Category Archives: Film

7 of The Greatest Animated Female Characters in Film

This is a guest article from my very good friend Ruth Hartnoll who co-runs the awesome blog Crown Rules which you should definitely head over to and bask in its glory. Anyway here is Ruth’s post on her favourite animated female characters. Enjoy!

1. Kiki – Kiki’s Delivery Service

Kiki

Kiki’s Delivery Service sees a young witch leave her parental home for her mandatory year of independent life. She travels to a distant town on a broomstick and sets up her own air courier service. She does all of this with her faithful sidekick, her cat Jiji.

This film was made in 1989 – the year I was born. In the same year Walt Disney bought out The Little Mermaid. That story sees a woman stripped of her independence and identity so that she can chase after a Prince. I think we both know who won 1989 – Hayao Miyazaki. Kiki’s Delivery Service is one of the few films where the adventure is had by a female character – for that alone she gets a firm place on my list.

3 Things That Make Kiki Great

  1. She sets up her own business and gets her own place when she’s 13
  2. She’s brave, smart and self-sufficient – all the characteristics a girl needs to get on in the world
  3. She’s not always happy and perky, like so many female characters, and she’s still brilliant

Best Scene

Kiki

The scene in the woods when she goes back to visit the female artist she happened to stumble across on one of her deliveries. The two characters talk about everything but men and they comfort each other with cocoa. What a bloody great scene that is.

2. Yzma – Emperor’s New Groove

 Yzma

There is no female character in animated cinema history that has made purple more fabulous and tyranny more appealing that Yzma from Emperor’s New Groove. She’s the villain, without falling into any of the female villain stereotypes (step mother, mother, jilted lover), and her assistant is a (loveable) muscled and stupid man.

Yzma kills it in this film. She sounds like she smokes 40 a day, could probably have her own headlining act in Vegas and she makes grey skin du jour. My love for Yzma is so paramount that when I take over the world I will have a National Yzma Day where all women can be tyrannical without reason, whilst wearing purple.

3 Things That Make Yzma Great

  1. She’s super quotable: “Pull the lever Kronk! Wrong lever! Why do we even have that lever?”
  2. She basically invented the colour purple
  3. She’s old and still as spritely as a dame

Best Scene

The potion making scene. The animation, the quips – flawless.

3. Wyldstyle (Lucy) – The Lego Movie

 Wyldstyle

Wyldstyle is the fast quipping, punky and hilarious female from 2014’s The Lego Movie. She saves the hapless Emmett on countless occasions and is always ready with an inspiring speech, flick of the hair and wrench. Man, can that girl build a spaceship-submarine-time travel machine quickly.

Side Note: I was at a wedding recently and a 6 year old boy turned to me and said his favourite character in The Lego Movie was Wyldstyle. My feminist heart filled with joy and I proceeded to tell him about the importance of female role models in children’s films. He got bored and ate some cake, but I really felt I got through to him.

3 Things That Make Wyldstyle Great:

  1. She goes after bad men because good men go after her
  2. She’s as equally funny as her male counterparts and looks a damn sight better than them to boot
  3. She’s an engineer, maverick and traveller

Best Scene

She saves Emmet and fights off a load of police whilst flying through the air, whilst constructing a getaway car, whilst finding time to flick her hair in slow mo. My kinda gal.

4. Satsuki and Mai – My Neighbour Totoro

 Satsuki & Mai

I am going to cheat and put two female characters in here, but it’s only because you can’t have one without the other. Satsuki and Mai are the central characters to Miyazaki’s most loved work; My Neighbour Totoro.

Again, Miyazaki puts the two girls at the centre of the action and shows that girls can be heroines. As the girls’ mother is ill Satsuki takes on the role of guardian, not mother, to her sister and shows that being a guardian doesn’t necessarily mean being safe – it means looking after someone, even if that might involve a bit of danger and fun. Oh and they get to spend a lot of their time with a giant, fluffy imaginary beast. I don’t know what else a film could need really.

3 Things That Make Satsuki and Mai Great

  1. They look out for each other and show a positive female relationship in action
  2. They get to run around with a giant, fluffy, ridiculous beast called Totoro and don’t question it for a second
  3. They’re both brave, adventurous and independent

Best Scene

The now more than iconic bus stop and cat bus scene. It’s a bus that’s a cat people, need you ask why I love it so much?

5. Marjane Satrapi – Persepolis

 Persepolis

Persepolis is the startlingly beautiful and autobiographical film by Marjane Satrapi. It’s a coming of age story set in 1970s Iran and shows the impact of a country run by Islamic Extremists. Marjane is less than quiet about her opinions on the new regime and is eventually sent off to Europe to live alone, all whilst she’s a teenager.

This film shows a female character in real, mortal danger and shows her unnerving and resilient nature against oppressive figures. Marjane lives abroad, educates herself and messily falls in love and we get to see all of it in its black and white glory. Persepolis is so achingly beautiful that sometimes it’s hard to take it all in at once. Just go and watch it right now.

3 Things That Make Marjane Great:

  1. She’s an out and out feminist and frequently voices her opinion even if it may get her into trouble
  2. She’s resolutely human and makes some pretty bad mistakes on the way – which is an important thing to see your heroine do
  3. She’s educated, fearless and imaginative

Best Scene

Persepolis

One of the best montages in all of film history exists in Persepolis. There’s a great part where Marjane lifts herself out of a depression and does it all to Eye of The Tiger. Genuinely funny and moving all at the same time.

6. Jesse – Toy Story 2 & 3

 Jesse

The Toy Story trilogy is my favourite trilogy of all time (fuck off Star Wars) and that is largely down to Jesse. Jesse is the spunky and boisterous cow girl that eventually steals the heart of a space man and manages to rock a plaid shirt like no other woman before her.

Toy Story was, of course, a great exercise in film franchising because you could buy all of your favourite characters as they appeared in the film. Ka-ching. If any of my friends have kids then they are getting a Jesse doll and the whole box set so they can see what it looks like to play alongside the boys and be considered an equal. Jesse for president.

3 Things That Make Jesse Great:

  1. She’s scared of rejection and has one of the best montages in Pixar’s history, then she finds all of her die hard loyal friends and has adventures with them. Yay!
  2. She’s a horse and space man whisperer (she knows about his Spanish setting, after all)
  3. She’s Calamity Jane for 90s kids

Best Scene

Jesse

The montage. Sob.

7. Young Ellie – Up

 Young Ellie  (Up)

That fucking montage. Heartbreak aside, Young Ellie is so great. She’s loud, outgoing and steals the heart of a man with a balloon and a winning smile. Fair shout. Young Ellie also demonstrates that you can suffer great loss (cue the tears) and recover to live a life filled with happiness. She didn’t get to travel, which makes me sad, but that’s part of her story – she’s the whole reason Mr Frederickson finds his bravery. What a catalyst she is.

3 Things That Make Young Ellie Great

  1. She’s loyal, brave and someone I would want to be friends with
  2. She makes a depilated house a wonderland
  3. She helps others realise their potential

Best Scene

Adventure is out there! The scene in the bedroom after Little Mr Frederickson comes back from the hospital. They tell stories under their own handmade tent. Nostalgia abound.

Ruth Hartnoll is a full time copywriter, part time queen at www.crownrules.uk and obsessive theatre & poetry enthusiast. She adores animated characters, particularly female, and encourages all women and girls to go and to have lots of naughty fun – if the boys are doing it, we can do it better. Adventure is out there! Follow Ruth on Twitter here.

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Blog Update

Office-Space

This is a post I really didn’t want to have to write.

As I mentioned in a recent post, my blog activity has been much diminished from what it used to be. This was primarily because I had shoulder surgery and so was laid up for a while with pretty much only one arm. I’m out of the sling now and doing much better, by the way.

However, work was also a major factor. A few months ago I got a new job and it’s been a hell of a lot busier than my old one. I’m a copywriter and spend pretty much my whole day writing, sometimes spilling out in excess of 4,000 words a day. This takes up a lot of my time and also means that pretty much the last thing I want to do when I get home is sit behind a computer.

Now, let’s be clear from the off – I AM NOT QUITTING BLOGGING! I simply enjoy it too much and enjoy chatting with all of you amazing people. All I’m saying here is that I probably won’t be around as much. Work is hectic and looks like it will only get busier (which is no bad thing really).

I will still post when I can and I will still stop by as much as I can, but I just won’t be able to come by daily as I usually do. But you will definitely still see my floating round the place!

I also hope you’ll still stop by here when I do post something. I know a lot of bloggers don’t like it when commenting isn’t reciprocated, but I still hope to see some friendly faces around from time to time.

Well that’s pretty much it. As I say, I’ll still be around but just maybe not as much as I have been. But there’s no way I’d walk away completely from you lovely lot.

Films that nearly make me cry (but not quite)

I don’t cry at films. That might make me seem like an emotionless monster, but it’s true. Some people sob the moment they see a small kitten or when the girl meets the guy of their dreams or whatever, but not me. You could drown a sackful of defenseless puppies and a tear would not roll down my cheek. It’s not that I don’t get upset or get a lump in my throat, but the physical act of crying during a film is not one I’m familiar with.

However, there are some films that push me right to the edge and very nearly make me cry. Here they are:

E.T.

ET

E.T. is one of the films I grew up watching and is one of my all-time favourites. It’s got everything; it makes you laugh, it’s scary at times but it’s also one that still make me all sad and that when he finally climbs aboard his spaceship and buggers off home. It’s emotionally manipulative, sure, but it works (actually more so now than it did when I was younger).

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Spinoff Blogathon

spinoff

Sati’s awesome debut blogathon asked us to choose a peripheral character we’d like to see become the lead in their own film. This caused somewhat of a problem for me, in that I have a rubbish memory. Therefore, trying to recall the smaller, less celebrated characters in a film was going to present a problem. I’m lucky if I remember who the lead was, let alone the lesser characters. So I had a good think and the only minor character who really stuck out was the legendary Jesus from the Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski. This guy…

Now, there have been rumblings ever since The Big Lebowski came out in 1998 that Jesus could get his own spinoff film, but it hasn’t, as of yet, materialised. So why Jesus?

Well he’s just such an enigma; you could do practically anything with the story. We know that he loves bowling. We also know that he spent 6 months in prison for exposing himself to an 8-year-old and had to go door to door telling everyone he was a pederast.

For my story, I’d start at the beginning showing him as a child and how he developed his obsession with bowling. His father will also have been a keen bowler trying to win some kind of championship, and one night a group of no-gooders turn up to the bowling alley and kill his father. Standing there looking at the corpse, his father’s personalised bowling ball (with a cross on it) rolls towards him. He picks it up, looks at the cross and there and then Jesus is born. Or something like that.

Despite that very serious sounding beginning, the whole thing would be laced with the same dark, stoner humour that is rife in The Big Lebowski. We would be privy to the incident in which Jesus exposes himself to a young boy, but it would be as twisted and disgusting as it sounds. In fact, I’d make it so that he didn’t actually do it at all, but the whole thing was a misunderstanding or the boy was making it up.

liam-o-brien

After he gets out of prison, we’d see Jesus going around the houses in his neighbourhood telling people he’s a pederast. We’d see him getting beaten up a few times, but then come across a woman (maybe a younger Bunny) who’s so stupid she doesn’t know what a pederast is, so he lies to her and makes up something impressive and the two strike up a relationship.

He starts to rebuild his life, getting a job somewhere like a deli. Or maybe has a school janitor, which would be pretty twisted considering his conviction. It’s in his job that he meets Liam, who becomes his bowling partner and the two become focused on winning the championship his father was trying to win when he killed.

Spending so much time bowling, Jesus has no time for his girlfriend and she leaves him, although he’s so focused on the bowling that he barely notices. It’s suggested that Liam has a Waylon Smithers-style thing for Jesus and is happy at this news. This is all shortly before this story and The Big Lebowski intersect, although there could be a few more crossovers. Perhaps the thugs who killed his father are somehow related to those who do the Dude over.

The beauty is that this could go in a million and one different directions. It could take this form, as a part prequel, or it could run in tandem with The Big Lebowski, or it could be a sequel of sorts featuring the ‘little Lebowski’. The possibilities are endless.

And remember – no-one fucks with the Jesus.

So that’s a pretty specific story in places, and very basic but it’d be a start. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you’d do with the character…

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The 437th post about the Oscars you won’t read

So there we go, it’s all done and dusted for another 12 months, and it was pretty good. It all went pretty much as expected but I don’t think there are many who can argue with most of The Academy’s choices. Here are some of my thoughts about the 86th Academy Awards…

Ellen was a decent host

Ellen DeGeneres at the Oscars

Ellen Degeneres is pretty well liked throughout the entertainment business, and I thought she did a great job of hosting. The actors like to have their ego stroked, whilst we at home like to see a bit of fun being poked, and Ellen did a fine job of balancing the two. Still not a patch on Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, though.

It was predictable, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing

Pretty much every award was reasonably easy to call, whether you thought it was the correct choice or not, and there have been the usual calls that the whole thing is too predictable. However, if we make predictions and The Academy also makes those choices, surely they’re worthy winners? Some people may have thought they got the odd award wrong, but I think most will concede they were generally on the money this year. It might be nice for them to choose a slightly leftfield choice once in a while, but predictable doesn’t mean undeserving. Maybe the huge number of other award shows dulling our appreciation of the Oscars.

The ‘heroes’ theme was rubbish

Every year the Oscars has a theme, and this year it was ‘heroes’. You didn’t notice a theme? Well that’s because it was such a token effort that it was totally pointless. All we got was a couple of montages about film heroes and that was it. Either go all out and have hosts dressed as superheroes or do away with the theme altogether.

Karen O is amazing

The songs worked well

I thought the live performances would be a bit naff but they actually worked really well. The performances were varied and really added something different to the show. I hope they do the same again next year.

Jared Leto’s, Matthew McConaughey’s and Lupita Nyong’o’s speeches were great

86th Annual Academy Awards - ShowLeto, McConaughey and Nyong’o were worthy winners for Best Supporting Actor, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress respectively, and their speeches were arguably the best of the night. Leto spoke passionately about his mother, who was there with him, whilst McConaughey spoke of what motivates him and keeps him trying to better himself. Nyong’o was absolutely over the moon with her win and that clearly showed in her heartfelt speech.

What’s gone on with Steve McQueen and John Ridley?

12 Years a Slave’s screenwriter John Ridley and its director Steve McQueen seemed to completely snub each other, neither thanking the other in their speeches. Also, when John Ridley won his Oscar, he wasn’t congratulated by a single member of the 12 Years a Slave cast or crew. McQueen was also caught on camera doing some kind of weird fake clap. What’s the deal fellas?

It’s time some of the categories were altered

It seems that a few of the award categories could do with being altered slightly. I might get shot down here but do we really need separate sound editing and sound mixing awards? Surely an achievement in sound award would suffice? I also feel that we change the name of the Best Foreign Language Film award to Best Film Not in the English Language, and that we should do away with the whole actor/actress thing, instead having male actor and female actor. Might sound a bit pointless but I’d prefer it.

A few other things jangling round my head:

  • Jennifer Lawrence was a bit of a tit, as was Jamie Foxx

  • Liza Minnelli jumping on Lupita Nyong’o was weird

  • Kim Novak’s plastic surgery is horrendous

  • U2 really are the most middle of the road band in the world

  • Why are there only 3 nominees for the hair & makeup award?

  • I can’t believe Jared Leto is 42

So those are some of my thoughts from this year’s Oscars. What did you think about the awards? Let me know below in the comments.

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Can an Actor Go Too Far When Preparing For a Role?

Once upon a time, all actors did to prepare for a role was to don a suit or slip into a dress and step in front of the camera ready to go. Look at Jimmy Stewart, for example; it was pretty rare to see him look anything other than absolute perfection with nary a hair out of place. Sure, actors used to wear elaborate costumes or cake themselves in make-up for a role, but all that is just window dressing; the person underneath is still the same.

However, gradually over the years there’s been a growing trend for actors to go the extra mile for a role, whether that be physically or mentally. There’s no doubting the commitment, but is there a danger that those actors who do push themselves to their limits are going too far? Or should the fact that they get paid absurd amounts of money dictate that they should do whatever necessary for the role?

Brando was one of the first to bring Method acting to mainstream films

Brando was one of the first to bring Method acting to mainstream films

It’s difficult to pinpoint when this trend began, but Marlon Brando could be partly responsible. Brando was one of the first to bring method acting to popular cinema after studying under Stella Adler at her Studio of Acting in New York City. This form of acting required an actor to completely immerse themselves in the role, even when the cameras weren’t rolling. This Stanislavskian approach was considered to be a much more realistic form of acting and has since been adopted by some of Hollywood’s most revered actors. Brando never really changed his appearance all that much during these years but the attitudes towards what was required for a role had definitely changed.

One of the first high profile instances of an actor physically transforming himself into a characters was a certain Robert De Niro, a staunch proponent of the Method style, when he gained 31lbs to play an overweight Jake LaMotta in Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull in 1980. Filming was shut down for around four months whilst De Niro ate his way around Italy and France to gain the weight. He also trained as a boxer, winning two out of three fights in which he entered.

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Amazing Minimalist Film Posters

Over the past few years, a trend has emerged for creating minimalist film posters, and some of them are absolutely fantastic. In fact, a lot of them are better than the official posters for the films. Most are just done by movie and graphic design fans but some, such as Olly Moss, have forged a career from such posters (as well as some pretty awesome other stuff). So here are just a few of some of the amazing minimalist movie posters out there that I take absolutely no credit for whatsoever…

Jaws

Jaws

Star Wars

Star Wars

A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange

Inception

min-poster-1

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My Top 10 Films of 2013

As is customary at this time of the year, most people put together their ‘best of the year’ lists, and so here’s mine. Of course, there are plenty of films that came out in 2013 that I haven’t seen yet and there are some that have already come out in other countries that we haven’t had in the UK yet, but these are my 10 favourite films of 2013…

10. The Way Way Back

This was a real surprise for me, as I’m sure it was for many others. There are plenty of coming of age stories knocking around but fantastic performances from Steve Carell, Alison Janney and, in particular, Sam Rockwell ensure this one stands out from most. Read my review here.

9. Captain Phillips

Tom Hanks gives a brilliant performance in Paul Greengrass’s dramatisation of the real life hijacking of the Maersk Alabama. Mention should also go to first time actor Barkhad Abdi who is superb as lead pirate Muse. Read my review here.

8. Philomena

philomena-feat

Inspired by a heartbreaking true story, Philomena may not be the flashiest film of the year but it’s without a doubt one of the most affecting. Dame Judi Dench gives a wondeful titular performance, whilst Steve Coogan is also excellent as the standoffish journalist Martin Sixsmith. Read my review here.

7. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

This is one for the Alan Partridge fans, of which I am one, rather than the everyday filmgoer. A big screen appearance for Norfolk’s finest has been on the cards for some years but it was only in July 2013 did it finally materialise. Granted, the character may be slightly better suited to TV but there are still belly laughs a-plenty here. Full review here.

6. Gravity

GRAVITY

This may well be a lot higher in some other ‘best of’ lists, and if this list was purely based on visuals then this would be right at the very top. However, some story and dialogue issues prevent it from being any higher, although an excellent performance from Sandra Bullock should be noted. Full review here.

5. Before Midnight

A near perfect conclusion (maybe?) to Richard Linklater’s ‘Before’ trilogy. Before Midnight takes a slightly different direction to its predecessors, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset and reveals some chinks in the armour of Jesse and Celine’s relationship. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are astounding in the lead roles as usual. Read my full review here.

4. The Hunt

Not a particularly easy watch due to its rather emotive subject matter, but one you can’t tear your eyes away from as you root for Mads Mikkelsen’s Lucas to clear his name after he’s accused of being a paedophile. A fantastic performance from Mikkelsen and one that fully deserves any awards attention it receives. Full review here.

3. Mud

Matthew McConaughey has gone from rom com laughing stock to Hollywood hot property in no time at all and Mud shows exactly why. A brilliant performance on his part, as well as from youngsters Tye Sheriden and Jacob Lofland, added to gorgeous cinematography and rattling soundtrack make Mud one of 2013’s underrated gems. Read my review here.

2. The Act of Killing

Definitely not the most uplifting film of the year, but undoubtedly one of the most unique and important. The Act of Killing is a documentary telling the story of the genocide of millions of Indonesians in the 1960s at the hands of the military. However, the story is told by the killers themselves as they recreate their atrocities in the style of American films they love. Truly shocking. Full review here.

1. Rush

RUSH

By no means technically the best film of the year, but no other film got my heart beating as fast as Rush. Dramatising the rivalry between Formula 1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, director Ron Howard perfectly captured the sound and speed of F1, whilst also telling the story of two characters who were equal amounts loveable and loathable. Chris Hemsworth’s beautiful face gave a great performance but it was Daniel Brühl who really stole the show and could be a dark horse for an Oscar nomination. Read my review here.

So there we have it – my favourite films of 2013. Disagree? Want to shower me with loving praise? Either way, leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts.

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Not So Secret Santa Review Swap – Lovely Molly

This post is part of the Not-So-Secret Santa Review Swap being held over at The Cinematic Katzenjammer, in which participants ‘gift’ a film for another blogger to watch and write about. You can check out the full list of entries here. Here’s my post on the film that was gifted to me, Lovely Molly.

I knew I’d end up with a horror film.

Lovely Molly is the story of Molly (Gretchen Lodge) and her new husband Tim (Johnny Lewis) who, following their wedding, move into Molly’s childhood home. However, painful memories soon surface for Molly and a powerful force soon envelopes her.

Now it’s not that I don’t like horror films (I love The Shining and Halloween), it’s just that they scare me. I know that’s the point but I’m not a massive fan of being scared. Even the worst horror films that most people sneer at will probably have me weeping like a small child.

However, the only thing that scared me about Lovely Molly was the streaming quality on my laptop.

That’s being slightly unfair. The first 20 minutes or so had me on edge a little, although that may well have been simply my expectation that I was going to be scared. After that, however, it did little to raise the hairs on the back of my neck.

See, there’s a bit too much going on with Lovely Molly. It’s part home invasion, part slasher, part supernatural horror, part possession horror, part found footage; it just doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. There’s also some stuff about horses it seems. It does most of these parts admirably enough, but put them all together and it’s somewhat of a mess.

After that promising first act, the film just gets a little boring and I found myself really not caring what happened to Molly. As she seems to go more and more insane, she turns into more and more of a douchebag and I just wanted one of the other characters to do her in. Whether or not I was supposed to identify with her or not in some way I’m not sure.

There are also some of the most pointless sex scenes ever created in the history of film. As far as I was concerned, they served absolutely no purpose whatsoever. I have no problem with a bit of sexy time, but here it just stood out like a sore, naked thumb.

I did think that certain parts of the film worked quite well, however. The more supernatural side of things was probably the most successful, and the film’s climax was pretty interesting, taking a rather leftfield turn of events. However, in this film it seemed a little too leftfield and didn’t really fit well with that had gone before. Good climax but in the wrong film. It’s also one of those films that lets the audience decide how much is actually happening and how much is in Molly’s head. Sometimes that seems like a cop out but it works reasonably well here. The denouement, however, can be seen coming a country mile off and is massively cliched.

So, going into Lovely Molly I was a little wary that I’d need new pants but that was not to be. Not totally sure if that’s a good or bad thing. Lovely Molly isn’t a horrible film; it does flirt with some good ideas but just never really follows through with any of them.

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