What not to tweet if you’re a Hollywood screenwriter

In my return to this blog (having finally confronted the real reason for leaving in the first place), I want to return to the subject that interests me the most – screenwriting; not a noble profession in any way, but a source of entertainment and enlightenment nonetheless. Being a screenwriter gives a person the ability to write the script for – if you’re Alex Chandon or Paul ShrimptonInbred; if you’re Steve KlovesHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2; and if you’re Max LandisVictor Frankenstein. The art of storytelling has become a commercial industry, and consequently, those that manage to establish themselves as a part of that profession earn themselves a position of admiration and respect from those that want to follow in their footsteps. Public image is now more important for screenwriters than ever before, with the paid job now being increasingly less hidden from the public.

Which brings us back to Landis: writer of ChronicleAmerican UltraVictor FrankensteinMe him Her and Mr. Right, and the first screenwriter trying to establish themself online without also being a director, producer or actor. Recently, the marketing campaign behind films based on Landis’ screenplays have been exclusively on Landis’ Twitter feed (unprofessionally named @Uptomyknees), which is where the majority of information Landis chooses to share about screenwriting can be found.

So engaging in political debate about the public vote in another sovereign state in another continent without really understanding the important details is definitely a bad move.

About an hour after BBC News revealed that the majority of votes in the United Kingdom’s European Union membership referendum had been cast in favour of Leave, Landis had this to say:

https://twitter.com/Uptomyknees/status/746219616209272832

The inaccuracies in this tweet are difficult to overstate. Firstly, Landis refers to “England” as a synechdoche for the United Kingdom, despite England being only one of the four constituent countries within that union. While the majority of England residents voted Leave, the majority of Scotland and Northern Ireland residents voted remain. England’s decision was only matched by Wales. So either Landis is focusing on England’s majority but ignoring that same majority in Wales, or is just making unresearched assumptions about the political structure of a sovereign state comprised of four constituent countries, in the same way as assuming Alaska speaks for all America. Thus, it stands to reason that, if a person doesn’t understand the political structure of a sovereign state, that person probably shouldn’t judge the decisions that sovereign state’s majority makes – especially when that political structure is a factor in that decision, which was the case here: Scotland’s majority voted to Remain in the hopes of a further referendum leading to Scotland as an independent state that remains a European Union member. Not understanding that complex issue disqualifies anyone from condemning a political choice made in a sovereign state they don’t fully understand. And Landis definitely doesn’t understand the United Kingdom, as this next tweet shows:

https://twitter.com/Uptomyknees/status/746351413349912576

Since 2010, the British Prime Minister has been David Cameron, Leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party. In the referendum campaign, Cameron supported Britain Stronger in Europe, as did Damian Green, Conservative MP for Ashford. However, Vote Leave was supported by: Michael Gove, Conservative MP for Surrey Heath; Steve Baker, Conservative MP for Wycombe; Iain Duncan Smith, Conservative MP for Chingford and Woodford Green; Liam Fox, Conservative MP for North Somerset, Chris Grayling, Conservative MP for Epsom and Ewell; Boris Johnson, Conservative MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip; Andrea Leadsom, Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire; Priti Patel, Conservative MP for Witham; Theresa Villiers, Conservative MP for Chipping Barnet; John Wittingdale, Conservative MP for Maldon; Bernard Jenkin, Conservative MP for Harwich and North Essex; Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Conservative MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed and Owen Patterson, Conservative MP for North Shropshire. Noticing a pattern yet? Cameron’s own party was so divided over the matter, that Cameron had already announced the intention to resign were Leave to be the majority. Cameron ultimately announcing his resignation on BBC News wasn’t really news to anyone in the United Kingdom. The expectation was, that had Remain been the majority, the Conservative MPs supporting Leave would’ve been replaced, so Cameron’s resignation with a Leave majority makes perfect sense – because he himself needs replacing. Cameron claimed that the United Kingdom needs strong leadership during this transitional period – the only reason the referendum happened is because there wasn’t a majority in the House of Commons. Which means, Cameron needed to gauge public opinion and act based on that. Therefore, Cameron’s resignation following a Leave majority was a known condition from the beginning. United Kingdom residents would know this, because we’ve been following it. Therefore, to claim that Cameron resigned because the majority disagreed with him is making assumptions about the outcome without being aware of the context (which United Kingdom residents were). The British people voted with the knowledge that one of the two outcomes would result in Cameron’s resignation – something which has escaped Landis’ attention. Plus, one of Cameron’s main policies as Prime Minister was to preserve the United Kingdom, and opposed independence or British republicanism. But failing to persuade the majority of voters to support leave also triggered another Scottish independence referendum and the possible reunion of Ireland as a single state. As a result of the Brexit, many commentators have already been calling Cameron one of the United Kingdom’s least successful Prime Minsters. Cameron’s resignation wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision, but Landis isn’t aware of that.

Secondly: another thing this statement ignores is the resignation of Alex Salmond as Scotland’s First Minister. Salmond’s campaign was lead by the intention to hold a referendum on Scotland’s membership of the United Kingdom – when the majority voted Remain, there was no point in Salmond continuing as Scottish First Minister. Cameron’s resignation as Prime Minister is the equivalent of that. When Ed Milliband wasn’t voted Prime Minister in the latest General Election, Milliband resigned as Labour Leader. When Nick Clegg wasn’t voted Prime Minister, Clegg resigned as Liberal Democrat Leader. When Nigel Farage wasn’t voted Prime Minister, Farage resigned as Independence Leader. Political figures resigning a post because they lost a vote isn’t uncommon, at least not in the United Kingdom. Had Cameron not resigned, there’d have been a backlash against Cameron remaining despite the referendum showing that the majority were against him. Need I remind Landis of the only American President to resign, Richard M. Nixon?

Thirdly – and this is by far the worst – Landis refers to the Prime Minister as “‘president'”. Now, the reason for this isn’t entirely clear, but none of them are good. Were Landis implying that the United Kingdom is a smaller offshoot of the United States, that’s just a perpetration of a foreign policy between the two governments that not everyone supports. Another possibility is that “‘president'” is to say “That is, Britain’s equivalent of America’s president”. But there’s already a term for that: Prime Minister. It’s not just the United Kingdom that has one. To say Landis is a writer, Landis doesn’t seem to have the best words (not unlike you-know-who). In actuality, putting a word in quote marks (“/”) implies that, while the subject is officially called that, the writer doesn’t think that it is in practice. What Landis is basically saying is, “He’s not really the British President”. Yeah, no shit.

And then there’s this, which Landis felt compelled to retweet:

This is something else which is infuriating. What Landis has done is see one extract of one British news programme from a channel that he otherwise wouldn’t have seen, and has used that to justify all his previous misfounded assumptions. As though Landis thought, “Well, it’s on the news, so it validates what I think”. What Landis didn’t see was… anything else. Any other news programme from other broadcasters interviewing different people about different angles. Landis isn’t even a British citizen, but feels inclined to claim British media to reinforce his own cultural ignorance. Like how Fox News only represents some of America, not all of it. Storytellers are supposed to understand people, but how Landis has managed to be successful in this industry is something I can’t understand about him.

Bastard.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: the Jimmy Jab Games — review

Screenplay by Lakshmi Sundaram.

In continuation of the idea I expressed in my review of Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.: Fear Itself, when a serialised drama has an ensemble cast, it’s okay to apply situational archetypes to them because it will manage to be original if the characters are. Whereas the first example found a way to manifest the characters’ fears into a being, this time it’s the annual competition held among the officers of Brooklyn Nine-Nine whenever they’re on alert and can’t focus on anything else.

The specific situation of this episode is a motorcade being held, putting the precinct into a state of inactivity in case of emergency (named after the bastardisation of a world leader’s name, whom was visiting New York, inspiring the First Jimmy Jab Games). And so, in the manner of the Triwizard Tournament (ala Steve Kloves‘ Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), the competition features a variety of imaginative tests and trials to experiment with how far their senses can be pushed. Superbowl XLIX has happened recently in the United States, and since I’m a bit bitter about missing-out on the hype, I’ve decided to use this as an excuse to get excited about sport, despite having absolutely no interest in sport.

The Jimmy Jab Games are only formulaic per se, in the sense that it begins with a run-down of the competitors, followed by a series of knock-out rounds, leading to the final versus battle. But the writer remembered that the challenges should relate to the characters and their environment, and only really work if inapplicable to other character sets. And it passes that basic test of character relevance. The first round, involving the sandwich works perfectly in terms of both who set it, and the reactions of the other players. Rather than creating excuses for players to drop-out, they only do so if they actually would, and the outcome of the games feels completely natural, rather than forcing a plot onto the audience.

And then there’s the final factor of the last round. The last round has to be the most ambitious, imaginative, creative, original and difficult. It accomplishes all of these things. It utilises the entire precinct building and it’s furnishing, while still managing to have a creative wit. And who’ll win is left in serious doubt – yes, Jake Peralta is the central character, and we do want him to be victorious, but he doesn’t need to be for plot purposes. And then there’s Amy Santiago, who’s the most competitive character and often tends to win at most things, even when there isn’t even a real competition in anything. Ultimately, she does win, only for it then to be revealed that Peralta allowed her to by manipulating that final round through alteration of its stages. It was a clever deception of the narrative, but more importantly a good one, because it didn’t contradict anything about the characters that have been established. Not only that, but the contest itself allowed for significant character development – after the revelations at the end of the previous season, a new dynamic was established between Peralta and Santiago, and it’s nice to know Sundaram (and the other writers) haven’t just forgotten that. They’re still letting it influence the story, rather than forgetting about it for the sake of straight-up comedy.

This episode didn’t just reinforce the contract between audience and artist, but also the development of the show’s quality. Season one was good collectively, whereas season two’s episodes are becoming increasingly enjoyable on their own. It was simply the latest in a string of episodes that have strengthened the bond between myself and the show.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: the Jimmy Jab Games – reinforces audience contract with characters 8/10.

What the Marvel/Sony deal could, does and should mean…

Marvel Entertainment released a press statement today, confirming that, after a long series of negotiations with Sony Pictures Entertainment, who own Spider-Man’s live-action rights, the character was finally to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, alongside characters such as Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America and the Guardians of the Galaxy.

First, it’s been confirmed that this Spider-Man will be a new incarnation, which will likely require a recasting. The top names reported are Logan Lerman – Sony’s second choice after incumbent Andrew Garfield – and Zac Efron, though America’s Matt Smith, Donald Glover, is a popular choice as well. If Glover were cast, it’s possible Sony would have chosen to start a new Spider-Man series with the Miles Morales identity rather than Parker. Personally, I find that unlikely, since it’s probably a soft reboot with little continuity than the basics, and that would mean the new Spider-Man will still be Parker. Which isn’t to say the series won’t develop into Morales being involved, but that’s only likely to happen once the new Parker’s already established. If Morales were to be featured eventually, I wouldn’t say no to Glover being cast. But I would protest to him being cast as Parker, because he’s much more suited as an actor to Morales. He’s a much more interesting character, and Glover’s probably a decent actor, so it would be a shame to miss that opportunity for combination by wasting the potential just to cast Glover as the de facto Spider-Man, rather than a character far more suited to him. Regardless of who’s cast as Spider-Man, there are a lot of actors capable of doing it. Someone we’ve seen before isn’t necessarily a stunt cast, but could help ease the transition to a new version. And a name we haven’t heard before could work, but Sony might not expect the audience to accept a completely new face. SPE Motion Picture Group President Doug Belgrad said,

“This new level of collaboration is the perfect way to take Peter Parker’s story into the future”,

implying Parker will still be the cinema version of the character.

But that doesn’t mean we’ll have to experience his origin story for a third time. The press release states the new Spider-Man will first be seen in a Marvel Studios production as part of the Cinematic Universe. The implication seems to be that he’ll debut in the solo release of another character. The next MCU release, Joss Whedon‘s Avengers: Age of Ultron, has finished principal photography, so it’s likely this appearance will be in Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely‘s Captain America: Civil War. Leaked Sony emails reveal negotiations were already in place for Spider-Man to appear at that point, given his significant role in the comic book storyline Civil War. As these negotiations have finalised, it’s likely to still be the case, especially as it isn’t too late to rewrite the screenplay. Black Panther’s already been confirmed to debut there as well, as it was speculated that the character’s presence was a Spider-Man substitute. Would there be space to add Spider-Man as well? Maybe not and maybe so, but if it turns out to be true, it would be interesting to see how accurately it follows the source material. From what I hear, Civil War‘s major event is Spider-Man revealing his secret identity to the press, which would be a difficult event to reverse if Sony change their mind. What is confirmed about this release is that it’s going to happen before the 28th July 2017, which means, if not Captain America: Civil War, it would be either Jon Spaihts‘ Doctor Strange or James Gunn‘s Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Making his debut Doctor Strange would be a good idea, as Benedict Cumberbatch would already have attracted audiences, and that would provide maximum exposure. I honestly can’t see it being Guardians of the Galaxy 2, which takes place throughout the Milky Way and far from Earth. I like to think they won’t come to Earth because we already lots of other characters for that. Doctor Strange would be the most effective, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 would be the most unlikely, Captain America: Civil War would be the most likely, but there’s still the possibility of a post-credits cameo in Avengers: Age of Ultron. If the MCU Spider-Man’s pre-established, he’ll have already experienced his origin story. But there should still be one for clarity’s sake, and a post-credits sequence would be the best opportunity for that. We’d be able to see it, it would officially introduce the character, but it wouldn’t take up any unnecessary time in his solo release.

Which is what the 28th July 2017 date’s now reserved for, shunting future MCU releases along futher into the future. There was a five year wait between Sam RaimiIvan Raimi and Alvin Sargent‘s Spider-Man 3 and Steve VanderbiltAlvin Sargent and Steve Kloves‘ The Amazing Spider-Man. Following Alex KurtzmanRoberto Orci and Jeff Pinkner‘s The Amazing Spider-Man 2, there’s now a five year wait again. As it happens, we’ve only discovered this with two of those remaining, so that’s something. Plus, Marvel Studios are very efficient at manufacturing an assembly line of releases, and two years seems like a good length of time before releasing it, because that’s the average between announcement and release.

What’s pleasing is that Spider-Man‘s being produced by Marvel’s Kevin Feige and Sony’s Amy Pascal. They tend to be the equivalents of each other in their respective companies, and actually having a face to the discussions is comforting. I already know them, and respect them, and the fact that this blog post is even being written is testament to their ability to work together.

That being said, Sony still own the character’s cinema rights, and will be financing and majorly controlling future cinema releases for Spider-Man, which is slightly worrying. Sony aren’t as big a company as Disney, and from the way the agreement’s worded, it sounds as if Disney legally can’t fund any Spider-Mans because of Sony’s ownership. If Disney fund it, that gives them a right to grossing shares, and that changes their agreement. The last thing that needs to happen at this stage is for Marvel to violate that agreement, even in a small way, because that would give Sony the power to revoke their agreement. And the fact that Sony still own the character is quite disappointing, but then that’s how it would inevitably turn-out. Spider-Man’s the highest-grossing fictional character, and the MCU’s the highest-grossing cinematic series. It makes sense to unite them. But it’s for that same reason that Sony wouldn’t want to just give up the character, so them coming out of negotiations still owning him makes sense, even if I wish they’d just leave it alone and let Marvel use him how they want without having to stick to any guidelines. It’s this same agreement that says Marvel can’t fund it. And even worse, there’s Sony’s ability to overrule Marvel on any decisions made regarding the character. How Marvel expect to ingratiate the character into their own continuity while also letting Sony have the final say on that character’s releases’ creative decisions is worrying. Can this really work? I don’t know. But I’m just hoping it does. Generally, I think, since Sony need this investment, but Marvel are better at handling their properties, Sony’s only interest will be in making money. So that should mean that the only decisions they’ll be overriding are ones they think will compromise a Spider-Man‘s grossing. But given Marvel’s also a part of it, I can’t see them making the kind of decision that would do that. Hopefully, this will be a case of Sony letting Marvel do their own thing, but overruling them whenever they consider it necessary. And that kind of relationship works for me. If Sony are wise, they’ll use their major creative control to let Marvel do what they know they should.

Interestingly, the agreement specifies that Sony will only have that control over the new Spider-Man series. What that sounds like to me is that whenever Spider-Man appears in a non-Spider-Man, Marvel can use him how they like. So when Spider-Man appears in his debut, which will be part of another series, Marvel have full control. The solo release will then be controlled by Sony, but if Spider-Man then goes on to feature in Avengers: Infinity War — Part I, Sony won’t be involved in that. Which also works for me. A character in the MCU is two things – their own character, and crossover potential. Marvel are likely to care about the crossover potential more than that character’s own solo outings, which makes their compromise more satisfying than it could have been, and also more realistic.

The release also states other MCU characters will appear in the Spider-Man series. How this works between Sony and Marvel is anyone’s guess, but it could be the reverse of what we already have here. Meaning that if Sony wanted to include Antony Stark in Spider-Man 2 (which would be a good move, he’s the MCU’s highest-grossing individual character), he’d only appear on Marvel’s terms. I don’t really see that being a problem, since this agreement has already happened, and I believe in the combined power of Feige and Pascal. They’re like the Infinity Gems and the Infinity Gauntlet – put them together, and you unlock literally endless possibilities.

BAFTA Film Awards – 2015 Original Screenplay nominations

The BAFTA Film Awards airs tonight at 21:00 on BBC One HD, and will announce, among other things, the winners of the Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay awards.

Wes Anderson‘s The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson’s screenplay for The Grand Budapest Hotel takes place, for the most part, entirely within the titular building, where a murder occurs, prompting concierge Gustave H. to prove his innocence, which takes him through the various parts of the hotel. Inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig and his real-world travels, Anderson planned the story with Hugo Guinness, which is divided into six acts: PrologueM. GustaveMadame C.V.D.u.T.Check-point 19 Criminal Internment CampThe Society of the Crossed KeysThe Second Copy of the Second Will and Epilogue.

The character H. was inspired by someone Anderson and Guinness both knew. When creating him, the original screenplay draft was a short, and not set in the past or a hotel. Anderson was inspired to revise it when discovering Zweig’s writings. Beware of Pity influenced the opening scenes, which Zweig used in his other writings, in-which a character living on the edge of society meets an equally interesting character, which is how The Grand Budapest Hotel begins. Zweig’s further influences in the screenplay involve the decline of an empire, developing division and declining independance.

Anderson’s previous nominations include The Royal Tenenbaums with Owen Wilson.

Damien Chazelle‘s Whiplash

Chazelle’s Whiplash was nominated by The Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay, whereas The BAFTA Film Awards have nominated it for Best Original Screenplay. To encourage interest and funding, Chazelle produced a short film from an extract of the screenplay, which The Oscars determine to make the finished product an adaptation. The BAFTA Film Awards determined it to only be an adaptation of itself, and therefore be considered an original screenplay.

Artistic inspiration behind Whiplash can be found in Chazelle’s previous work, Grand Piano, in-which a pianist will be killed by a sniper if he plays a wrong note. This situation is threaded through Whiplash, with playing out-of-time causing music teacher Terrance Fletcher to become violent and aggressive. Writing Whiplash began as reaction to writing another screenplay, which wasn’t working. Chazelle instead began focusing on his other idea of being a jazz drummer, based on his own experiences with a real teacher. It was for this reason that he initially didn’t want to share the screenplay, which felt “too personal”, and for a long time it was in a drawer. It eventually gained interest from producers, but not enough for any to fund it. The Black List ranked it among the top unproduced screenplays of the year, leading to it being greenlit.

This is Chazelle’s first nomination.

Dan Gilroy‘s Nightcrawler

Gilroy’s aim with Nightcrawler was to write a screenplay with a “moral darkness” that would highlight Los Angeles’ best aspects. In that way, it counterbalanced the sociopathic tendancies of Louis Bloom with news media’s own sociopathic nature. It works as a form of alternative psychology, by presenting sociopathy as a scale, and presenting the numerous ways it can manifest in all people. The vulnerability of the characters is another key element to it, which also balanced the sociopathic themes, which both bring-out each other.

Nightcrawler was inspired by Arthur Fellig. the first crime photographer to follow events with a police scanner in his car, who inspired others to do the same. Part of Bloom’s character was inspired by Weegee’s biopic, Howard Franklin‘s The Public Eye. Gilroy based Bloom on a coyote, nocturnal animals often seen around Los Angeles late at night that are never. From there, he wrote Bloom as never being fed spiritually, with his hunger extending itself with every feeding. Bloom’s addicted to the scenes he photographs. This hunger’s the catalyst of his success story, which Gilroy says made him not want to label Bloom with a label that reduces his character. He has sociopathic tendencies, but from a desire to be a self-employed business owner, which is also a very Human feeling.

This is Gilroy’s first nomination.

Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr. and Armando Bo‘s Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

The majority of praise for Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) has focused on its metatextuality within 2010 cinema. During the peak of the superhero genre trend, it presented the audience with an out-of-work Michael Keaton, who’s career was made with Sam Hamm and Warren Skaaren‘s Batman and and Daniel Waters‘ Batman Returns. Here, Keaton’s Riggan Thomas attempts to stage a comeback through directing a production of When we Talk About When we Talk About Love. Along the way, he encounters Edward Norton of Zak Penn‘s The Incredible Hulk. In this version, Norton is an actor in a similar situation, not only being a further reflection of Keaton’s declining career as a former superhero, but as Norton’s own status as having been replaced as the character in Joss Whedon‘s Marvel’s the Avengers by Mark Ruffalo (also nominated for Best Supporting [Male] Actor as Dave Schultz in E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman‘s Foxcatcher). Also appearing as Sam Thomas is Emma Stone, who’s most famous role – arguably – is Gwen Stacy in James VanderbiltAlvin Sargent and Steve Kloves‘ The Amazing Spider-Man, before being killed-off by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jeff Pinkner in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. It’s Stone who’s nominated for Best Supporting [Female Actor], due in part to a scene in-which she talks of how nobody really matters. It’s this theme of being dispensable that makes it a story of people who are existing on the edges of their own existence. It may be a meta-parody of the superhero genre, but more than that is it a Human interest.

This is their first nomination.

Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood

Though showing the life of a family over twelve years, Boyhood was scripted and followed a pre-constructed narrative that was altered with every year’s filming in collaboration with the cast. Linklater called it a document of time, though it resembles a documentary to show the indistinction between fiction and non-fiction. The screenplay’s a compilation of smaller screenplays written every year that follow-on, like an inconsistently-lengthed serial. But it still feels like one story, with each year’s segment remaining part of the same thing, rather than seguing into tangents. This was largely a result of the collaboration with the actors, who also began to know where the characters were themselves going. Linklater wanted each year not to noticeably transition, but to only exist through perception, with the effect of the film being emotion created by realising the passage of time. It relied on the audience’s nostalgia, and the emotion that comes that hindsight.

This is Linklater’s first nomination.

The Amazing Spider-Man — review

Adapted by James Vanderbilt, Steve Kloves and Alvin Sargent from The Amazing Spider-Man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.

 

Did you know Spider-Man is the highest-grossing fictional character? When taking into account everything, merely including cinema, he’s earned more money than any other character. So it’s no surprise Columbia Pictures want to keep the character. The Amazing Spider-Man was originally Spider-Man 4, but numerous reasons lead to it being a reboot. This meant re-telling his origin story, introducing a new actor as Spider-Man and reinventing the franchise. Many of the positive reviews I give are often due to me considering something to be an accomplishment, and The Amazing Spider-Man is definitely an accomplishment. Because never, in anything else, have I found myself being so immersed in a story because of the combination between character and actor. Andrew Garfield was the perfect casting choice, due to his subtle nuances and ability to make Peter Parker the everyboy, while also showing him to be extraordinary.

As someone’s who never read a single issue of The Amazing Spider-Man, it’s never been a part of me. And I haven’t, as yet, seen any of the original trilogy. This was the first Spider-Man-related product I was exposed to, and that makes me see it as the perfect representation of what that world is probably like. Hiring Mark Webb, the director of (500) Days of Summer, was a genius move. Too many people make the mistake of labelling genres based on setting, rather than characters. The Amazing Spider-Man is, based on Peter Parker’s relationship with Gwen Stacy, a teen comedy drama. And it’s the Parker/Stacy relationship that’s at the heart of the story, and his transformation into Spider-Man is just a part of that. It’s a part of that story, rather than being the story. Which is totally the right way to do  it – I care more about who’s under the mask, and what’s going on in his life. Everything is attached to the romance plot, and the whole story feels imbued with it. There’s a magic to it, because we find ourselves instantly loving our lead actor and protagonist, as well as a darkness, because of the themes and what the characters go through. But ultimately, as is every story, the latter is the most important thing. It’s a story about characters who come closer together because they’re missing something. Parker’s missing his parents, and this brings him closer to Stacy. Stacy’s Father dies, and this brings her closer to Parker. Uncle Ben dies, and this brings Aunt May closer to Parker. The only person who doesn’t come closer to someone is Curtis Connors, who’s missing his arm. And he deals with that through scientific means, rather than emotional means. One of the things about Spider-Man is his ability to be an emotional character, and can show us – because he’s the Everyboy – that emotion is an advantage. Emotion is at the heart of the story, and the story is about how emotion will save us. Spider-Man isn’t like Batman; he doesn’t deal with his trauma by beating people, and he isn’t like Superman, by snapping necks because of his anger. Spider-Man lets it out, shows us it’s going to be okay, and is able to still be happy. We like Peter Parker because he’s happy, despite everything. It’s a bittersweet tale of a person who’s learned to appreciate things, and I’d say that’s what makes The Amazing Spider-Man stand-out as a motion picture: it’s the story of the man behind the mask. It’s about Peter Parker. Others could be Spider-Man, but only he can make him amazing.

And for the first time, we have a character transformed into a superhero, who actually freaks out about becoming a superhero. Were I to acquire superpowers, my initial reaction would be “Holy fuckballs, I’m a fucking superhuman!” They’re only fiction, and in becoming Spider-Man, he embraces it in the most believable way. Which is to go “Ahahahahahaha! Screw you guys, I’ve got superpowers”. Don’t lie – you’d do it. As Webb had only really directed independents up until this point, he’d learned to check the egos at the door. The story isn’t about promoting the characters, it’s just showing us them, and letting us appreciate them for what they are. In Batman adaptations (which I don’t dislike), his most common phrase is “I’m Batman!”, and Superman is dripping with egomania. But this isn’t about the superhero, it’s about the secret identity, and unlike others that attempt to do this, actually seems to know how. That’s why I’ve constantly referred him to as Peter Parker, not Spider-Man. Because one of those is an alias. Only one of them’s a character.

The Amazing Spider-Man: the superhero genre’s Citizen Kane. 8/10

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 — review

Okay, context. I am not a Harry Potter fan. I’ve read the first book, and that’s about it. I was mostly put-off by Harry Potter and the Chambers of Secrets, as that was the scariest thing I’d ever read or seen at the time. And yet… Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is definitely one of the greatest motion pictures I’ve ever seen. Why? Because it achieves what all great franchises should – transcending itself, to exist on its own, without the support of what comes before or after it. Normally, I’m critical of halving finales, which this series was the first to do, inspiring Twilight with Breaking DawnThe Hunger Games with Mockingjay and even inspiring Peter Jackson to divide The Hobbit into three strenuous epics.

What makes Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 such an achievement, is because of its overwhelming theme of ending. Not loss, or despair – all of which could be used by filmmakers with a preference for grit over realism – but of the concept of endings itself. From the very beginning, we’re in the middle of affairs. Which is why this manages to escapes its bonds within the Harry Potter series to become a self-standing tale of what it means to reach that inevitable moment in life when you all move on and leave behind what you used to be, and into the great unknown future to become something else. That’s the case in the Harry Potter world, as well as in the real world. Both cast and crew had spent the past decade in a world so vividly created it might as well be real. Stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson began their acting careers at its commencement, and had almost no other life. David Yates might not be the only Harry Potter director, but he’s contributed to the most. And it shows here, because his career’s been defined by working with these actors, who’s lives in turn have been defined by growing up in a world so fantastical that it probably made them until that point delirious with love for that world and those characters, living in two worlds, and now being expected to leave one of them behind, and continue working as actors, rather than living as wizards. All with the cruel irony of being forever remembered as those wizards in everything they do beyond that.

And that’s the reason the overarching theme of ending is so apparent – because it’s true. This was the conclusion to a life’s work, that not just the actors had grown-up with, but people. The series had, and still does, inspire so many people worldwide. They feel they’re being allowed to escape whatever it is that makes them want to leave their muggle life, and Hogwarts has given them a place to go and be inspired by dreams of acceptance. As Dumbledore says, “Of course it’s all in your head, Harry. But why should that mean it isn’t real?”. That line of itself is testament to Rowling’s inspiring skills as a storysmith. With this universe, she’s poured all of life into seven books, with which she, the characters, the stars, and the feelings of hope imbued within the readers, will live forever. The Harry Potter books are Horcruxes, and this makes the final part of the story metaphysical. Rowling wrote how it felt to reach the end of something. To let go of the thing you loved the most, but also to free of its burden, and to be allowed to go on and create other things, and be another thing. And that allowed the cast of characters – all of whom are given the respect they deserve and defining moments of what they meant and mean to us – to be so believeable. They really were approaching their final journey in that world, and the characters are shown to know that. They know this is what will define the lives they’ll come to have, and what the world after this event will be like.

Such a combination gives a canvas to the audience, and gives them faith to continue. I’m writing this on New Year’s Eve. Everyone’s reflecting on what this year’s meant to them, and what they’re going to do next year. It is the end of something today. The end of an important chapter. People will have met the people they’ll be spending the rest of their lives with. Others may have departed. Some will have begun school, as I did over a decade over. Others will have left, as I did earlier in this decade. The final day was a massive deal for all of us. We knew it meant, because we’d already seen it in the form of Deathly Hallows. But that gave us context, and allowed us to feel that it was good. I myself remember the final moment with my form tutor, one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met. And the crushing feeling of knowing that the person I’d spent the past five years pining-after might not even think about me again. I remember my first day, and my last day. Even now, I’m applying for University. I’ll leave behind my college adventures, and begin something a new. A new life, which, in turn, will end. In my final school year, I’d taken part in a social experiment. One of the best artists I’ll ever know made YouTube videos every day of 2012. And over that year, we became closer than I ever thought we would. And we felt as if we’d defined ourselves in those 365 days. By the time it ended at the New Year, it was as if an entire chunk of our lives, a whole year, had ended. That’s what these characters faced – their final school year. It taught me the power of art, and how it can change lives. Honestly, writing this, I can’t tell which of those two worlds I’m talking about anymore.

So listen. And let me tell you something.

The final shot of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 could be my favourite last shot in all of cinema. Because everything preceding it had felt like the summary of a lifetime. The heavy spirit of knowing it was the last time these characters would laugh together, and run together, and fight together. Even if they still did after the story ended, but we’d never see that. I don’t want to. It was ended perfectly, and should never be continued. I may be the only person that forbids J.K. Rowling from adding to the Harry Potter series. The final shot, as Potter, Wealsey and Granger look on, now in the present day, and parents, at their children, as they travel onwards toward Hogwarts. That shot? It… changed me. Because, to quote the final words of the source material, “all was well”. They’d had their adventure, but now an even bigger adventure began. They’d created a world safe for their children to inhabit, and had been given the reward of having those children. That it had all been for something. In the end, they really all did live happily ever after. But in a way that we can relate to. Of the past, and the future. And the present. They were so proud of what they’d accomplished, and I felt that pride for them. Because I saw in them myself. What I could do – whatever I wanted. That, even if things are emotional now, it, all of it, everything will pay off. And that we’ll look back and it will all make sense. Maybe in years to come, we’ll get to where we started, and nothing will have changed at all. The walls will have come tumbling down, the cities we love will have changed. But it might not have to feel like it.

More than anything, it makes me want to create. To tell stories. To attempt to understand what it means to be alive, and to have lived. If, when I am done, I’m as pleased to have worked for my happiness as much as the cast, crew, and Rowling herself, were of this… then I shall be happy indeed. Because that’s what’s out there. I thought I feared time and ageing. But not anymore. Now, I see time for what it really is.. What a way to begin a new year. The year I leave college, and go to University. And I don’t want to miss a thing.

The only thing I regret is not being a part of the Harry Potter fanbase when it began. To have read The Philosopher’s Stone with everyone else, and to have heard it was being adapted. And to go on that journey. But the way I’ve experienced this series is mine only. And nobody can take that away from me. Because, as JK Rowling once said: the stories that we love the most live inside of forever.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: what to have lived means. 10/10