“People view child actors the same way that girls treat their Barbie dolls” (Mara Wilson, former child actress, Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)).” A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark” (a Chinese proverb). “Childhood experiences are very important to lifelong outcomes…“ (Andrew S. Garner, MD).
We all know past childhood or teenage horrors/troubles of such celebrities asJudy Garland, Macaulay Culkin, River Phoenix or Lindsay Lohan. We also know the examples of successful transitions from child actors to adult stars, such as the Harry Potter cast. The point is that the cinema industry has learnt much about the treatment of child actors, but it has also done so at a considerable cost, including in terms of human lives. In this post, I would like to highlight three child actors (some alive and some already dead) who were essentially let down by Hollywood, and their cases were really such that more effort and support should have been given to see these child actors’ transition to adult actors or adults with other careers – especially since so much was done by Hollywood to elevate them to their “star” status from their very young ages. Studios often became the children’s second home in the examples below, and since the children relied so much on that early expectation of praise and success (and money was made out of them), these children and then teenagers had to be helped later to deal with their expected career declines. There are those who blame the pushy parents, and I am not saying that personal factors or choices did not play a role in the cases below, but I also believe that no one should have forgotten that the actors below were also mere children, much more sensitive to their environment, praise and criticism than adults, and, thus, later, needing much more support and reassurance in their careers.
Since the new trailerfor Pixar’s Toy Story 4 is already released, it is perhaps time to talk again about the trilogy and its dubious origin and inventiveness. Since the release of the first Toy Story animation in 1995, there have been comparisons made between it and The Jim Henson Company’s television puppet film for children of 1986 – The Christmas Toy. I will again revisit and comment on this comparison, taking into account the ideas presented in the new Toy Story 4 trailer. The point is that Toy Story is The Christmas Toy in a nutshell – creators of Toy Story surely must have thought about The Christmas Toy when they were creating Toy Story.
“They’re extraordinary, these special effects guys and stunt guys. To watch those craftsmen at work…There really should be an Oscar for stunt work. These guys are incredible and they’re so careful and so professional. And they’re artists. They do amazing things.” (Helen Mirren, British actress, quote taken from slashfilm.com).
The intention of this post is not to depress or offend anyone. As most of you will know, yesterday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts announced a new category of award called “Achievement in Popular Film”. My point is that, rather than devising this preposterous category, it would have been better for the Academy to finally recognise the invaluable contribution of stunt performers, who sometimes risk their lives to make a great scene for us all to enjoy. What follows are ten instances where the process of making an action film did not go as planned so as to demonstrate that film-making can be dangerous and, thus, the bravery, artistry and contribution of stunt performers (crew/coordinators) should be recognised. In no particular order:
1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2010) – DavidHolmes
David Holmes worked as a stunt double for Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) on the set of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows“. He was also a stunt double for Radcliffe on all previous Harry Potter films. He flew broomsticks being attached to wires, as well as performed various other “magical”, but dangerous actions. Tragically, on the set of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows“, when shooting an explosion scene, Holmes was thrown against a wall and is now paralysed from the chest down. He now races modified cars and has started his own production company.
“I love mirrors. They let one pass through the surface of things.” (Claude Chabrol, French film director)
This will be my 300th post, and, as now customary, I am writing on objects in films and their (symbolic) meanings. For my other similar article, check outGloves in Films: Hiding True Characterand Desires, when I “celebrated” my 200th blog post. Mirrors can play many roles in films. (Narcissistic) film characters can utilise them to satisfy their vanity (“Gone with the Wind” (1939)); to ego-boost (“Taxi Driver” (1976) or “La Haine” (1995)); for self-examination or to marvel at their transformation (“TheAviator” (2004) or “Vanilla Sky” (2001)); or films use them for dramatic showdowns (“The Lady from Shanghai” (1947)), among many other roles and meanings. However, in this piece, I would like to focus on three interpretations in particular: (i) the usage of mirrors as they demonstrate the character’s dual nature (often revealing the character’s evil/bad nature when that character otherwise appears good); (ii) mirrors used to emphasise secrecy or to reveal secrets; and (iii) the use of mirrors as certain clandestine passages to the Otherworld.
This will be my 200th post on the blog, and I thought I would do something different. I have always been fascinated with objects and their symbolic meanings in films, and some object-placements in films evoke powerful imagery and are open to different symbolic interpretations. On the face of it, gloves in films do not present a big conundrum: they can be worn for warmth; because of an unspoken societal rule/etiquette; as a result of a fashion trend; in the course of a professional pursuit, such as medicine or sport; or in the course of a crime. However, arguably, gloves may also sometimes have a more symbolic interpretation in a film, and represent a character’s “camouflaged”/hidden true intention or desire, or emphasise a character’s subconscious attempt to distance him(her)self from others, hiding their true character.
“The Village” is a 2004 film directed by M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense” (1999) and starring Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt and Bryce Dallas Howard. The film tells of a 19th century village whose inhabitants live in a constant fear of some creatures that start terrorising the village population. One of the protagonists of the movie is a blind girl named Ivy. Although the movie is not as bad as critics claim and its soundtrack is absolutely beautiful, it has a needless array of well-known star-actors involved, which is distracting. “Running Out of Time” is a popular 1996 book by Margaret Peterson Haddix for young adults about a girl (Jessie) in a 19th century village who is sent on a mission to town to look for medicine to cure a diphtheria epidemic in her village.
Even though the plots of both “The Village” and “Running Out of Time” look different, there are considerable similarities between the two. The ways in which the book and the film are similar speak volumes when one considers the most important things of both: “Running Out of Time”’s narrative and “The Village”’s final plot twist.
Darren Aronofsky’s 2010 feature “Black Swan” is an Academy Award-nominated film, telling the story of a young ballerina Nina Sayers, whose transformation from a shy ballet dancer to a leading heroine ballerina of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” production causes a psycho-sexual breakdown. “Perfect Blue” is a 1997 Japanese animated movie based on a novel by Yoshikazu Takeuchi, telling the story of Mima Kirigoe, whose rapid descent from an admired pop-idol into a “tarnished” rookie actress has disastrous consequences.
In this piece, I will compare the two films closely, arguing that the two films share substantial similarities in terms of the plot, character, style, design, execution and the little details, pointing to the conclusion that “Perfect Blue” was – at the very least – the direct and main inspiration for “Black Swan” (and even something much more than that), though Aronofsky himself denied the claim. Going further, the similarities are so striking that it could even be said that Aronofsky essentially re-made “Perfect Blue”, but changed the setting to a ballet, and re-modelled some characters, disguising them as others.
The question of personal identity and its duplication have been fascinating people for centuries. From Edgar Allan Poe’s “William Wilson” to Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”, the theme has been pervasive in almost every form of art. When it comes to movies, such films as “Sommersby” (1993), “Face/Off” (1997), “The Prestige” (2006) or “Black Swan” (2010) may immediately come to mind. However, just recently, scriptwriters/directors have decided to approach the topic more directly, and we now see two films – Denis Villeneuve’s “Enemy” (2014) and Richard Ayoade’s “The Double” (2013) gracing cinema screens in the hope to awe. Although these two movies have their share of differences, e.g., “The Double” is far wittier and more satirical than “Enemy“, these two films share the same theme, and, therefore, it may be interesting to make a brief comparison between the two. Also, besides the “doppelganger” theme, what these two films also have in common is the relative novelty of the directors’ productions. “The Double” is Ayoade’s directional debut and for Villeneuve, ‘”Enemy” is only his second truly mainstream movie after “Prisoners” (2013), also starring Jake Gyllenhaal (“Donnie Darko” (2001), “Zodiac” (2007)).
Although there has been a number of comparisons done recently between ‘Avatar’ (2009) and ‘FernGully’ (1992) (also ‘Pocahontas’ (1995) and ‘Dances with Wolves’ (1990)), I, nevertheless, have decided to take my own turn on the topic and ascertain the similarities between the two movies. In this piece, I will provide some evidence that demonstrate that ‘Avatar’ and ‘FernGully’ are so similar – both in plot lines and style (more so than many other films/stories), that, in my opinion, it was nearly impossible (for James Cameron) not to have in mind ‘FernGully’ when writing ‘Avatar’.
It could be argued that the first two Harry Potter movies directed by Chris Columbus (“Home Alone” (1990)) were the best ones in the series in many ways: they were the most faithful to J.K. Rowling’s original stories; the casting choices could not have been any better there; and the movies had very logical and structured narratives. All these things were barely touched upon in the later Harry Potter films.