The world’s greatest heroes the Avengers find their unity and the safety of mankind once again tested when they inadvertently unleash an unstoppable artificial intelligence determined to control the world and destroy them.
Marvel has carefully transferred their astonishing universe of heroes and villains to the big screen with a consistent success that left long term rivals DC comics embarrassed and hopelessly outclassed. Avengers Age of Ultron rests comfortably on the laurels of the past nine Marvel big screen adaptations, again doing justice to the high standards of the studio and director Joss Whedon.
An all-star cast, past success and an unlimited budget is never a guarantee of quality of course, but in Whedon’s capable hands the billion dollar franchise continues to strut nicely towards another inevitable box office triumph.
Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans all clearly enjoy reprising their now well established characters. However, it’s actually Scarlett Johnasson, Jeremy Renner and Mark Ruffao who benefit most from an opportunity to add depth to Black Widow, Hawkeye and Hulk respectively. Largely without the benefit of a solo movie, these characters still have the most room left or exploration and development. In particular the chemistry between Ruffalo’s tormented Bruce Banner and Johansson’s catsuit clad Black Widow is satisfyingly both subtle and surprising. Combined with Hawkeye’s unexpected revelations it provides the film with some genuine heart amongst the CGI mayhem.
James Spader is a particularly welcome addition as the voice of titular villain Ultron. His gravel voiced performance is suitably menacing and breathes considerable life into an otherwise two dimensional villain. The film also boasts a few crowd-pleasing action set pieces, most notably the much anticipated fight between a rampaging Hulk and Iron Man in full Hulk Buster armour.
The first Avengers film was the culmination of a decade’s preparation, launching a billion dollar franchise with the near perfect blend of comedy, action and convincing comic book drama. Matching those standards and meeting fans sky high expectations was always going to be a near impossible task for any sequel, even for Marvel’s accomplished creative team.
Age of Ultron largely follows the formula of the first Avengers adventure, but ultimately feels like a holding point as Marvel gears up for even bigger and more spectacular storytelling in the already announced sequels. Comic fans and those familiar with the Marvel cinema universe will already have a good idea of what to expect for the Infinity Wars films and Marvels ultimate villain Thanos. Particularly for comic fans there may be some impatience at how slowly Marvel is building towards that heavily foreshadowed climax.
Though James Spader is an excellently villainous actor, Ultron is a fairly generic threat with the usual army of evil robots. Those that found the climactic battles of Avengers Assemble to be a little repetitive and lacking in real danger will likely feel much the same about the seemingly endless battles with Ultron’s easily disposed of minions. Outside of notable set pieces like Iron Man’s Hulk battle the film’s action often lacks a little variety.
While the film does add depth to some characters, particularly those who haven’t had solo films like Hawkeye and Black Widow, the more established heroes have a considerably less room left to grow. Iron Man, Thor and Captain America have already had much of their issues resolved across eight films. Amongst the increasingly crowded cast new characters Scarlet Witch, Vision and Quicksilver also don’t have nearly enough time to establish themselves. It must be admitted that the most recent X-Men film Days of Future Past which also featured super-fast hero Quicksilver embarrassingly upstaged Marvel’s own lycra clad version.
Overall Age of Ultron takes the predictable path of making things ‘darker’. Ever since Star Wars took this route with Empire Strikes Back, it seems to be acknowledged as the only way to surpass or match auspicious first films. Unfortunately the film is forced to increasingly sacrifice humour to make more room for more angst and inevitable brooding.
The Ugly Truth
Avengers Age of Ultron is another satisfying slice of comic book escapism featuring all your favourite Marvel heroes. It continues to introduce new faces and lays the groundwork for amazing things yet to come. Less ardent fans may find the non-stop action a little repetitive during the film’s lengthy second half but it’s hard to deny the undoubted quality of Marvel’s work. The real challenge for the future will be how the studio maintains its accessible mass appeal as the cinematic universe become as increasingly complex as their vast and complex comic book world.]]>
When high school teen Bianca (Mae Whitman) discovers that she is the DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) to her more popular friends, she seeks the help of her childhood friend to get strip herself of the label.
It feels almost wrong to describe The Duff in the way it will no doubt be compared to considering the two films tiny difference of only eleven years between release dates, but it truly feels like a modern Mean Girls! Just typing that out felt wrong. Mean Girls is such a tremendously popular film that still rings true to new audiences eleven years later, but here’s where the difference lies between it and The Duff. Strange as it may seem, Mean Girls was made in a time when the social groups were just starting to change. The geeks have now inherited the earth and this is partly due to the social networking boom that’s been growing more rapidly over the last decade.
The Duff takes this in it’s stride and works with it to create a new high school rom com which just feels simply much more up to date with it’s constant referencing to Twitter, Tumblr, Vine, Instagram and every other social networking platform imaginable right now.
The real trouble with The Duff is it’s premise. A film which has a main premise of an idea that every friend group has a Designated Ugly Fat Friend who is deemed the more approachable in order to flirt with their friends is a dangerous one that could have had a more disastrous outcome. Fortunately The Duff comes out mostly unscathed. This is due mainly to the incredible talent of Mae Whitman. She holds the film on her own spectacularly and with a much respected grace that skims lightly over the line of offence and never crosses it. While the supporting cast do have their moments, such as Robbie Amell’s cute role of the best friend, and Ken Jeong and Allison Janney occasionally popping up for a golden moment or two, Whitman is the force that holds this film together.
For a film which tries to defy the status quo and send the message that we don’t need to be labelled, The Duff still manages to hit many of the traditional rom-com rules, to the point where it feels like it’s unfortunately following each step of the rom-com gospel word by word. Because of this the film becomes predictable almost from the very beginning. To all rom-com fans it won’t be anything particularly groundbreaking unfortunately.
The Ugly Truth
The Duff has a good idea as its main premise, and brings a good flow of plenty laughs throughout. However it’s determination to stick to the rom-com guide brings down its chances of being a Mean Girls for a new generation.]]>
Speaking in London to Red Carpet News acclaimed actor and filmmaker Russell Crowe explained his choice to make his directing debut with poignant war film The Water Diviner. Based on a true story it follows the quest of a determined Australian father to find his three son’s who are missing presumed dead in Gallipoli.
What made you chose this as your directorial debut?
I suppose there’s a cultural connection to it. But ‘choose you’ is the right way of putting it because obviously people say why did you chose this particular thing but it is the opposite of that. I was just getting on with my life; I was preparing a bunch of other stuff and in the middle of things, then I read the script and everything changed. Quite a long time ago, in about 2003/2004 I put together another project and I was going to direct it. In a strange way I realised that it was just too easy it felt wrong. It was financed in one meeting. Everyone was happy with what I wanted to do. It just felt odd. I realised that people were only connected to it because I was a famous bastard. They didn’t really have any belief that I would bring a particular viewpoint as a director. So I deconstructed it and didn’t do that. However, if I’d known it was going to take 10 years for me to get back into that same situation again I would change that decision. But also there was a thing about that that was very simple. It was a little urban piece and it was like a Roshomon sort of thing, four perspectives on the same event.
A part of making films and this job of directing films is partly the pure and simple challenge of it. So I suppose all the things that came towards me, part of the thing that made me not do this project or that project was because it wasn’t a big enough challenge. It wasn’t something that scared me. Then when I read The Water Diviner I was having the same kind of visceral connection to the piece I would normally have if I was going to be acting in something. I was making notes on behalf of the character and correcting dialogue, you know the things that I do. But there was this other thing that was happening where in some sort of fundamental way I believed that I was the only person who could tell the story the way it needed to be told. That’s the sort of arrogance of a director in the first place. I had this fundamental belief at the end of reading it for the first time that I was the person who had to take responsibility for this particular story. I thought I could read between the lines and see things in the shadows. There was stuff in that script that from a cultural perspective I just thought being a New Zealand born Australian, a 100 years after Gallipoli there was perspective in that which I really believed needed to be put in front of people.
How important was Peter Weir’s film Gallipoli in shaping your understanding of the conflict and having worked with him did you ever talk to him about it?
It’s just coincidence that these two films are kind of companion pieces. Peter’s film finishes with his character going over the top and freeze frames the moment the bullet strikes him. This story is about the grief of the parents who are left behind when their young sons went to war and in many cases didn’t come back. I didn’t seek out Peter or have any discussions with him about this. But certainly the work of Australian directors in the 70s and early 80s, Andrew Lesley and I had a number of conversations about that golden era of Australian cinema. Even in a digital world and shooting with an Aria Lexus, we wanted to give the look of the film that same feeling of the look of the mid-70s. Culturally Peter’s movie talks of the kind of iconography that we’re used to in Australia. These young boys put up their hands to volunteer to go across to the other side of the world to fight for Britain. Socially it was sold as a big adventure. At that time it was probably very difficult not to put your hand up. In a lot of those little country towns, you know you had the whole white feather sort of thing if you weren’t prepared to go to war, if you weren’t going to stand up for king and country. What I saw in this script was to have a completely different perspective form the one we normally take. When I read it the first time it was very exciting for me but also fundamentally very embarrassing for me, because I realised for all the times that I’ve been to dawn services. The moments of silences that I’ve taken to remember the sacrifice these young soldiers made for me at Gallipoli I’d never for a single second spent time thinking about the other point of view, the Turkish attitude.
People talk and talk about reciprocal respect because Turkey has been very generous to Australia and the other countries involved in the conflict. Particularly in relation to that area of land, it’s a national park and our sons are buried there in marked graves. But one of the first things you discover in this process is that Turkish people don’t even call it Gallipoli. The call it Chanasa. We’re in this situation where we don’t even know that, we don’t even know this fundamental thing that they call this whole conflict by a completely separate name. So for me I was so important that we begin this conversation again.
So we waved off our sons and fathers who were going off on this big adventure. They were sold something completely different. They weren’t sold the harrowing ordeal of being under machine gun fire whilst trying to go up a vertical cliff. That was never discussed when they were getting on that boat. But I was doing research in Istanbul in a high school in the middle of town and I noticed this big clock that had stopped. I asked our guide if the clocks were broken or something and he said no they’ve been that way since 1915. Because on a particular day the mums and dads dropped their kid of at school and part way through the day the government came and took the senior kids to make them into soldiers. That’s a big difference, between people who are voluntarily getting on boats to go halfway round the world on ostensibly what they think is a big adventure that they will never get the opportunity to have again; to a nation that’s being invaded who is losing men at such a rapid rate that they essentially have to empty the high school and essentially send children to the front. It’s an original experience for a New Zealand or Australian audience to sit in a cinema and to realise that the grief is shared in such a fundamental way. In war there is heroism on both sides. Obviously in history the victor gets the soils and gets to write history, but there was heroism and compassion on both sides.
For me this is an unashamedly anti-war film. It doesn’t glorify the situation, but in fact shows it for its reality. There’s a scenes in the film in no man’s land and so many people who have come to me after seeing the film and said, I never saw things from that perspective. Ever other Gallipoli film we see people go over the top and if they catch a bullet the drop dead there and then. We grief and mourn the loss of life but we never think of life ebbing away over 5, 6 or 10 hours as you painfully bleed out, to actually feel that happening. For me it’s about showing audiences another step in that reality, so that when you are recognising the sacrifice you are actually recognising not something that’s about iconography, but about humanity. People often say to me surely there are right reasons to go to war. My perspective is surely there’s a better way of asking that question.
Does actually being a father yourself affect your perspective on the story?
As anyone who is a mother or a father knows, as soon as you have children every single thing that happens in your life is seen through the prism of being a parent. I’m the father of two boys, that didn’t necessarily influence my desire to make this film, but I certainly knew it was something that my children would see and in a way I want them to know certain fundamentals about how their dad feels about things like this.
I had a very strange conversation with my little boy. He let me in on a little bit of a plan he had that I was unaware of. We were talking about career choices and my little boy said to me “After I finish school or university Dad, I’m going to go do a couple of battles and then I’m going to come back and get on with my career.” I asked him why would you go and do a couple of battles? he said “Money!”. I asked him again what you are talking about. He said “Well you know I’ll go to do a few battles to get some money and then I’ll come home to use that to do all the other creative things I want to do.” I told him it doesn’t really work that way man, you know soldiers don’t actually get paid all that much, you get the odd tax benefit and medical but it’s not a high paid job. He was like “Really? I would have thought you’d get like at least a million a battle?” There is a fundamental logic to what he’s saying; I mean it probably should be like that with people who are putting their lives on the line to fight for their country. So I explained to him it doesn’t work like that and a little while later he saw the movie and then he asked me if I could set up a situation where he could watch it again with his best mat from school. So I did. After he’d seen it I asked him if he’d liked it and he said “Yeah, but we’re not going to go join the army any more”. I mean that’s just relating to my kids and I put a little more truth in his mind so that he knows it’s not like a comic book situation, it’s a real life or death situation. Getting that sort of thing straight in his head! You know if all that the whole three year process of making this film comes down to is making him aware of this situation then it’s still of great benefit to me.
When you were playing the part did you put yourself in the situation of imagining having to search for you own sons?
Yeah I always considered this the journey of a madman. He’s brought his kids with love and the best way he knows how. But this situation comes along and no matter what was churning in hi stomach he still didn’t say anything or try to stop it. He let what was happening socially dominate, even to the point where one of his children wasn’t even legally of age to do it and he’s allowed his son to go. Because in a funny way it’s safer if the three of them go on the ‘adventure’ together. So many times I would be in the middle of the battle field and be thinking not just form Joshua’s point of view, but from every single soldiers point of view. The Lone Pine battlefield is in total the size of two championship tennis courts and 9000 people died fighting there in four days. One thing I read was that the bodies were 9 high coming out of the trench. So you had to climb over 9 corpses before you were shot yourself. It’s horrific.
I went on a boat to Gallipoli and then headed due west into Anzac cove so I had that experience of coming into that coastline in the darkness as the sun comes up. To see the shapes come out of the rising sun. There’s a brilliantly blue sky and there is the orb on the sun right there. A whole bunch of stuff suddenly becomes really apparent. I’ve still got a photograph of it and when you are heading into Anzac cove you are going into this battle situation, staring into the sun. So any movement in the water any metal glinting is just going to be seen from miles away. Even in the first rays of dawn there’s nowhere to hide. When you read the books you find out they were actually a blink away from achieving their objective on the first day, but they didn’t make it on the first day and that lead to this untold slaughter that went on. It was very interesting for me to have that experience and then to walk among the battlefields and to realise that the terrain is so opposite to what would make this a better experience for an invasion. That’s a hard word to say though because Australians don’t talk about Gallipoli in terms of being an invasion. I started talking about that and using that word and at first some people got very upset about it. I guess it’s the same in every country at every newspaper, you know the person you can go to if you want to get a kneejerk reaction form people when it comes to the military. But then people started to see the film and that kind of criticism started to evaporate because people realised it’s made with a great deal of love and care. The things that it talks about are the things we should talk about.
Do you there there’s any sentiment of resentment towards the British over the conflict?
We’re way beyond that now. That’s one of the things within Peter’s film. Some people say that it’s in this film as well but there are three British characters in the film. The first is a jovial Scotsman who thinks it’s funny when he sees a bloke getting his bag nicked. I mean it’s a less dangerous situation than he’s used to being in so that to him is a little funny. Then you have Captain Brinley who is a man caught inside of the bureaucracy of what he has to do, but if you look in his office he has banks and banks off filing cabinets, he has 10,000 Australian and New Zealand bodies to deal with, not even including the British, French and Nepalese. It’s everyone else that fought there, like the New Finlanders who fought there as a sovereign nation. So Brinley is going to have a particular attitude towards it and it’s an understandable one when he’s the person administrating that loss of life. The third British character is a young lieutenant in Brinley’s office and as he says at one point, his brother died on that bloody peninsula, his fiancé works at the red cross and might be able to help Joshua. So there’s a balance there. There’s no finger waving or blame point. As Australians and New Zealanders we’re beyond saying that our attitude should be anti-British. A lot of things changed after the First World War and after this battle. Never again did Australian troops go into battle being commanded by officers from another country. But I think we’re actually beyond seeing this as a British negative.
When it comes to the officers there was a tradition at the time militarily o doing that thing of sending wave after wave of soldiers at a time and hopefully overwhelming the enemy. It wasn’t a particularly anti-Australian or Anti-New Zealand thing that the British officers were doing. People have come to understand that. People also now understand that we landed at the wrong spot. So you had a situation where one of the tenders that are going into the coast ends up thinking one point on the land is another and the landers end up landing right beneath a vertical cliff. They should have been landing a little further up the coast where the slope was a lot more gentle and there was actually less people defending that area.]]>
Last seen taking down Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) in spectacular fashion, Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his family are back. And as fate would have it, Shaw has a brother. Who is seeking revenge. And is Jason Statham. Need we say more?
The Fast and Furious franchise is an incredibly rare gem that only began to find its footing from its fourth instalment. With the first 3 focusing on racing mainly as it’s heart and soul, 4, 5 and 6 kept the cars but dialled down the racing in favour of action. So far we’ve had a bank heist in which a safe is dragged along the streets of Rio de Janeiro and a chase sequence along the worlds longest runway. But, you may ask, how can this be topped? Simple. Replace the traditional three act structure with a bigger, more action packed three set-piece structure.
Fast and Furious 7 includes a beginning, middle and end of pure adrenaline that will keep your eyes glued to the screen. With horror master James Wan (Insidious, Saw) taking the franchise to terrifying new depths. Each action sequence tops the last and just when you think it can’t get any bigger, it does. And then it does again.
Vin Diesel and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson return of course, but the new additions of Kurt Russell and Jason Statham bring an already stellar cast list to dizzying heights. With Russell’s involvement in the next instalment recently confirmed, we can but hope that his scenes were just a tease for what’s to come. A very big tease too!
Of course, this film can’t be talked about without mentioning Paul Walker. From the very beginning Walker’s character has been the driving force behind all bar one film. With his unfortunate passing in 2013, this instalment was destined to be something to be both anticipated and feared. With details of Brian O’Conner’s storyline being kept under wraps and being well aware that to spoil this part of the film would be the worst crime, all we can say is, job well done. Walker’s legacy is respected in the best way possible and will not leave a dry eye in the screen. No matter how many times you see it.
After an ending like this it’s almost sad to hear that the franchise will continue. The knowledge that Walker truly can’t come back in any big way is disheartening to say the least, however the promise of more action-packed stories from a franchise that has reached it’s peak is too tempting to say no entirely.
There are only two items to discuss in this section, both of which are the barely passable to be considered truly bad. The first and strongest point to make is that the action, while clearly choreographed brilliantly, is at times brought down by the use of a shaky camera. While it’s nothing as bad as the worst offenders (we’re looking at you Taken 3!) and in retrospect seems almost unavoidable at points, it does occasionally and infrequently, threaten to throw you off guard and make you lose your bearings ever so slightly.
The second point is really nitpicking and probably wouldn’t be noticed by too many but, as a Tarantino fan, I feel the need to point it out. If you have Kurt Russell appearing in a franchise in which one of the main selling points is fast cars and spectacular crashes, surely a Death Proof reference, even the tiniest one somewhere, is needed? Just me? But hey, we still have Stuntman Mike for at least one more film so perhaps if we keep our fingers crossed that much tighter…
The Ugly Truth
Fast and Furious 7 is without a shadow of a doubt, the best in the franchise. The action is turned up to twelve, along with the talent and emotion. With action sequences that try and succeed in topping one another, it demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible. And more than once!]]>
Lily James, Helena Bonham Carter, Richard Madden, Matt Smith and Kenneth Branagh were among the stars walking the red carpet in London for the UK Premiere of he new live action version Disney classic Cinderella. Check out a gallery of pictures from the blue carpet below as well as a bonus gallery of pictures from the film’s world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival.
Kevin Smith has teased plans for a sequel to his 1995 cult classic Mallrats. Not satisfied with merely extending his Clerks franchise with Clerks III, which begins shooting in May, the director seems eager to revisit his other fond 90s memories on screen.
Smith already has an evil Santa movie Anti-Clause and a Moose themed Jaws parody literally titled Moose Jaws on the way after Clerks III wraps. He also has hockey miniseries Hit Somebody in the works. But the director left a pretty big hint on his Facebook page that “After that? I Smell a rat…”.
Mallrats was the film that launched Smith’s trademark combination of low brow musings and unashamed comic book references into the mainstream after the indie triumphs of Clerks. News of a surprising Mallrats sequel will be welcomed at least by Jason lee, who can finally escape the waking nightmare of making endless Alvin and the chipmunks sequels.
Fans may also be relieved/surprised to see Smith embarking on such a prolific streak after having previously promised to retire after Clerks III. For better or worse you’re going to have plenty of Kevin Smith movies to watch or ignore.]]>
When accident prone alien called Oh (Jim Parsons) sends an invite to his house warming party in his newly invaded home, he inadvertently brings the possibility of both his race (the Boov) and the planet’s previous owners’ total destruction. The planet in question: Earth!
With a voice cast that includes the star of The Big Bang Theory, two pop stars (Rihanna and Jennifer Lopez) and a comedy superstar (Steve Martin), Home seems to cater for just about every audience member. We even have the recognisable voice of Badger from Breaking Bad (Matt Jones) pop up throughout!
Add to that a beat popping soundtrack scattered with songs from two of the aforementioned cast members that will make you ‘put your hands in the air like you just do not care’ as Oh so eloquently puts it, and Home has everything checked off the animation blockbuster list.
The story is simple and sweet, sending the message that it’s ok to be different while accompanied by some beautifully colorful animation. Oh and his new human friend Gratuity (Rihanna) nicknamed Tip, go on a quest to find Tip’s mother and save the world. It’s a fun ride with jokes aplenty along the way. Highlight’s include Oh’s inspired use of a cookbook to literally cook dinner and his childlike limited vocabulary. His inability to form proper sentences should grate on our patience, but when it comes out of Jim Parsons’ mouth it’s just undeniably endearing. In truth most of the films highlights come from the cute and colorful Oh.
On a side note. If Tip’s delightfully lazy cat Pig looks oddly familiar it’s probably because it bears more than a passing resemblance to the cartoon feline featured in Big Hero Six. Proof at least that Garfield hasn’t entirely ruined the careers of all animated cats.
While Home is fun and colorful with a lovely message behind it, it does look like Dreamworks are slipping in quality ever so slightly. They can do wonders with films like How To Train Your Dragon 2 but ultimately their smaller films (Which Home arguably is when compared to HTTYD franchise) aren’t quite as technically accomplished as their daunting competitions from Disney and Pixar
The Ugly Truth
With great animation, voice actors, music and messages, Home ticks all the boxes. There’s no denying it’s charm, but the emotion is perhaps slightly missing.]]>
Acclaimed director Isao Takahata’s first film in fourteen years is the Academy Award nominated The Tale of The Princess Kaguya.
In 1985, Takahata was one of the founding fathers of animation hothouse Studio Ghibli along with fellow director Hayao Miyazaki and producer Toshio Suzuki Miyazaki, 74, announced his retirement in 2013 and Takahata, who will be 80 this year, says that The Tale of the Princess Kaguya will be his last full-length feature film.
“I have to think of my age and I’m not sure if I have the physical and mental energy for another feature film,” he says. “It took eight years to make this one and I’m thinking about a rest right now.”
Studio Ghibli’s films have won universal praise and a host of international awards and include Grave of the Fireflies, Only Yesterday, Pom Poko (all directed by Takahata), Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo (Miyazaki).
The Tale of The Princess Kaguya, based on a traditional Japanese folk story about a bamboo cutter and his wife who adopt a tiny girl he finds in a bamboo grove, was nominated for the Oscar for the Best Animated Feature Film of 2014.
Takahata was born in Mie Prefecture, Japan, and after graduating from The University of Tokyo with a degree in French literature, he joined Toei Animation Company. His debut as a director was the animated TV series, Ken, the Wild Boy (1963-1965). His first animated film was The Little Norse Prince Valiant (1968).
This interview was conducted through an interpreter at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2014 where The Tale of the Princess Kaguya held its north American premiere.
Why did you want to tell this story?
The original is of course a very well known Japanese story, and I had an idea over 50 years ago that it would be interesting if it were treated in this way. It wasn’t as if I thought I would want to work on it; it’s just that I thought somebody else should make a film out of it. I’ve never really wanted to make a film of this story (laughs). I was only thinking of the Japanese audience, and I realised it would be wonderful if I could present it so that the Japanese audience would think, ‘Oh my, is this the kind of story it really was?’ And also, if I can be presumptuous, ‘Can it be this interesting?’ That’s what I was aiming for.
In what ways will Japanese audiences be surprised by this version of the story?
Initially, on the surface, it looks like it’s faithful to the original story, but there are some little tricks that I’ve put in there. In the original story, we don’t really know that much about the heroine, and how she is feeling, and we can’t really understand her that well. She hasn’t really shown that much interest in worldly things, or in the people of the world, but when she’s told that she has to return to the moon, then she starts crying, and starts regretting that she’ll have to leave this world and go up to the moon. My intention was, ‘Why did she shift her feelings there?’ In the original story, it doesn’t explain that, but in this film, I think I’ve explained it so that we know why she regrets having to go back to the moon.
What did you think you could add to the story?
I thought what needed to be shown was why she came to Earth, and why she must return to the moon. If I made it really obvious then it would not be interesting, so I’ve made it a little bit mysterious, but I’ve shown at least that much, I think.
What is significant about Kaguya’s interest in nature?
I don’t think it’s any particular interest in nature, but the fact that she grew up surrounded by nature is very significant, and really that’s what we have – the world around us is full of nature. Even in the West, poetry is full of nature – British poems are full of nature – or love and human feelings; those are the two main subjects of poems. We’re dealing with the fundamentals of human beings.
Is she doomed as soon as she moves away from nature?
If something else could replace nature to make her happy, then it could have been okay, but the suitors only look at her as a valuable object, like a treasure, as they say. The only desire they express is the ownership of this valuable object, and so she feels very disillusioned.
When did this film begin to become more than an idea?
It was about eight years ago that I started working on this project once again. Of course there were times when I stopped working on it and worked on writing, and other things, but around that time, one morning I woke up and remembered this idea I had to make the story interesting. I presented this to Toshio Suzuki, Studio Ghibli’s producer, and the central figure in this studio. I didn’t intend to necessarily make the film myself, but I just said it might be interesting if someone worked on this film. He said, ‘Well, if you think it might be interesting, why don’t you make it?’ So I thought, ‘Well, okay, maybe I’ll work on it.’
What was the next step for you?
It took me quite a while to flesh out the story. I thought about how we see the moon as a world that is always radiant, because the sun is shining on it, but it doesn’t have colour and it doesn’t have life, whereas the earth is full of colour and full of life. I wanted to use this contrast to show why the Princess Kaguya would want to come to the earth, and why it would be so attractive for her, and such a draw for her to come here. Even in the original story, it’s explained that the moon is some place where people have no worries, and it’s a very pure world. It took me quite a while to make this complete, and then to think about what would be the best way to approach it, and I was helped by quite a few people to do this. With the style, I determined definitely that, whatever I did, my next picture would use the same kind of style of line drawings and sketching, and for the characters, I would ask Mr. [Osamu] Tanabe to draw. I wanted him to draw many pictures to show me, but he wouldn’t draw many (laughs). Often you have the animator draw a lot of pictures, and then you paste them all over the place, but he wouldn’t draw many. My producer and I were surprised! He wouldn’t give me much. But I knew that he could do it, and that he’s a great artist, and I think that really shows in the final product. So, initially, I just left it up to him. I had him do the main animation and drawings. It’s a personal style.
Do you draw at all?
I don’t draw. I do some little sketches to show people what they should be doing, but basically I don’t draw.
How did you start in animation?
I entered a studio after I graduated in university, but I never worked as an animator. Not just me, but many other people who are in the animation business didn’t work in animation. Even the people who were initially animators, once they become directors, and once they start making the films, they don’t draw anymore.
What were the aims when you founded Ghibli?
It was really kind of haphazard, the way we started. When Hayao Miyazaki was to make Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, he asked me to be the producer on that film. I didn’t really want to do it, but he said, ‘Are you just going to ignore our friendship? Are you going to just throw away our friendship and not help me at all?’ So I felt like I had to (laughs). I worked as a producer on that film, but we hadn’t formed the studio yet. Then, the next film, Laputa Castle in the Sky, I was also producer on that. At that point, I said, ‘Well, we might want to start a studio because we do have to present ourselves to the industry, and society.’ Our parent company, Tokuma Shoten Publishing Company, invested in the studio, and we started it. So I don’t think we had any kind of ethos (laughs). We just had to make the studio, and what we were going to do once we made the studio? We were just going to make Laputa Castle in the Sky. That was about all we had in mind.
Were they exciting times?
Yes, they were. We thought it could just fall apart any time.
What was it like to be in that kind of creative environment?
I don’t think we were the kind of creative community or creative company that people normally think of. I didn’t push myself into Miyazaki’s works, and he didn’t push himself into my work, and the producer, Toshio Suzuki, didn’t interfere with our work either. We all kind of left each other alone, and he supported each of us. So I think for both Miyazaki and I, it was much easier to work than in the American system, which might be, ‘We’re going to invest in this product, and so we want you to do this and that,’ and lots of pressure that way. We didn’t have that.
Where were you? Did you have an office?
So, at first we were renting space from another studio, and we just had the staff to make whatever film we were working on. It was at the time that I was making Grave of the Fireflies, in about ’88, and Miyazaki was making My Neighbour Totoro, so we had two studio spaces for two different projects, in the western outskirts of Tokyo. We hardly saw each other at that point, because we were working on our own things. The only person who went between us was the producer (laughs).
Were you surprised by the way the studio grew?
I’m surprised, yes. I don’t know about the other two. Certainly, the talent and genius of Hayao Miyazaki, and the powerful producing capabilities of Toshio Suzuki, I think had a lot to say, but I think we can also think of luck, or miracles, that might have played a part as well. I think failure is just part of the way things are naturally done, and the fact that we haven’t failed is a very unnatural thing, and surely can’t continue forever. You might ask the producer, Tohio Suzuki, because he’s the one who has written something like ‘The Philosophy of Studio Ghibli’, which I haven’t read (laughs), but he’s probably spelled it all out in that book. There’s also a documentary, which I haven’t seen either, that talks about that – The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness. There might be a secret in that, but I haven’t seen that one either. I don’t really believe in what they might be saying.
What’s the future for Studio Ghibli?
Since I’m not involved in the operations of the studio, I don’t really know what will happen, but I think it’s very likely that the films will be made in perhaps a slightly different form than they have been in the recent past. Even though Miyazaki has said that he is retired from making feature length films, I’m sure he’ll continue to work on smaller projects, and maybe shorts, and so as projects come up, there’s certainly a great possibility that the studio would be able to create and produce feature films, but there may not be that possibility, also. I don’t think anyone at the studio really knows what’s going to be happening. Mr [Yoshiaki] Nishimura is the producer of The Tale of The Princess Kaguya, and the film that Studio Ghibli released after that, this past summer, which is called When Marnie Was There – he also entered in as producer of that partway through. It’s producers like him that I wonder what they’re thinking of, in terms of the future of Studio Ghibli.
What will you do next?
In my case, since I have to think of my age, I’m not sure if I have the physical energy or the mental energy to make another feature film, and also whether there is the money that might be invested in a film that I might want to make. Of course, I would have to have an excellent producer who could gather that money, perhaps, for me to be able to make it. In terms of animators, of course there are talented top animators that could work on all the drawings. Even for this project, we hired the majority of animators outside of Studio Ghibli, so I know we can hire people on a project basis. I think all those conditions would have to be met for me to make any film in the future.
How many people work at the studio?
Will we see a new generation of animators begin to take the mantle?
Well for example, Disney, at one point, was almost going to wither away, but it had the assets that it had, and it was resurrected, and now it’s a large company. There could be a completely different direction and a completely different force that comes into being, in terms of Japanese animation. Or animation itself might decline. I’m not sure.
Do you find your output influenced by Western animation?
At my age, I don’t know if I can be influenced that much anymore. Of course, in my youth, I really respected and honoured Disney and what he had done, but I always thought it was too different from the way things are in Japan to really take something from that and be able to utilise it. Our starting points were very different, I think. For example, when you make animation in films in English or Japanese language, they’re very different. In Japanese, we can talk just by moving our mouths, without large gestures, and that’s a normal way of talking in Japanese, whereas you look at American or Western animation – and there’s too much action, or the action is too broad to fit into a Japanese context, or to be an influence on us. If we use those kind of large gestures, then people say, ‘That smells like butter,’ meaning, ‘It’s too Westernised.’ It’s a sort of derogatory sense. In that way, even animation is very culturally bound, so I think we need to be careful about influences. For example, my Anne of Green Gables, the television series that is of course based on a Canadian girl – she talks a lot, and of course she would be speaking in English, and using gestures probably, but if I had shown that to a Japanese audience, that would look very strange, so I didn’t use many gestures. It’s been well-received in Japan, and it’s a very popular TV series, but now, when that is shown in the West, dubbed into other languages, then I feel like, ‘Oh, is it really going to work in those other languages?’ – for example in Italy, where people use a lot of gestures to talk. So if it’s dubbed in Italian, and the girl’s just standing there, straight, without any gestures, isn’t that going to seem a little off to them? I worry about the kind of reception that it gets in the West.]]>
‘Biopic’ dramas, based on the lives of real people, have picked up more top prizes at the 41st Broadcasting Press Guild Awards, voted for by journalists who write about TV and radio. This morning winners and BPG members attended a celebratory lunch sponsored by the Discovery Channel.
Hard on the heels of Eddie Redmayne’s Oscar and BAFTA success for his portrayal of Professor Stephen Hawking, Sheridan Smith has won the BPG’sbest actress award for her performance as the young Cilla Black in the ITV drama Cilla. Toby Jones has been named best actor for his role as Neil Baldwin, the relentlessly upbeat kit-man at Stoke City Football Club, whose life was dramatised in Marvellous on BBC Two. Marvellous won the award for best single drama and BBC Two also won the award for best drama series, withThe Honourable Woman.
Forty years after his TV debut in New Faces, Lenny Henry receives the BPG’s highest honour, the Harvey Lee Award for Outstanding Contribution toBroadcasting. It recognises his contribution to Comic Relief, which began 30 years ago, and also his campaign for greater diversity in broadcasting, which is finally starting to change policies at the UK’s major broadcasters. Henry is breaking off from rehearsals for tonight’s Red Nose Day telethon to attend the ceremony.
The award for best radio programme has gone to BBC Radio 4 for Germany: Memories of a Nation, presented by Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum. Jane Garvey, the presenter of Woman’s Hour, also on Radio 4, is named radio broadcaster of the year.
Channel 4 has taken two awards for factual television. Benefits Street – which attracted front-page headlines and fostered debate and controversy – won the award for best documentary series and Gogglebox won the BPG award for best factual entertainment, for the second year. The award for best single documentary went to Baby P: The Untold Story on BBC One.
W1A, BBC Two’s spoof documentary about the BBC and its management, was named best comedy. Crackanory, the star-studded storytelling series for adults on UK TV’s Dave, won the multichannel award.
Writers were well represented at this year’s awards. Sally Wainwright was a runaway winner of the BPG writer’s award for Last Tango in Halifax and Happy Valley, both on BBC One. And the BPG Breakthrough Award went to the brothers Harry and Jack Williams, who wrote another hit BBC One drama series, The Missing.
The final award, for Innovation in Broadcasting, went to Vice News, the online start-up which was set up in London only a year ago as part of Vice Media, and which has produced ground-breaking reports on the world’s trouble zones for young audiences.
Full list of winners and a gallery pf pictures below:
Best Factual Entertainment Gogglebox
Best Single Drama Marvellous
Best Drama Series The Honourable Woman
Best Single Documentary Baby P: The Untold Story
Best Documentary Series Benefits Street
Best Multichannel Programme Crackanory
Radio Programme of the Year Germany: Memories of A Nation
Radio Broadcaster of the Year Jane Garvey - Woman’s Hour
Best Entertainment/Comedy W1A
Writer’s Award Sally Wainwright
Best Actress Sheridan Smith
Best Actor Toby Jones
Breakthrough Award Harry and Jack Williams, writers of The Missing
Innovation in Broadcasting Award Vice News for The Islamic State and other original commissions
Harvey Lee Outstanding Contribution to Broadcasting Lenny Henry
Adam Sandler continues his proud cinematic exploration of family dysfunction and accents of questionable origin with the follow up to Sony’s supernatural animation Hotel Transylvania. The first look at the new film sees Sandler’s well meaning Dracula adapting to life as a grandparent with a little help from his entourage of fellow iconic monsters.]]>