A long time ago, we used to be friends…

ImageI have a long list of TV shows that finished too early for my liking. The nature of the industry is such that shows that display rare originality, strong characterisation, fully-developed worlds and compelling stories, often find themselves with the plug pulled and their narrative without a natural end.

Over the years, creators have tried to revive such shows in a variety of ways. Joss Whedon continued his short-lived Firefly as a movie and a comic series. Jericho managed to wring a second (ultimately stunted and disappointing) season out of the production company thanks to overwhelming fan support. Arrested Development makes its return later this year thanks to funding through Netflix. And now a new possible solution has been revealed as cult-favourite Veronica Mars succeeds in sourcing funding for a feature film through Kickstarter.

Kickstarter has always been an exciting propositon; what better way to fund art than by sourcing the capital upfront from the eventual consumers? Rob Thomas is one of those television creators who never seems to catch a break. Every show he has put together (including the fantastic Party Down) has been cancelled. For whatever reason, the masses don’t seem to take to his product.

But now his fans have spoken and Veronica Mars, the feisty teen detective, will live again. I remember been entirely gripped by the mystery-laden first two series of Veronica Mars, yet the third series left me a little cold. I’m not entirely convinced we need a movie, but I’m excited about what this means for television and creative media in general.

Kickstarter has been going strong for a while now and has plenty of success stories under its belt (I recently watched the first series of Video Game High School and was pleasantly surprised). Yet the Veronica Mars movie takes the possibilities to a whole new level. It raised a record-breaking $2 million and stands to become the highest-profile project the crowd-funding website has supported.

Naturally, this has lead to speculation about other moth-balled series that could be resurrected in this manner and television creators such as Joss Whedon and Bryan Fuller have weighed in with their thoughts.

This is definitely a development worth keeping an eye on – another step towards a world where consumers decide directly what is worth funding – and an interesting proposition for dedicated creators who witness their creations failing to realise their full potential.

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Youtube cinema

I spend a fair amount of my life trawling through bottomless digital ocean of Youtube, usually late at night as I wonder what I’m doing with my life that it has come to this. Naturally, I’m often drawn to videos associated with the cinematic arts.

In a new series of articles, I’ll highlight some of the more interesting clips on this subject, including documentaries on technique and interviews with worthy filmmakers. In doing so I hope to justify those endless lost hours and in some way console myself that my life has purpose, whilst at the same time guiding you through the confusing mire that is Youtube.

The Art of Film and TV Title Design

This video takes an all-too brief look at a subject I’ve had an interested in ever since I saw the opening titles to David Fincher’s Seven (and, if I’m honest, City Slickers) – the influence that an artfully put together title sequence can have on a viewers first impressions of a film.

Tippett studio tour

It’s a name I had never heard previous to first watching this video, but I was glad to get a peak into the studio of Phil Tippett, a special effects supervisor who oversaw the effects on films such as Robocop, Starship Troopers and Jurassic Park. If you are even remotely geeky about special effects, this is a fascinating watch.

New set footage from Return of the Jedi

Odd as it may seem, this footage only recently became available. Filmed by a member of the public without permission of the filmmakers, this silent footage shows the set for Jabba the Hutt’s massive ‘sail barge’ that is featured early in Return of the Jedi. I’m not a huge Star Wars fan, but the footage is interesting none-the-less.

Minnesota Nice

This classic ‘making-of documentary’ takes a look at the creation of a modern classic, Fargo. I remember it featuring on the end of the VHS video release and recall noting how much more interesting it was than most documentaries of this type.

Its a pleasure to see that those involved in creating the film were so acutely aware that they were part of something important and their thoughts and annecdotes are not superficial as is often the case in these making-ofs, they are insightful and add to the wider-discussion of one of my favourite films.

How Jurassic Park should have ended

These guys have made a series of entertaining cartoons that show how films should have ended, often addressing plot-holes and conceits that a film’s climax is dependent upon. In this, one of my favourites, the raptors not only discover how to open doors, they also manage to wrap their heads around how to operate automatic weaponary. Not that that helps them in the end.

Watch, repeat

I’m not sure why, but I used to watch certain films obsessively when I was in my teens. More so than any time since, I would identify these films as ‘the films for me’ and watch them. A lot.

Perhaps it was because they were simpler times, when there was not such a huge mass of available media. When I was growing up, if we wanted to watch any movies (other than the recent releases) I only had a few ways of getting hold of them. I could watch one of  the four television channels we had (Sky was a mere fantasy) or buy or rent a video.

However, the majority of the films from this list (yes, fine, it’s a list) are from the former two camps, since films recorded from television or bought on VHS could be watched numerous times over many weekends without repeatedly renting them out.

These films have all been seared into my brain. Some of them have stayed with me, becoming films I now recognise as classics. Others, I would probably no longer watch, but for the sake of curiosity. Those that fall into the later group might still have a place in my heart, and just the memory of a key line of dialogue (‘It can’t rain all the time.’) will make me feel nostalgic.

The Lost Boys

This cult horror staple has stayed with me throughout my life. I saw it most recently at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in 2006. When I arrived in Melbourne, alone and in a new country for the first time, and saw that The Lost Boys was playing, I was delighted to have a movie so familiar to go and see.

The story of Santa Carla’s Vampires and the boys determined to take them down is witty and comically violent. There’s something quite child-like about this movie, despite the it’s graphic content. It’s a kind of childhood-adulthood transitional film, as if the filmmakers set out to make a horror film for teenagers.

As a kid, I would have loved to have friends as fearless and unpredictable as the Frog Brothers, self-confessed vampire hunters (when they aren’t working in their parents comic book store). I love the pure eighties vibe, the comic-book violence of the vampire deaths and, of course, there is one of the greatest last lines in the history of cinema.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

Ace Ventura was my introduction to Jim Carrey, the funny man with the elastic face, who would become an near-obsession for me in my teens. I bought every movie he was in on VHS the day it was released (up until Liar Liar).

The film has dated a little and does look like a TV movie, but the laughs are still there as are the catchphrases, many of which have stuck with me until today (Alrighty then!). The story is a little wierd and the other characters are incidental. Really, its all just a showcase for Carrey’s brand of rediculous humour and that’s fine by me.

The Crow

This is a film I haven’t watch since my teens, yet I remember how intensely cool I thought it was. The film follows a man who returns from the dead, self-stylises himself as a scary clown / crow man and goes about taking down those who were responsible for for his murder and that of his girlfriend.

The subject matter seemed grown-up and the violence graphic (but not morbidly so). As a quiet and non-violent teenager, taking revenge on the people who messed with you seemed very appealing somehow. Add in the fascination of the lead actor, Brandon Lee, dying during the shoot, and film was a sure-fire winner.

Oddly, I haven’t watched it more than ten years, so I couldn’t say whether it holds up now.

Evil Dead 2

I haven’t seen it in ages, but I know in my heart that I still love Evil Dead 2. I’ve always been a bit of a wuss when it comes to horror movies. Certainly there are horror movies I have enjoyed, but I’m not a big fan of gore and scares for their own sake. When I discovered Evil Dead 2, I was pleasantly suprised to discover that horror movies could be funny as well as scary.

Of course a great deal of the fascination comes down to Bruce Cambell’s mesmirising, gurning turn as Ash, a role reprised from the orginal film (of which this is a kind of remake). He truly sells the absurd situation in which his character finds himself. When he does battle with his own severed hand, it really does feel like a fight for survival as well as being hilarious at the same time.

And the ending is awesome too.

Withnail and I

When I discovered Withnail & I, I watched it countless times. There was something wonderfully subversive about Richard E. Grant’s Withnail; he was living on the edge of society. He appeared to be quite possibly permanently cracked and yet he didn’t seem to care.

The simple story of two out-of-work actors who go for a much-needed holiday in the country sees very little happen. Yet it is populated by wonderfully memorable characters and grounded by a bleakly hilarious script. Thinking of certain scenes will still bring a smile to my face, especially Withnail, when faced with a large pub bully, breaking down into tears and sobbing…’I have a heart condition…if you hit me its murder….my wife is having a baby…’

Stand By Me

Another film that I still regard as a geniune classic. Four kids in fifties small-town America hear a rumour about a dead body and set out on a journey to witness this gruesome curiosity for themselves.

The central group are an odd mish-mash of personalities. They seem thrown together, yet comfortable with each others quirks. Their friendships are the kind that can only form in childhood; fleeting, but meaningful and important in their time.

My English teacher showed us this film when we were fourteen or fifteen (along with To Kill a Mockingbird) and it has stuck with me ever since. Its a brilliantly funny and imaginative film, whose characters are grounded in real-life, yet still capable of using their imaginations and having an adventures.

The Flight of the Navigator

During my teenage years, I certainly wasn’t beyond watching films deemed to be targeted at kids (nor am I now). The Flight of the Navigator is representative of the children’s films that bled through to my teenage years (see also Labrynth and The Goonies).

The movie concerns itself with a boy who is abducted by a charistmatic alien, who takes him on an adventure around the world in his super-cool spaceship. This movie had enough adventure and wit to keep me returning time and time again.