The recently released iPhone 7 for example allows users to film high resolution videos up to 4k and, with the addition of camera accessories, including lenses and mounts, it comes as no surprise that a growing number of filmmakers are finding ways to produce feature length films with their mobile devices.
In 2015, American director Sean S. Baker made headlines with the release of his comedy-drama Tangerine, a film that follows a transgender sex worker who, with the help of a friend, decides to get revenge on her cheating pimp-boyfriend. The film’s budget was a mere $100,000 and was nominated for various Independent Spirit Awards and snagged the Audience Award at the Gotham Independent Film Awards. The film was shot entirely on the iPhone 5s, allowing the money saved on camera equipment to pay for locations and extras.
Japanese director Shogo Miyaki, who shot his 2016 film A.I. Love You on the iPhone 6s, said that one of the greatest benefits of shooting with smartphones is the mobility it allows. Miyagi went on to explain that the accessibility and cost-effectiveness of an iPhone production allowed him to shoot the film through trial and error since he didn’t have to worry about extenuating costs of production rentals. The use of smartphones in cinema allows for a fully immersive experience, allowing the audience to view the film as if they were filming it themselves.
Since the introduction of digital cameras into the filmmaking world at turn of the century, many filmmakers have opted to distance themselves from shooting on traditional film, with almost 90% of the top 100 US productions shooting digitally in 2015. The introduction of smartphones, some of the most advanced portable cameras, into the film industry therefore seems to be an organic evolution.
While many emerging and established filmmakers opt to use this newer technology, directors like Quentin Tarantino, who insists on shooting with 35mm, call the rise of digital cinematography ‘the death of cinema as [we] know it.’
However, smartphone cinematography is not exclusive to low budget films and has seen itself inch towards commercial cinema increasingly in recent years including 2016’s Shin Godzilla, which featured several iPhone shots despite its $15 million budget. The phenomenon of mobile device cinematography isn’t exclusive to the film industry either, with the Emmy and Golden Globe winning sit-com Modern Family releasing an entire episode shot on Apple products.
Whether you believe that the introduction of smartphones into the filmic sphere is the death of cinema or a much-needed evolution, it is impossible to deny the accessibility that these devices provide. The use of smartphones in film, a product 83% of adults between the ages of 18 and 29 own, allows many amateur and aspiring filmmakers to explore and produce their own films in a polished and professional manner.
 Apple Inc., “iPhone 7”, Apple, 2016 <http://www.apple.com/iphone-7/>
 Follows, Stephen, “Film Vs Digital – What Is Hollywood Shooting On?”, Stephen Follows, 2015 <https://stephenfollows.com/film-vs-digital/>
 Matsumoto, Neil, “Down The Street – HD Video Pro”, HD Video Pro, 2015 <http://www.hdvideopro.com/film-and-tv/feature-films/down-the-street/>
 Sato, Misuzu, “Low-Budget Filmmakers Turn To Smartphones To Shoot Scenes：The Asahi Shimbun”, The Asahi Shimbun, 2017 <http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201701120004.html>
 Follows, Stephen, “Film Vs Digital – What Is Hollywood Shooting On?”, Stephen Follows, 2015 <https://stephenfollows.com/film-vs-digital/>
 Marine, Joe, “Quentin Tarantino Says Digital Projection Is The ‘Death Of Cinema As I Know It'”, No Film School, 2014 <http://nofilmschool.com/2014/05/quentin-tarantino-cannes-35mm-digital-projection-death-cinema>
 Chen, Bayun; Ryan Seilhamer; Luke Bennett and Sue Bauer, “Students’ Mobile Learning Practices in Higher Education: A Multi-Year Study”, Educause Review, 2015 < http://er.educause.edu/articles/2015/6/students-mobile-learning-practices-in-higher-education-a-multiyear-study>
Who remembers the monkey who took a selfie of himself on a nature photographer’s camera in 2011? It was a story that surely popped up on your social media platform of choice at the time, then promptly disappeared into the depths of the internet with Grumpy Cat and Chocolate Rain and everything else that was huge until it wasn’t .
Despite it disappearing from public view, the picture went on to have a rather interesting post-fame story. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) filed a lawsuit in the US to give Naruto, the monkey who took the picture, “[the] right to own and benefit from the copyright … in the same manner and to the same extent as any other author.”.
Essentially, they wanted Naruto here to be able to own copyright of the picture he took. To what benefit isn’t entirely clear (what’s a monkey going to do with royalty money?), but it did raise an interesting question. Where do we draw the line with copyright? Do animals have the right to own things they technically make themselves?
In answer to the latter question, as reported in the Guardian and later in the Independant, US District Judge William Orrick ruled that Naruto can’t own the copywrite to the picture. Not exactly a Disney ending, but we’re pretty sure Naruto would have been just as happy with an extra-juicy mango!
There’s a lot of mystery surrounding smartphones and their batteries. No one really knows how long to charge phones for – or whether it’s bad to leave it going overnight. However, someone has managed to do the maths on how much of your energy bill will be spent on charging for the average iPhone user. Digital Spy reports:
“There’s no fear of adding a significant chunk to the iPhone’s already lofty asking price just to keep it running. You can actually keep your iPhone charged for a year for less than £1. A lot less. We sh*t you not.”
Less than £1! Advanced lithium battery technology is to thank here. Don’t take our word for it, check out the maths in Digital Spy’s article. It’s easy to forget just how far efficient energy storage can take us.
2016 saw the UK’s first Tesla powerwall installed. This chunky battery aims to “revolutionise UK energy market by enabling people to store excess energy generated from rooftop solar panels.” As we move forwards into the new year – with our cheaply charging phones – expect energy storage to be at the forefront of futurology reportage.