BAFTA’s two faced cheek

According to this report from the BBC, BAFTA will only consider films for its awards if they “have been screened to the widest possible public paying UK audience”.  What they are essentially saying is that they’ll look more favourably towards films shown in a cinema. Digital only distribution (such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, MUBI, or countless many other digital distribution systems because, I don’t know, it’s the bleedin’ 21st century?!) will only be accepted in exceptional circumstances.

Which is tremendously silly in this day and age.  Crowdfunded films are becoming more common (and I’ve seen quite a few that will never make it to the cinema regardless of how good they are), and with the likes of the internet and companies such as Netflix and  Amazon Prime making inroads with their own film productions, this is going to be one of the defacto ways of watching movies.   Whether that be subscription or individual purchases.  iTunes offers up quite a few independent, non-cinema based movies as well.  So it’s definitely not uncommon.

Cinemas are becoming subscription based too.  It’s what’s keeping me there, otherwise I’d hardly go and see anything.  I’d just wait until it hits Amazon Prime to rent the film, or wait until it comes on Sky Cinema.

But what strikes me as odd about BAFTA’s statement is that these guys offer screeners – either in physical DVD/Blu-Ray form, or some other digital distribution system – for the judges.  BAFTA encourages judges to watch the nominees at a cinema (scroll to the end), but – like us mere non-BAFTA mortals – who don’t have the time or inclination, you can watch it at home.

I keep wondering when these organisations (AMPAS including) will ditch the old white guys who can barely open a word processing document and promote tech-savvy members who can see what’s happening with the industry and where it’s going.  It was painful working with the film industry on technology eight years ago when it was my job to; it’s equally painful watching how slowly they’re trying to adapt now.

It’s the 21st-century, folks.  We can watch movies anywhere.  The cinema is the best way to watch something, yes, but it’s expensive and not the only way of doing so.

BAFTA’s two faced cheek

Smoke me a kipper..

.. I’ll be back for breakfast – Arnold “Ace” Rimmer, Space Corps.

I’ve just booked a local hotel for the forthcoming Guildford Comic-Con, where the likes of Robert Llewellyn, Chris Barrie, and Hattie Hayridge from Red Dwarf will all be present, as will Doctor Who’s Colin Baker and many more guest stars from the UK TV science fiction scene.

I did something similar a couple of years ago but it concentrated almost exclusively on Stargate SG-1/Stargate Atlantis.  It was okay, but the whole convention/fan scene was a bit overwhelming.  Now I’ve had a bit of a run up to it, maybe, this time, it won’t seem as bad.

Full report to follow.

Smoke me a kipper..

So Fred said, “Let’s have another cuppa tea.”

Star Trekkin’ across the universe..
Boldly going forward, coz we can’t find reverse..

So began my virtual life as an official Space Adventurer, alien archaeologist, and Space Bear Grylls in No Man’s Sky.  After a good solid four hours at the console (I’m on-call for the next week and a bit – so I’m stuck indoors), I discovered a new planet and managed to park my spaceship on a tree.

Ruddy learner space pilot! Oh, that's me. Sorry. *cough*
Ruddy learner space pilot! Oh, that’s me. Sorry. *cough*

But in all seriousness, this is one of the best games I’ve played for a very long time.  It feels like Minecraft meets Elite: Dangerous meets The Time Team (meets Cash in the Attic).  Plenty of things to see and do, and the controls are much easier to get used to than Elite.

So Fred said, “Let’s have another cuppa tea.”

Made in Guildford, sent around the houses via Betelgeuse – No Man’s Sky

A game 5 years in the making.  Made right here in Guildford.  Just around the back of Guildford’s train station.  No Man’s Sky surely must be one of the most anticipated games of the decade.  It was released on Wednesday 10th, but unfortunately, due to Royal Mail/Amazon problems, it’s only just arrived today.

Made in Guildford, to be played by me somewhere halfway between Woking and Guildford.
Made in Guildford, to be played by me somewhere halfway between Woking and Guildford.

This game is extraordinary as it allows the player to explore some 18 quintillion procedurally generated planets.  All seemingly teeming with new plant and animal life.  Maybe the odd monolith or two.  And the occasional base, with friendly (or not so friendly) aliens.  Your first task is to repair your spaceship (which has crashed), and you do this by exploring and collecting minerals to craft relevant parts for your ship.

The whole thing reminded me of Elite: Dangerous, the modern 21st Century version of the classic Elite meets Minecraft.  I own a copy of Elite: Dangerous, but the thing is so complex that I don’t really get much fun out of it.  Plus to get planetary exploration requires an additional fee (which is fair enough – modular and upgradeable games are the future – though I think we’re ultimately going to go for GaaS – Games as a Service along with everything that is “as a service” – a fancy way of saying it’ll all become part of a subscription model).

Already some 10 million species have been discovered and catalogued since the game’s launch.   Hopefully there’s still room for more discovery in that area.  But at least I’ll get to discover new planets and give them all names, so that in the unlikely event another player stumbles across my discovery, their time spent on planet “ARGHH! ARGHHHHHH!” will be all worthwhile.

As I’ll be on-call for the next week and a few days, this will be my downtime – chilling out, exploring planets, flying through space, and learning new alien languages to meet and greet new species.  To boldly go where no-one from Surrey has gone before!

Made in Guildford, sent around the houses via Betelgeuse – No Man’s Sky

Forrest Gump UHD – Pixels UHD – Liverpool vs. Barcelona UHD – Anomalisa – Trumbo – High Rise – The Good Dinosaur – Hail, Caesar!

It was a weekend at the movies.  At home.

Sky had kindly stuck a copy of Forrest Gump and Pixels in 4K UHD on their service for us 4K folk to try before they official launch their UHD services.  I’ve always loved Forrest Gump, but seeing it in UHD was like watching it in the cinema again.  A 35mm film scan to 4k has yielded a superb sharp picture, with glorious colours.  This film has never looked or sounded so good.  Pixels is another story – wasn’t impressed as much with image quality and that was taken from a 3,4K digital intermediate.

Then there was the Liverpool FC vs Barcelona.  Live.  In UHD.  Alas, I did not see it live, but set the Sky Q Silver box to record it whilst I watched a few other films instead.  When I came to watch it, however, I was impressed with the quality of the image.  Sports certainly do look better in higher resolution – indeed, Japan’s NHK is filming this year’s Olympics in Rio in 8K.  It requires a $125,000 TV to watch it, and it’ll be probably be obsolete in a years time, but hey, it’s technology.  It’s also being broadcast in select theatres in Japan at full 8K res for those without a burning hole in their pockets.

Meanwhile, on Amazon Prime (my replacement to iTunes), I rented a few movies.

Anomalisa – directed by Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson.
Kaufman is a wonderful filmmaker whose oddball and provocative (yet thoughtful) films are a great inspiration.  Being John Malkovich was the first really odd film that caught my attention.  Adaptation in which Nicolas Cage plays twin versions of Kaufman himself was utterly insane.  Synecdoche, New York, with Phillip Seymour-Hoffman, took all of that and ran through the streets naked before diving into a teapot of jelly.

Anomalisa’s overall atmosphere reminds me that of Being John Malkovich meets Lost In Translation.  It was made using stop animation with some of the most expressive puppets I’ve ever seen on film.  They’re so good, there’s a sex scene which took Duke Johnson and his animators SIX months to animate – because they wanted to do it properly.  The film stars David Thewlis as Michael Stone, a highly successful customer service/motivational speaker who stays overnight at the hotel Fregoli in Cincinnati, Ohio, before speaking at a conference the next day.  While he’s there, he calls up an old flame which, as you may imagine, doesn’t go at all well.  He eventually meets two women attending the same conference, one of them is Lisa, an insecure young woman.

I should point out that other than Michael and Lisa, everybody else is voiced by character actor Tom Noonan.  He plays absolutely everybody else – from waitresses, Lisa’s friend, Michael’s wife and son, their friends, the hotel manager, all the secretaries – everyone.  The reason for this is that Michael is depressed.  He perceives everybody around him – apart from Lisa – as identical white men with the same faces and voices .

All in all, this is a very strange film.  I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would, and I think it’s worth tracking down on Blu-Ray when the price is right.  Technically one of the best films I’ve seen.  Kudous to everybody involved in making it.

Trumbo – directed by Jay Roach
This is the first non-comedy film for Roach, whose previous works include the likes of Austin Powers, Meet the Parents/Fockers, Dinner for Schmucks, etc.  And it’s a blinder of a film.  I would have to say that this has fast become one of my favourite films of all time.  I love biopics, and this is definitely one of the best I’ve seen.  In part, perhaps, due to the excellent and strong casting, including Bryan “Breaking Bad” Cranston in the role of Dalton Trumbo, Louis C.K. as Arlan Hird, and Alan Tudyk as Ian McLellan Hunter.

Trumbo concentrates on the part of Dalton Trumbo’s life that concerns his blacklisting in Hollywood thanks to the McCarthy hearings (the House of Un-American Activities).  The USA was exceptionally paranoid during the height of the Cold War, and if you were suspected of being a communist, you’d go to jail.  Many people lost their jobs, families and even their lives during this time, and this film brings home just how horrific it was.

That’s not to say it’s all doom and gloom.  Trumbo is punctuated with humour throughout, and what makes this film so good are the performances.  We get to see the relationship Trumbo had with Edward G. Robinson: Robinson ratted out Trumbo in the end, albeit not before handing Trumbo a massive cheque to fund his defence; after everything blew over, Trumbo paid Robinson back, with their friendship now ended.  Of continuing to write scripts whilst blacklisted and using false identities to cover himself up.  During this period, his script ‘Roman Holiday’ went on to win an Oscar – albeit for Ian McLellan Hunter who was persuaded by Trumbo to take the credit.  Many years later, the Academy would hand Trumbo’s widow a new Oscar with the corrected credit.

As we know (well, I didn’t actually), Otto Preminger saw Trumbo and got him to write Spartacus.  This would be the first time since the blacklist that Trumbo’s name was restored to his work.

A truly wonderful film.  Oscar and BAFTA nominated in its own right, but didn’t win, it’s still a very worthy contender for your time.  I’ll be buying the Blu-Ray – this one’s a keeper.

Hail, Caesar! – directed by the Coen Brothers
Set in a spookily similar period and surroundings to that of Trumbo, this fictionalised comedy drama about real-life studio fixer Eddie Mannix sees the big star of a forthcoming big budget Roman epic motion picture kidnapped by a group of communist writers who demand $10,000 in cash.  Or else!  As Mannix deals with this crisis, he’s also dealing with a Western star that’s been shoehorned into an upmarket period piece, gossip columnist twins (both played by Tilda Swinton), and other diversions (including contemplating a very generous offer of new employment from Lockheed).

Hail, Caesar! is a great farce, but ultimately it doesn’t really go anywhere.  Quite unsatisfying as a story.

The Good Dinosaur – directed by Peter Sohn
In the same year that Pixar released Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur feels more like a bonus side-attraction rather than a fully fledged feature.  But what there made me cry like a little baby at the end, as do most Pixar (and Studio Ghibli) films.  Pixar are experts in the art of storytelling combining up-to-date technology, and even if it’s not their best film to date, it’s nevertheless heartwarming and technically brilliant.

High Rise – directed by Ben Wheatley
I was really looking forward to this adaptation of J. G. Ballad’s science fiction novel.  I do like a bit of dystopian future, me.  But I found that I couldn’t stomach this film at all.  It’s horribly depressing, the characters completely unrelatable, and even the plot seems to be disjointed.  I gave up a third of the way through the film.

Other films:

Kung Fu Panda 3 – directed by Jennifer Yu Nelson & Alessandro Carloni
A good few years ago, back when I was married, we were looking to adopt from China.  We went as a far as volunteering for an NGO outside of Beijing where we got to help look after children who were being prepared for international adoption.  But as for the adoption itself?  It never happened – for many reasons.  But I still have an interest in the entire adoption process, and I’ve found the Kung Fu Panda movies to be one of the best at explaining and looking at adoption in a very positive light.  In fact, there were a few times in Kung Fu Panda 3 where I broke down and cried.  I can’t tell you how well this handles a very sensitive topic.  But adoption aside, this is a fantastic film that manages to keep the momentum of the franchise going nicely.  We meet old friends and new, and the background artwork (principally produced by Oriental Dreamworks) is fantastic.  It’s perhaps the first major collaboration between a US and Chinese film studio and the result is something that’s very special indeed.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of the Justice League – directed by Zak Snyder
Haven’t gotten around to finishing this one as it’s THREE hours long.  And boy, do you feel every minute with this one!  That said, what I’ve seen so far makes sense, but I’m just not sure whether this needs to be the War & Peace of DC films.  What I will say is that the UHD works very well – worth the investment.

And what can we learn from these films?  That I should avoid any cartoons or family films, because I’m likely to blub.  Already 40, I appear to be turning into an emotional wreck.  On the other hand, you could say that as storytellers, the filmmakers have done a superb job – if you’re that engrossed that you can empathise with a character or characters, it must be good!  Or maybe not.  I don’t know.

Coming up: Finding Dory (cinema), The Suicide Squad (cinema), In Bruges, Whitnail and I, The Man from UNCLE (Guy Ritchie version), Labyrinth, Deadpool UHD, The Room.

Forrest Gump UHD – Pixels UHD – Liverpool vs. Barcelona UHD – Anomalisa – Trumbo – High Rise – The Good Dinosaur – Hail, Caesar!