Celebrating Great Films

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

#192 at time of writing.

I very much enjoyed the Harry Potter series of books, and I massively admire Jo Rowling both for her ability to tell a good story and for nobly dealing with the consequences of becoming a millionaire international celebrity whether she wanted it or not. She's a real role model.

The films, however, have been of very variable quality. Rowling's insistence on an all British cast was laudable, but unfortunately we got - how can I put it charitably - not the best child actors I've ever seen. Their occasionally cringeworthy performances are at the core of most of my criticism of the films.

The first two installments, directed by Chris Columbus, were lackluster. After that, they picked up, with an increasingly darker tone appealing to a broader audience than just children. I enjoyed the fourth, fifth and sixth films most.

The decision to split the last book into two films meant that the first suffered from feeling drawn out (and suffered doubly from some of the most awkward and ridiculous "love" scenes ever committed to film); and the last movie was so full of spectacle it almost got crushed underneath its own weight.

I can understand how somebody discovering Harry Potter's story and his world for the first time through watching the films would rave about them, but I find them too deeply flawed. I seriously doubt that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is the 192nd best film ever made, by any decent measure.

J K Rowling stated that her preferred director for the films would have been Terry Gilliam. Now THAT I'd love to have seen. Reboot?

Friday, November 04, 2011

Britain in a Day

I just watched Life in a Day, a 90-minute collation of hundreds of video clips from around the world featuring everyday life on 24 July 2010. It's an ambitious idea - there were 80,000 submissions totalling 4,500 hours of footage - but it is brilliantly executed. There is laughter in here, and regret, the sublime and the mundane, love and hate, poverty and wealth, dreams and fears. A glorious tapestry of small moments that builds up to far more than the sum of its parts.

Excitingly, there is an opportunity to contribute to a similar endeavour on a more local scale. You can film  your life on this coming Saturday 12 November 2011 and submit it to Britain in a Day. I want in!

(Meanwhile, if you liked this film, I recommend What About Me? and Koyaanisqatsi.)

Thursday, November 03, 2011


#93 at time of writing.

This film has little hooks and surprises around every corner, so much so that I hesitate to say anything about it for fear of ruining the surprise. Suffice to say, it is dark, stylish, violent, bizarre, and very very cool. Min-Sik Choi's performance in the lead role is particularly memorable.

The story kicks off with a man being kidnapped out of the blue and locked in a small room by his mysterious captor. For 15 years. The core question (which is right there on the poster, if you can read Korean) is WHY? A thoroughly compelling question if you ask me.

I'm not sure I've seen any other Korean films. The style reminded me of Japanese horror movies I've seen, but with a much more satisfyingly cohesive story. In fact, the story is based on a Japanese manga, which you can read online here.

This is the second installment of director Chan-wook Park's Revenge trilogy; I'd be interested to see the other two, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Life of Brian

#168 at time of writing.

Very few films can really make you laugh. I'm not talking wry smiles, although Monty Python's Life of Brian delivers plenty of those too, I'm talking infectious belly laughs that make your cheeks hurt. The jokes-per-minute ratio rivals the likes of Airplane! and Duck Soup; the sheer weight of quotable lines ensures that this comedy masterpiece will forever echo through the ages.

And behind the juvenile gags this is a surprisingly intellectual film, featuring a well-researched representation of historical Judea and some insightful satire.

Despite the reverential subject matter (the film is about a man living in the time of Christ who is mistaken for the messiah), the panto-esque comedy is gloriously irreverent, in the true low-budget home-grown scruffy and often surreal Footlights tradition.

Speaking of reverence, this film caused quite a stir when it was released in 1979. It sparked a moral panic centering on its supposedly blasphemous content, and got banned in several countries and UK councils.

At the climax of the controversy, two of the Pythons engaged in a notorious TV debate with the Bishop of Southwark and Malcolm Muggeridge on BBC2 chat show Friday Night, Saturday Morning. The debate itself is wonderfully and hilariously dramatised in the feature-length quasi-documentary Holy Flying Circus, which you can currently watch on BBC's iPlayer. Strongly recommended.

The Life of Brian script was written in the Caribbean, where the Pythons hobnobbed with (among others) Keith Moon, the drummer from The Who. Moon was slated to play a street prophet in the scene where Brian hides among them. Eric Idle saw Moon the night of his death, and remembers him expressing excitement about the role, which eventually went to Terry Gilliam. The script is dedicated to Moon.

According to IMDb's trivia, after the first take of the scene where a nude Brian (Graham Chapman) addresses the crowd from his window, Terry Jones pulled Chapman aside and said "I think we can see that you're not Jewish," referring to Chapman being uncircumcised. This was corrected in subsequent takes with the application of a rubber band.

Always look at the bright side of life...

Friday, October 07, 2011

Howl's Moving Castle

#219 at time of writing.

It doesn't have to make sense when it's so beautiful!

Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli have produced some astonishing films, often casting their characters into strange and colourful lands with mad rules of conduct as a metaphor for growing up.

This particular offering is a loose adaptation of the eponymous novel by Diana Wynne Jones, in which a girl suffers a curse that turns her into an old woman, and she must seek the help of an enigmatic young wizard to restore her youth, averting a war in the process.

The thoroughly Japanese perspective on this British fantasy is enchanting. The lush, ambitious animation is endlessly fascinating. The motivation and arc of the main characters is perhaps not as well developed as in some other Miyazaki masterpieces, but that doesn't stop this from being an inspiring, moving and brilliant piece of work.

I shall have to watch me some more Ghibli.

Monday, October 03, 2011

BBC writersroom: The first step to becoming a jobbing screenwriter?

There is a myriad of resources and opportunities up for grabs at the BBC writersroom website.

Of particular interest is the screenwriting course that you actually get paid to attend (deadline for entry 1 November 2011); and the Immersive Writing Lab competition to create a story world along the lines of Doctor Who or Lost (deadline 21 November 2011).

Thursday, September 29, 2011


#98 at time of writing.

Caught this at the cinema today. The board said sold out, but I queued up anyway and got lucky with a single seat. And no wonder it's sold out, the hype for it seems to be huge.

The first half sets up the main character as a tight-lipped stunt slash getaway driver (Ryan Gosling) with a habit of replacing conversation with smouldering silences. He falls for his pretty neighbour and her son, but then Daddy comes back from prison and brings unwanted criminal attention with him. Our hero, inevitably, gets caught up in the ensuing mess.

The halfway point - a straightforward heist - is so tense that my heart was beating in my throat.

But then it almost turns into a different film. Gosling's character turns into a superhuman avenger, dishing out grisly death all over the place. It risks going a little over the top, compromising the subtlety of the story. Thankfully, in the end, the story holds together.

So, does it deserve the hype? Probably. But I reckon I've seen better.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Das Boot

#62 at time of writing.

This is a fantastically involving and claustrophobic film about a German U-boat crew during World War II. Their months at sea are represented as seemingly endless tedium and frustration while they wallow in their own filth, punctuated by moments of sheer panic. It comes across as an exhausting and demoralising existence. You end up rooting for the well-drawn characters - or at least deeply pitying them. Yes, they are Nazis (albeit not the most ardent of Nazis), but in this film they are lonely and suffering human beings first.

The camerawork is impressive, effectively conveying the close, sweaty conditions, and peppered with a mixture of technically challenging and occasionally beautiful shots.

Most of the filming was done over the course of a year, with scenes filmed in sequence to ensure natural growth of beards and hair, increasing skin pallor and signs of strain on the actors, who were forbidden to go out in sunlight for the duration of the long shoot.

One of the actors genuinely injured himself falling off the bridge - the moment is captured in the final film as an unscripted scene in which one of the actors shouts "Mann über Bord!"

Its high production cost (about $18.5 million) ranks it among the most expensive films in the history of German cinema. In 1981, when it was released, it was the second most expensive after Metropolis. It was worth every pfennig.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


#184 at time of writing.

My brother in law said that to appreciate the range and talent of Ben Kingsley, I had to watch Sexy Beast and Gandhi back to back.

I did, and they're both brilliant films, with Kingsley delivering truly exceptional performances. Gangster or guru, he makes the part his own.

In fact, Kingsley (born Krishna Bhanji) has Gujarati ancestry, and Gandhi himself came from Gujarat. Kingsley achieved such a good emulation that locals were said to have thought he was Gandhi's ghost.

Gandhi is a sweeping epic with a cast of thousands and a brisk pace that belies its three hour running time. Telling the story of the man who led India to independence and inspired the world through his philosophy of nonviolent resistance, the film captures the essence of the legend without ever straying too far from the truth for the sake of the story.

The film achieves a fine balance. The British Empire's administrators come across as arrogant and often misguided, but only with such a thoroughly civilised nation would nonviolent resistance ever have worked. In the end, the Empire's respect for the rules and sense of shame for its mistakes earn a measure of credit. There are plenty of oppressive regimes around the world against which Gandhi's enormous discipline would have been wasted.

This is pretty much the best film that could have been made about Gandhi's life, and a testament to Richard Attenborough's talent and commitment - particularly considering he had to find funding for the film himself.

And funding was no mean feat for such an ambitious film. 300,000 extras appeared in the funeral sequence. About 200,000 were volunteers and 94,560 were paid a small fee. The sequence was filmed on 31st Jan 1981, the 33rd anniversary of Gandhi's funeral. 11 crews shot over 20,000 feet of film, which was pared down to 125 seconds in the final release. That had to be an expensive sequence - easy to imagine a studio refusing to bankroll it.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

X-Men: First Class

#234 at time of writing.

This film inspires in me such mediocre praise as "entertaining, but...", "bit of a cash-in", and "well, the trailers were fun". Even the posters are lacklustre.

The Noughties was great for superhero movies, but with cheesy action-over-substance sequels like this competing against half-baked efforts like Green Lantern, perhaps they've had their day for now.

This is the story of how the X-Men first came together; it hijacks the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis as a backdrop. I'm sure I would have enjoyed this origins story more if I knew more of the X-Men universe, but as a stand-alone film it doesn't compare to the epic genius of the rebooted Batman films or Watchmen, nor to the charismatic wit of Iron Man or Kick-Ass.

Fun, but I predict this will have fallen off the Top 250 before you can say "when's the next X-Men sequel?"

According to IMDb trivia, the filmmakers hired an X-Men specialist to help the cast understand their roles. Coolest job title ever?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Seventh Seal

#112 at time of writing.

This film is pretty cool with its overblown metaphors, visually striking set-pieces, pseudo-medieval setting and funky-sounding Swedish. But I felt like it went over my head. I let the story wash over me, but never really got into it.

It's about a knight who is trying to escape the spread of the Black Death, while playing a game of chess with the Grim Reaper.

Director Ingmar Bergman was inspired by a 15th century church painting of a man playing chess with a skeletal Death, in Täby kyrka, north of Stockholm.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Penny for your thoughts...

I haven't posted for a while, mainly because my beautiful daughter was born at the beginning of April and has been keeping us rather occupied since. Yay! :)

My wife has been spending more time than usual on BBC iPlayer while on maternity leave. Recently, we've been watching Paul Merton's fascinating series on the history of Hollywood. Check it out.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Into the Wild

#146 at time of writing.

This is a mostly true, albeit heavily romanticised, account of an American university graduate (Christopher McCandless) who abandoned civilisation for two years to escape his toxic family and get close to nature.

Everybody dreams sometimes of running away from it all, of shedding responsibilities and embracing simple freedoms. This story is a wonderful testament to what that dream could become if we chose to pursue it - both the good and the bad.

Engrossing and beautiful without being too schmaltzy, and populated with characters that you will enjoy spending time with.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The best science fiction books

In preparation for writing a comic science fiction novel at the end of last year, I bought myself a pile of science fiction books. I visited various websites to try and work out some of the greatest classics of sci-fi that I never got around to reading as a child.

It's been years since I read good science fiction, and I'd forgotten how much fun it is. Three months of reading, and I'm still only halfway through the pile - but only because I acquired more books along the way.

Calling science fiction a genre is, in my opinion, misleading. The range of science fiction stories is as broad as all literature - the one thing they have in common is a particularly rich imagination.

Here's what I've been enjoying. (The absence of Harrison, Clarke and Adams is because I read pretty much their entire works in my teenage years.)

  • The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut (Vonnegut bowls me over with the confidence and ambition of his writing. Despite the extreme weirdness of this book I felt surprisingly emotionally involved by the end.)
  • The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem (I loved the idea of the two competing cosmic constructors, and the timeless style.)
  • Man In The High Castle by Philip K Dick (Such a complete and thorough vision of a culture darkly parallel to our own. A little difficult to follow sometimes, but compelling.)
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin (A grand political drama with wonderful characters. Led me to read a much earlier work of feminist science fiction, Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.)
  • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (I read the original short story rather than the novel; it's a truly excellent story.)
  • Non-Stop by Brian Aldiss (Relentlessly pacey, great characters, twist after twist, and a dramatic finale. What more could you want?)
  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov (Based on this epic alone, I'm convinced Asimov earned every bit of his reputation as one of the masters of science fiction. It's a series of linked short stories - fascinating individually, and astounding as a whole.)
  • The Player of Games by Iain M Banks (Board games! Cheeky robots! A utopian empire! A violent and colourful enemy! So much fun!)
  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein (Charismatic, hugely witty and deeply profound. It feels like he predicted the entire Sixties counterculture. Possibly my favourite so far. Front!)

And here's what I have left in the considerably expanded pile.

  • The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
  • The Mote In God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
  • Last And First Men and Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M Miller Jr
  • Hyperion by Dan Simmons
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson
  • Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Earth Abides by George R Stewart
  • Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith
  • A few more Dicks and Heinleins

So many worlds of joy!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Interview at Dark Moon Digest

Check out my interview at Last Writes, the blog of the horror fiction quarterly Dark Moon Digest. One of my short stories features in the current issue of the magazine.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

True Grit

#223 at time of writing.

I admit Westerns are generally a genre I avoid, but this remake of a 1969 John Wayne film serves up perfectly entertaining fare. Possibly no more than that, but an amusing way to pass a couple of hours for sure.

The core of this film is Mattie Ross, the spunky 14-year-old played impressively well by Hailee Steinfeld, and her relationship with slurring drunkard bounty hunter Rooster Cogburn, delightfully portrayed by Jeff Bridges. She hires him to find and capture her father's killer - cue sweeping American landscapes, horses in sunset, and plenty of gunslinging.

For all their place as darlings of Hollywood's quirky fringe, this is the first time the Coen Brothers have managed to generate over $100 million at the US box office, so clearly it went down very well across the pond...

Click here to read the script.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

The Fighter

#222 at time of writing.

Boxing has generated a film genre all of its own. As a sport, only baseball has inspired more films. But there's something about boxing that is intrinsically cinematic: the build up and climax; the mano-a-mano face-off; the psychology; the brutality. The fact that one unguarded split second can be a reversal of fortunes that makes or breaks a career.

Any new boxing film has a grand legacy to live up to. Rocky, Raging Bull and Million Dollar Baby all feature in IMDb's Top 250, and indeed in the annals of silver screen legend.

So, does The Fighter compete?


It's the true story of "Irish" Micky Ward's career, often held back by his autocratic mother-manager and his gregarious crack-addicted half-brother. Micky Ward was known for his fighting style rather than his winning record - his ability to take a relentless beating in the ring, without quitting, and then somehow summon up the power to fight back made him the most televised fighter in boxing history.

The core of this film is the relationship between the two brothers, played by Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. It's compelling stuff, with a satisfying climax. And then, just before the credits roll, we see a clip of the real Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund which is enough to believe that the actors have captured the characters perfectly.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Charlie's Top Ten Trailers

I watched the UK trailer for Biutiful again the other day, and I've decided that I like it very much. I love a trailer that doesn't need to tell me the whole plot, and this one is really compelling with its unsettling snapshots, beguiling music and grittily poetic voiceover.

For me, the single most important feature of a great trailer is that after watching it, I don't know what's going to happen in the film - but I desperately want to find out.

Here are some more trailers that really got my juices flowing...

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

First, possibly my favourite film of all time. I was ridiculously excited by this trailer when I saw it in the cinema. I couldn't wait to find out what was happening in that train station with people disappearing everywhere. And I'd never heard Mr Blue Sky before - what a song.


In a way I think it's a shame that this film is cursed always to be compared to the graphic novel. As an independent endeavour, it's a film of remarkable scope and vision - and the trailer boldly announces it as such, to the apocalyptic strains of Smashing Pumpkins.

Garden State

Who needs dialogue? This teaser does an extremely good job without any at all. The imagery is very creative; I remember particularly liking the wallpaper pattern shirt. And, once again, a great song - although the full trailer used an even greater song (albeit arguably to less effect), Such Great Heights by The Postal Service.

Kill Bill

Tarantino gives good trailer. For a start, he knows how to choose a tune. The scene that made me want to watch this movie was the one where Uma Thurman's character raises her sword and the army of armed men encircling her all step back in fear.


Probably one of the first films I ever wanted to see based on the ads and trailer alone. Iggy, tits and that painfully cool Choose Life monologue that was plastered on every University student's wall for years afterwards.

The Social Network

Based on the posters, the title and the subject matter this film looked like a dud. But two things excited me about it. First, David Fincher in the director's chair. Second, this trailer.


Pixar need a mention for their generally brilliant teaser trailers, sometimes a year in advance of the film itself, showing the characters up to some amusing mischief that makes you crave to see more. I was so psyched about WALL·E that I consumed every clip, preview and behind-the-scenes sneak peek that Disney cared to release.


Folding cities. Exploding groceries. Gravity going sideways. I needed to watch this film to find out what the hell was going on.

The Invention of Lying

Truth is, I can't think of a tenth favourite trailer. So, for now at least, here's an honorable mention to all those high concept trailers that make you laugh and promise so much - but then the film itself fails to deliver. Coming full circle, this trailer features Mr Blue Sky again.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Black Swan

#49 at time of writing.

(Not the 1942 swashbuckler...)

This film left me shaking.

A fragile but technically brilliant dancer in a New York ballet company is selected for the lead role in a production of Swan Lake. As she rehearses, the pressures mount from all directions - from her sinister mentor, her overbearing mother, her jealous friends and her dismayingly carefree rival.

The main character, played heroically by Natalie Portman, teeters on the brink of nervous breakdown and a catastrophic fall from innocence. The upshot is an alarmingly effective psychological thriller that had me crying with empathy, cringing at the body horror, and squirming with anguish on her behalf.

Portman clearly poured her heart and soul into this role. She had previously trained in ballet (as a child), and resumed her training a year before filming began - so much of the dancing is genuinely her own performance (including the painful-looking en pointe). The role was obviously physically challenging; she suffered a dislocated rib and a concussion while filming the dance scenes. One can imagine that she brought some of the stress and strain of preparing for her demanding performance into the role itself.

The supporting roles are also masterfully acted. Vincent Cassel is chilling. Barbara Hershey is monstrous and tragic. Mila Kunis has come a long way since voicing Meg Griffin on Family Guy.

Darren Aronofsky - having directed Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, and now this - has earned a place as one of my favourite directors of all time.

This has been a great month for films. I hope The King's Speech doesn't steal all the Oscars; Black Swan deserves the very highest recognition.

Click here to read the script.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The King's Speech

#185 at time of writing.

Never have I had so much trouble getting tickets at my own local cinema; this film is proving immensely popular. No doubt partly due to the royal fervour stirred up by the imminent marriage of Prince William to Kate Middleton.

A hot tip for the Oscars, this movie appeals on three levels. First, as the compelling personal story of how King George VI - with the help of his speech therapist Lionel Logue - coped with having power thrust upon him when Edward VIII abdicated. The two lead roles are played brilliantly by Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. The filmmakers had access to Logue's previously undiscovered diaries, so they had a first-hand account on which to base their portrayal of his relationship with the King.

Secondly, the film appeals as a period piece, full of glimpses of 1920s and 30s London shrouded in fog, when cars and wireless radios were a novelty and everybody of note spoke with impeccable RP. Nowhere are the charming traditions and antiquated strictures of interwar Britain more pronounced than in the halls of the monarchy.

And thirdly, for being set against a time of great crisis for the monarchy, for Britain and for the world, when tensions and attitudes built up to a flashpoint that culminated in the declaration of World War II - a war that marked the watershed between the British Empire and the modern world we know today.

The cinema audience clapped when the credits rolled, even though I doubt any of the makers were there to appreciate the gesture. I wouldn't be surprised if the same thing happens at many other screenings - there's just something about the pomp and ceremony of the film that rouses one to spontaneous applause.

Click here to hear the real King George VI's radio address to the nation on September 3rd 1939, the titular speech of the film. Listening to the King's halting words, it is easy to imagine Lionel Logue in the recording booth with him, gesturing and encouraging him to overcome his stammer.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ultimate UK Film Chart

I was looking today at the BFI's Ultimate Film Chart, the all-time top 100 films based on UK cinema admissions estimates. Quite a few unexpected entries on there. Like, did you know that the fifth most watched film in UK cinema history is Spring in Park Lane?

I got to wondering, is The Sound of Music's 30 million seats sold as impressive as the 28 million seats sold for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, given that the UK population grew significantly in the 27 years between the latter film and the former? What proportion of the UK population attended these films?

So, I plotted seats sold and UK population on the same graph. The x axis is films (in chronological order), and the y axis is 000s of people and 000s of seats sold.

The three big peaks, in chronological order, are Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (59.1% of the population); Gone with the Wind (an impressive 73.2%); and The Sound of Music (55.5%). Of course, those proportions assume each person only attended once, which is plainly flawed, but still the trend is clear. In terms of proportional attendance, the golden age of cinema is far behind us.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

127 Hours

#221 at time of writing.

Danny Boyle is a legend. He dares to be different, and his string of exceptional films has continually redefined the British film industry.

Many of us have seen a newspaper clipping and thought it would make a great story - Danny Boyle took Aron Ralston's visceral survival story and turned it into a film that is brilliantly conceived, excellently written and very stylishly directed.

The movie grabs your attention right from the off with Free Blood's Never Hear Surf Music Again (click the link for a free download), which sets the tone for a challenging and profound journey. The pace manages to keep you perched at the edge of your seat - with thrill, and then anguish - despite spending much of the screen time focussed at the bottom of one cavern.

For me, this is one to be experienced in a cinema rather than at home. Not for the beautiful scenery, but because I totally forgot I was sitting in the front row of Screen 3 of the Brixton Ritzy and I felt like I was there with him. That night, when I closed my eyes to go to sleep, images from the film ghosted before my eyelids.

James Franco's performance in the lead role is faultless. His reactions are often refreshingly unexpected, which adds to the realism and boosts the ruthlessly unsentimental treatment of the story.

Seeing the real Aron Ralston at the end made for an emotive finale, although a clip of the actual footage would have been the coup de grâce - a missed opportunity perhaps.

Ralston comments here on the authenticity of the movie: "They filmed in the actual canyon... the scenes in which I walk up to the spot where the accident happens were filmed there, then the actual accident – where the boulder tumbles – was shot on the sound stage, but from moment I am free they are back in the real canyon again. The rappelling scene is the actual place I rappelled, the pool I drink from is the real pool and the hike out of there is the same hike. The effort they went to bring all those details and that accuracy is incredible."

Check out this clip of Ralston talking about the amputation in situ. And while we're on the subject, here's the Top 10 Incredible Self-Surgeries.

Monday, January 03, 2011

How To Train Your Dragon

#173 at time of writing.

Dreamworks SKG was set up in 1994 by industry heavyweights Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen. The animation arm later spun off as a separate company.

Dreamworks Animation has had nothing like the consistency of Pixar’s output, but has produced some great films along the way: Antz, Shrek, and its partnerships with Aardman Animations stand out in particular.

To those stand-out films, I would be tempted to add How To Train Your Dragon.

Set in a fictional world of dragon-besieged Vikings, the weedy protagonist discovers a revolutionary secret - the dragons aren't necessarily all that bad. The story that ensues, based on Cressida Cowell's book, is wonderfully inventive and action-packed, with some beautiful imagery. It would kick ass in 3D.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Time's up

Happy New Year all!

So, the deadline for the Terry Pratchett Prize was yesterday - and I just managed to meet it.

It was back on Friday 8 October that I decided to try and finish my science fiction novel in time to enter the competition, at which point 15,000 words were written.

I finally reached the end of the book on Tuesday 28 December (and then spent three more days on a quick edit). I wrote 70,000 words in 81 days - that's 864 words per day on average. My wife stuck a graph on the wall to help me keep track.

Now I know what it takes to get the words out; the next step is to get it published. Being shortlisted (or even winning!) the competition would be a dream come true; failing that, I'll make a go of it on my own. And, meanwhile, I'll get to work on the sequels. :)

It's been an ambition of mine to complete a publishable novel for nearly a decade. Mission complete. (And yet, only just begun...)