“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) – David Holmes
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.
This is a dated article now written by Brandon Kim and posted July 30th, 2010, 2:07 PM [13/09/2014 accessed], but for the fans of Nolan’s “Inception” (2010) who haven’t seen this yet, it will be a very interesting read. “The Edith Piaf song, “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” is used by characters in “Inception” as an alarm to wake from dreaming. It’s a lovely touch, but one exploited by composer Hans Zimmer in assembling the film’s entire score.” Here is an audio comparison:
“Technically, Zimmer didn’t just slow the Piaf song down and call it a day, but extracted bits and then used his electroturdmatics to reconstruct a theme in varying “subdivisions and multiplications of the tempo of the Édith Piaf track,” he told [to the magazine]. Normally I’d be restraining myself from using foul language to discuss Zimmer’s approach to creating film scores, but credit where it’s due. I love the idea and the use of Piaf to achieve the encompassing theme. Zimmer is clearly still giddy over the whole thing. “So I could slip into half-time; I could slip into a third of a time,” he said, tripping his balls off over the tempo manipulations he employed to great effect. “Anything could go anywhere. At any moment I could drop into a different level of time.”
Winner: 12 Years a Slave
Other nominees: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street
Well, there are hardly any surprises here, with virtually every film commentator predicting ‘12 Years a Slave’’s win. It is easy to see why there was hardly any competition at all in this category, too. With the greatest of respects to other nominated films, ‘12 Years a Slave’ just stands out in terms of its artistic merit and, most importantly, the impact it produces. I don’t mind if ‘Gravity’ sweeps every award out there, as long as the Best Picture goes to its most deserved contender. Arguably, ’12 Years a Slave’ is the only film in the category to which you can comfortably assign the word ‘masterpiece’. It is a great achievement for everyone involved in the production of this film, especially for its director, Steve McQueen.
‘My passion to develop as an actor didn’t have anything to do with people knowing me. I had no idea that would happen. To become famous, to become a celebrity is something that I thought happened to other people’ (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
Modern era and in no particular order:
1. La Haine (Hate) (1995)
A Better Life (2011)
‘A Better Life’ follows the story of Carlos Galindo (Demián Bichir), a Mexican illegal immigrant in the US who works as a gardener at rich people’s mansions. Carlos is also a single father, raising his teenage son Luis (José Julián). When Carlos sees the chance to better his and his son’s life with the purchase of a new truck, he scraps every dollar and buys it. When the truck is stolen, desperate Carlos teams up with his son to try to return it.
Background and lead acting
The film features a Hispanic cast; was co-financed and released by Summit Entertainment; and was directed by Chris Weitz, who, incidentally, also directed ‘American Pie’ (1999) and ‘About a Boy’ (2002), as well as the more recent ‘The Twilight Saga: New Moon’ (2009). However, the unknown cast, lack of viable promotion and the contrived trailer may give an impression that the film belongs to some foreign film festival at best, instantly to be discarded upon seeing. This impression is very false. ‘A Better Life’ is a film full of meaning, portraying an ordinary life with extraordinary skill. Undoubtedly drawing inspiration from a classic ‘The Bicycle Thieves’ (1948), the issues which concern ‘A Better Life’ are as old as time. Ranging from the American Dream themes to the issues of morality, guilt, remorse and forgiveness in the modern world, ‘A Better Life’ provides for an all-encompassing glance into the life of the society’s outsiders, while, at the same time, remaining narratively-simple and clear as to its message.
War Horse (2011)
Directed by Steven Spielberg (‘Schindler’s List‘ (1993), ‘Saving Private Ryan‘ (1998)) and based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo, ‘War Horse’ is a moving picture about the strong ties of friendship which develop between a boy and his horse. The film begins with the boy’s father, Ted Narracott (Peter Mullan), buying a horse, Joey, at a horse market for a very high price. Young Albert (Jeremy Irvine) becomes instantly attached to the talented Joey and teaches him to plough to try to pay the family’s rent in Devon. When the war breaks out, however, Joey is sold to the army, but not before young Albert promises Joey to honour their friendship, and to find him someday. Although the film is full of sentimentality, it is also entertaining and heart-warming.