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The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes: The Greatest Film Never Made?

How does one know thyself? When confronted by the realities of our station in life, how do we respond to them? Will we take advantage of what time we have left to fulfil the passions that burn within us?

These questions percolated in my mind as I read Tim Lucas’ novel The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes, a fictionalized account on the making of Roger Corman’s 1967 psychedelic opus The Trip – which first appeared in cinemas on this day 55 years ago.

Cover art by Charlie Largent.

The Subject

Cinemaverick: Corman in his element during the making of The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967).

By the mid-1960s, Roger Corman, a top-tier producer/director for B-movie studio American International Pictures (AIP), had become dissatisfied by the constraints of his series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations starring Vincent Price. Endeavouring to make films that reflected the controversies of the times, his first attempt at such a movie, The Wild Angels (1966) – a biker drama starring Peter Fonda, Nancy Sinatra, and Bruce Dern – was a major box office success. For its follow-up, Corman turned his attention to a particularly hot-button subject: lysergic acid diethylamide, better known as LSD or acid.

Japanese poster for The Trip.

Directed from a screenplay by a long-time member of Corman’s talent pool, Jack Nicholson – better known today for playing a certain Clown Prince of Crime! – the resulting film, The Trip, follows disillusioned commercial director Paul Groves (Fonda) as he seeks to gain personal insight through an LSD trip: the first of its kind depicted in a motion picture. Guided by his guru friends John (Dern) and Max (Dennis Hopper), Paul witnesses a parade of sensual and terrifying imagery throughout his hallucinogenic odyssey that forces him to consider his place in the world, and especially his relationships with women; he is torn by his feelings for his wife Sally (Susan Strasberg), who he is soon to be divorced from, and Glenn (Salli Sachse), an acquaintance of Max’s with whom he feels a mutual attraction.

Alternately confounding, nauseating, sexy and funny, The Trip remains a thoroughly engrossing watch, marked by its rapid editing and depictions of nudity, both of which were considered ground-breaking for the time. Although its style and subject matter reflect key interests of the hippie movement (LSD was made illegal across the United States soon after its release, and the film’s portrayal of it prompted the British Board of Film Censors to ban the movie for 35 years), the film’s thematic underpinnings still carry weight decades after the Summer of Love. As someone who doesn’t have any experience with such drugs, I was pleased that the film wasn’t an excuse for flashy imagery, and that it grounded the psychedelic experience in human drama through its focus on whether Paul can form personal connections amidst the emotional turmoil of a divorce. Among those The Trip impressed upon its initial release was a young film buff from Cincinnati named Tim Lucas…

The Author

Lucas with his legendary tome Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark. To say this guy knows his movies is putting it lightly.

A renowned film critic/historian with fifty years of professional writing experience, Lucas is best known for co-publishing (with his wife Donna) the pioneering home media review magazine Video Watchdog (1990-2017), and for writing the celebrated critical biography Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark (2007). He has provided audio commentaries on the DVD and Blu-ray releases of over 100 movies, covering not only most of Bava’s films and several of Corman’s, but works by directors as varied as Jean-Luc Godard, Alfred Hitchcock, Sergio Leone and Orson Welles. Lucas has also penned three published novels: Throat Sprockets (1994), The Book of Renfield: A Gospel of Dracula (2005) and The Secret Life of Love Songs (2021). A throughline that connects Lucas’ work is his focus on our capacity for experiencing and expressing love for each other. This is an appropriate motif, given the themes of Corman’s film and the story he has weaved about its creation.

In 2003, Lucas began writing a comical screenplay about the making of The Trip with his friend, writer/artist Charlie Largent. Their story was structured around Corman’s revelation that, despite not outwardly fitting in with the counterculture of the period, he prepared for the film by undergoing an LSD trip on the beaches of Big Sur, California, surrounded by colleagues who witnessed and recorded his observations.

Bill Hader, Corman and Joe Dante at the 2017 script-reading of The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes.

Although The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes was soon optioned by Corman’s protégé, Gremlins (1985) director Joe Dante, and it is set to be co-produced by SpectreVision (Elijah Wood’s production company), the film has yet to see the light of day. The closest the project has come to being actualized was a 2017 script-reading at the Vista Theater in Los Angeles, billed as “The Greatest Film Never Made”; reviews of the reading unanimously praised Bill Hader’s portrayal of Corman. These aborted attempts to make the movie inspired Lucas to rewrite Kaleidoscope Eyes as a novel, drawing on correspondence with Corman’s wife/producing partner Julie, and his long-time assistant Frances Doel, to expand the story beyond what was in the script, which by this time had undergone several revisions, including contributions from writers Michael Almereyda and James Robison.

Commentary

My personal collection of Lucas’ first three novels.

Lucas’ earlier novels are characterised by their unconventional approach to narrative structure. Primarily written from the first-person point of view of the protagonists, they frequently take unexpected turns into other modes of writing, including transcripts of film scenes and interviews (Throat Sprockets); diary entries, letters and commentaries written by characters years after the referenced events (The Book of Renfield, in the style of Bram Stoker’s Dracula); and songs (The Secret Life of Love Songs).

The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes continues this trend, albeit to a lesser extent than its forebears, by presenting its first four chapters out of chronological order, with chapter titles indicating the month and year in which the events take place: the story begins in November 1966, with Peter being awed by Jack’s script for The Trip, before flashing back five months earlier to Roger in the throes of post-production on The Wild Angels. It diverges from Lucas’ previous works by being his first novel to be largely written in a narratorial third-person style, with its only ventures into first-person occurring in Chapter 11, which chronicles Roger’s trip. As a reading experience, I would describe Kaleidoscope Eyes as Lucas’ most accessible novel, and appropriately his most cinematic.

The picturesque beaches of Big Sur, where Roger partook in his trip, became a major location for The Trip.

As with his earlier books, Lucas demonstrates meticulous attention to detail: his vivid overview of the changing cultural landscape in mid-60s Hollywood in Chapter 2 (which he describes as “the Summer of Foreplay before the Summer of Love”) infuses the location with a sense of excitement, where anything is possible and change is the law of the land. His imagination is on full throttle in his renderings of Roger’s trip, which are appropriately thoughtful yet bizarre. Consider the passage where Roger’s musings over the grains of sand that comprise Big Sur’s beach evolve into the observation that “God was a surfer”.

My personal copy of Reynold Brown’s poster art for X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes.

Given the setting, comparisons to Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) and its 2021 novelization are inevitable (Lucas has revealed that Tarantino was among the first to read Kaleidoscope Eyes’ script, and quickly voiced his desire to play the role of Roger’s friend, screenwriter Chuck Griffith). Like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which revels in its tributes to classic Hollywood TV shows, movies and Spaghetti Westerns, Kaleidoscope Eyes is full of references to Corman’s other films. These include his civil rights-themed drama The Intruder (1962) – the commercial failure of which makes Roger hesitant to make more “personal” films – and X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963), the poster art for which helps him devise an on-the-spot pitch for The Trip to his AIP bosses Sam Arkoff and Jim Nicholson.

Chuck Griffith about to meet his demise at the jaws of Audrey Jr. in The Little Shop of Horrors – a little movie that has left a large legacy.

I also spotted several funny references to The Little Shop of Horrors (1960): when Chuck tries to buy LSD from a dealer at Venice Beach, the dealer promises “Lots plants cheap”, a verbatim reference to a sign on Mushnick the florist’s wall, and Audrey Jr.’s catchphrase “FEED ME!” rears its head during Roger’s trip. The book is also packed with period detail (such as Metrecal, a predecessor to Sustagen that Roger drinks), and references to the music of such artists as Herb Alpert (“Spanish Flea”). As with the call-backs to Roger’s movies, these might throw off a reader unfamiliar with them, but Lucas’ fast pace allows 60s novices to get back on track to the heart of the narrative.

A scene from Corman’s pseudo-Poe film The Terror (1963) – described by Lucas as a “sorry-assed picture” – featuring Jack Nicholson and his then-wife Sandra Knight.

An advantage of the novel’s third-person approach can be seen in Lucas’ fleshing-out of the book’s cast. With a few exceptions, the supporting characters of his other novels tend to be abstract, in part due to the often-egotistical perspectives of the protagonists. Here, most of Roger’s friends and colleagues are clearly-defined, likable creatives who you want to see achieve success. Peter is a wide-eyed dreamer who wants to carve a legacy of his own, rather than simply being “Hank’s boy”. Jack is a hardworking, emotive artist who is frustrated by the bad hand life has dealt him thus far – his divorce from actress Sandra Knight inspires Paul and Sally’s split – but is determined to reward Roger’s friendship and trust.

Lucas gives Frances Doel (pictured in 2011), an overlooked member of Corman’s team, a chance to shine.

Appropriate given her background and Oxford education, Frances is very much the Alfred to Roger’s Batman, a sounding board as much as she is a faithful assistant. Chuck – who recalls Harry Connick Jr.’s portrayal of Dean McCoppin in The Iron Giant (1999) – is a cool beatnik who happily guides Roger through his trip despite his initial 600-page script for The Trip being discarded in favour of Jack’s more streamlined take. Another of Roger’s protégés, Peter Bogdanovich – whose directorial debut Targets (1968) is prominently foreshadowed by Lucas – is a sharp-witted dandy keen to make the leap from critic to filmmaker. In their brief scenes, Bruce and Dennis are intellectual, curious thespians eager to give Roger their best work in their performances as John and Max, and while he does not turn her into a fully-fledged character, Lucas offers a nice appreciation of Salli and her portrayal of Glenn.

The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood share much in common, but both are reflective of their authors.

Whereas Lucas’ previous novels can be described as ranging between melancholic or tragic in tone, Kaleidoscope Eyes is the first to demonstrate his lighter side, imparting a sense of optimism that shines through the darkness. It shares a view with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood that, as long as you have friends in your corner and take risks, you can clear the hurdles Hollywood puts in your way.

What about Roger himself? Given the book’s generally light tone and its loving tributes to several celebrated talents, it might have been easy to make him an amiable everyman, a vehicle through which the story unfolds, but Lucas turns the maverick moviemaker into arguably his most complex protagonist yet.

Paul directs a commercial in The Trip. While Corman has admitted that Paul is something of a semi-autobiographical vehicle, Lucas demonstrates they aren’t one and the same.

In his audio commentary for Corman’s The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), Lucas notes that the heroes of many of the director’s films are truth-seekers. This is an attribute that also describes the leads of Lucas’ prior novels, and one which he applies to Roger, whose persona is defined by his incongruities: he has the dress-sense of an old fogey, the mind of a businessman, the heart of an explorer and the soul of an artist. Despite his personal tastes not lining up with those of his younger hippie colleagues, he is determined to accurately portray the psychedelic experience with as much realism as possible in the confines of a low budget, consulting Chuck and Jack about their experiences with LSD and extensively reading the works of such proponents of the drug as Dr. Timothy Leary in preparation for his trip and the film informed by it. Roger’s various faculties come into play in not only how he conducts his work – he views himself as a problem-solver who wants to work out “how to turn $300,000 into several millions” – but his love life.

Peter Fonda and Salli Sachse relaxing behind the scenes of The Trip. The relationship between their characters reflects the “real-life” drama Lucas reveals to us.

Reading through Lucas’ books, I have been struck by his consistent focus on the relationships between his main characters and the women in their lives. His stories cover a wide spectrum of how men interact with “the fairer sex”, including seeking a partner with mutual erotic interests (Throat Sprockets); experiencing the pain of unrequited love and the danger of seduction (The Book of Renfield); and discovering the duality between spouses and muses (The Secret Life of Love Songs). Here, Roger is depicted as a 40-year-old serial monogamist; although courteous and deeply attracted to women (“The Earth is a woman… and I am HUMPING HER!” he screams during his trip), he has trouble allowing them to embrace his multifaceted makeup. Despite having three different girlfriends over the course of the story, Roger’s behaviour is carefully portrayed by Lucas as not creepy or predatory, but indicative of someone who ends relationships as soon as it is clear they are not long-term.

Mr. and Mrs. Corman (pictured in 2010) – a co-production five decades in the making.

Paralleling Paul’s conflicted feelings for Glenn in The Trip, Roger is unsure about the deepness of his friendship with Julie Halloran, a researcher who shares his passion for problem-solving. He deliberately falls out of contact with her while preparing for the movie, fearing that she would not approve of his own “research”. The manner in which Lucas resolves this will-they-won’t-they dynamic not only does justice to the climax of The Trip, but the union they would eventually share together.

Lucas delivers two symbolic masterstrokes during Roger’s trip, which serve to convey his attitude to life: the constant, heightened ticking of his watch, and a “journey” into a giant rabbit-hole covered by screens showcasing every movie that has been, and will be, made. Unlike Paul, who is subconsciously ashamed of the commercialism of his chosen profession, Roger (in both the story and real life) has always embraced the artistic and commercial aspects of filmmaking. His determination to take advantage of what time he has left (in typically punctual fashion for Roger, his trip ends ahead of schedule!) has led him to not only push boundaries in his own movies, but also foster promising talents who might not have otherwise gotten the big break they needed. Indeed, numerous graduates of Roger’s informal “film school” would go on to become Oscar winners, including Bogdanovich, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Jonathan Demme and James Cameron.

“Art + business”: Corman seals a deal with Ron Howard for the latter’s directorial debut, Grand Theft Auto (1977).

And the ending? Well, although you can already find out about it online (Dante has already shot part of it as a form of “insurance”, and Ozploitation legend Brian Trenchard-Smith has told me that he was involved as a stand-in), I encourage you to discover its power – it’s a provocative capper that’ll leave you with those burning questions I asked at the start of this deep dive. Without giving too much away, it also neatly harkens back to both the ending of The Book of Renfield, and a phrase Roger may (or may not?) have uttered towards the end of his trip. This line, in turn, is a reference to a phrase claimed by Stephen King to have been uttered by Ray Milland’s character in an unedited version of the ending to X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes

A fun, hauntingly beautiful tribute to one of the great craftsmen of the film industry and the power of his work, The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes earns my highest recommendation. I only hope it’s a matter of time before the rest of the movie version is made…

Oh, no! The author of this article accidentally dropped acid before taking this selfie… now he thinks there’s a bunch of go-go girls dancing to the tune of “Tomorrow Never Knows” within the camera lens!

The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes is available from PS Publishing at https://www.pspublishing.co.uk/the-man-with-kaleidoscope-eyes-hardcover-by-tim-lucas-5700-p.asp (print) and https://www.pspublishing.co.uk/the-man-with-kaleidoscope-eyes-ebook-by-tim-lucas-5829-p.asp (eBook). Signed copies of the book are available from Video Watchdog at https://videowatchdog.com/home/HTM/mwke.htm.

The Trip can be rented on Apple TV+ and is available on Blu-ray from UK distributor Signal One Entertainment at https://www.signal1entertainment.com/products/the-trip-blu-ray.

Watch the trailer for The Trip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWX_-rO-1nU

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This graphic novels needs to be an A24 Film

Diving movies have always been done poorly. They have these one-dimensional stories, cheap budgets and almost always focus on a fake looking shark. I truly believe there is so much untapped potential here. Imagine a psychological thriller focusing on a single man diving to the depths of the ocean. A man who is slowly losing his mind – unsure what he is seeing down below. Then, I heard of the Underwater Welder…

If you haven’t heard of this book, let me give you a brief summary.

The Underwater Welder is a graphic novel written by Jeff Lemire. It focuses on Jack Joseph – an oil rig repairer off the coast of Nova Scotia. As he dives deeper and deeper, he pulls further further away from his wife and unborn son. Slowly, we learn about Jack’s past as mysterious and supernatural events start happening on the ocean floor.

This graphic novel is one of the most emotionally complex and moving pieces I have ever read. It explores some deep (ignore the pun) themes like grief, regret, birth, death, and fear. On top of this, it has this perfect mystery that made me finish the whole novel in one night. The Underwater Welder is the definition of a page turner and doesn’t resort to cheap tactics like some authors (Dan Brown, J.K Rowling I am looking at you). It keeps you glued to the book because of the characters not because of a lazy plot.

I know there is this boomer perception that graphic novels are for kids or just cheap imitations of books, but this novel proves how fucking stupid that is. It uses the art to display how lonely and dark our main characters life truly is. A man so filled with grief and fear he is trapped in a haunting and depressing world. Even the transitions are simply perfect. The book has this beautiful flow that feel as if you are watching the events right in front of you. Simply put, you can see the care and passion Lemire has put into each frame of this novel.

Rumours of a Film

In March 2017, it was reported by deadline that Ryan Gosling (from films such as Remember the Titans and uhhh… yeah that’s about it) and Ken Kao (Producer of the Nice Guys, Mid 90s and the Favourite) were bringing the Underwater Welder to the big screen. Since then, we have not seen or heard anything about this film so I can only assume its dead in the water (I know, another pun…). So as per usual, let me give you the 44clovers version of this novel.

The 44 Clovers Pitch

The Underwater Welder would be an incredible psychological horror / drama. For me, the ideal run time would be around 90 minutes, so it doesn’t drag.

Writing it

The novel’s core story has to be kept the same. To respect Jeff Lamire, it has to focus on a blue collared character, grief and the fear of birth. All these elements already work so it shouldn’t be too hard.  In my head, the film is a Western set on a coastal town (I know that sounds weird).  Imagine No Country for Old Men or Hell or High Water but underwater. I think this is imperative to accentuate how horrible and depressing this town truly is. Also, I like how quiet these films are and their slow but delicate pacing.

The diving

As with the book, the diving scenes need to show how isolated Jack truly is. I would shoot the underwater scenes as if he is in space, a dark and harrowing landscape surrounding him. The lighting would be very simple to really highlight the nothingness around him. Everything must be done physically, or it just won’t work. Similar to Jaws or 13 Lives, I truly believe this film only works if it feels as real and dangerous as possible. A perfect example is Top Gun or Mission Impossible. The stunts have this incredible effect on the audience where you on the edge of your seat because you know it’s real. Imagine how horrifying seeing someone at the depths of the ocean in would truly be. Exactly

Horror

The film would need to focus more on the psychological horror then the book. I love the elements of him slowly loosing his mind and blacking out but feel this needs to be expanded. I think he should go on 3 dives and each one he is slowly seeing more shit. The watch, his father’s body, a diving mask etc etc. Each item getting more and more horrifying. As the film moves forward, it keeps building up until the audience is questioning if he is completely sane. Think Lighthouse, It Follows, I’m Thinking of Ending Things.

The Actors

I would cast Sam Rockwell as Jack Joseph. I know he has done Moon and it is similar, but I think he would be perfect for this role. He has this scruffy chaotic attitude in films like the Way Way Back and Jojo Rabbit I think he can tap into very well. While I never love actors doing dramatic weight changes, I do think it is important he looks kind of scrawny and drained all the time.

Sam Rockwell being a Dad

For his father – Sam Elliot, he is built for this role (the moustache helps). Finally, his wife. I think Toni Collete would be perfect. On top of being an incredible actress, she always has a tired look that matches the wife perfectly.

The Soundtrack

Daniel Hart as always. My favourite composer right now who I believe can do absolutely any film perfect.

Director / Cinematography

I mean James Cameron would be excellent because of his obsession with the ocean but even in my dreams he is denying it. For my round 2 draft pick, I think Leigh Whannel would be incredible and probably better than James Cameron. His blend of horror and character development in the Invisible Man is perfect for this film. For cinematography, I would take Greig Fraser as my number one pick. I know he is now the biggest cinematographer in the world, but I love the colours and looks of Dune and Batman (plus hes Aussie).

Conclusions

Ultimately, I just think this is a film that hasn’t been made and should be. Since A24 is clearly the best production company in the industry right now, they should buy the rights to this film. It screams A24. The story, the characters, the horror – it is made for them. So hopefully, one day we will see this made and not just through a Hollywood production company but through creators who care.

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The Batman is the New Gold Standard of Filmmaking.

A New Batman for a New Generation:

The Batman is a film that I had on my watchlist for a very long time. Ever since The Batman’s initial test footage released back in 2020, I knew that director Matt Reeves and DC were crafting something special within the Batman mythos, something dark, violent and gritty.

The Batman’s trailers promised that the film would be something completely different and would bring something new to Batman’s cinematic identity, an identify that had been in filmic turmoil ever since the cinematic debacle known as 2017’s Justice League. The Batman also promised to take the superhero genre as a whole to new heights.

And after an excruciating 2-year wait and audience’s beginning to show superhero fatigue, The Batman would officially release to cinemas worldwide on March 4, 2022.

The Batman would not only open with widespread critical acclaim across the filmmaking world, but it would also provide a breath of fresh air to the superhero genre as a whole.

The Batman in my opinion is the perfect mixture of grit, action, noir, mystery, and thriller all tied together in a 2-hour and 50-minute package which is endlessly entertaining, engaging and thought-provoking.

Matt Reeve’s, The Batman, is a visceral, cinematic masterpiece, which has set the new gold standard for superhero filmmaking. The Batman is a film that not only breaks the mould when it comes to how we interpret/discuss modern superhero cinema but also, how much a film can invest its audience within it’s story, emotion and presented world.

A More Abrasive Batman Story:

“When that light hits the sky…it’s not just a call. It’s a warning…to them”

Taking cues from David Fincher’s ‘Zodiac’ and Roman Polanski’s ‘Chinatown’. The Batman isn’t your typical superhero story that relies on flashy action, characters, and jokey dialogue. Instead, The Batman takes a more methodical approach to the superhero genre.

The film takes its time to delve deep into each character’s thoughts and motives. Each element of The Batman’s narrative feels fully fleshed out and developed from introduction to conclusion, leaving the audience overall satisfied with the product.

The Batman’s narrative begins two years into Bruce Wayne’s career as Batman, stalking the decrepit streets and rat-infested alleyways of Gotham City which has been overrun with crime, gang violence and murder due to crime bosses like Carmine Falcone and Salvatore Maroni.

Matt Reeve’s incarnation of Bruce Wayne (as portrayed by Robert Patterson) is shown to be still traumatised by the murder of his parents. In the two years, Bruce has been patrolling the streets of Gotham, he has become consumed by rage, obsessed with becoming the embodiment of fear within the criminals of Gotham.

This obsession has caused Bruce to become a recluse, pushing away his only family, Alfred (portrayed by Andy Serkis) and distancing himself from his distinguished Wayne family name in order to allow his true self, The Batman, to fully become the personification of vengeance and finally uproot the criminal underbelly of Gotham City. The same criminal underbelly that took Bruce’s parents away from him.

It is clear that in Matt Reeve’s interpretation of the character, Batman isn’t the alter-ego of Bruce Wayne, but instead, Bruce Wayne is the alter-ego of The Batman. Bruce Wayne in the film, only serves as camouflage, a tool in Batman’s wide arsenal in order access information that The Batman typically wouldn’t be able to attain.

Meanwhile, the Batman is seen as a mythologic entity within the eyes of both criminals and citizens of Gotham, a ruthless, one-man army fighting against terror and striking fear into anyone who comes face to face with the mythical creature of the night.

During the opening of the film, it is revealed that Bruce has also created an unlikely alliance with GCPD Lieutenant James Gordon (portrayed by Jeffrey Wright). An alliance formed not only on mutual respect but also, formed over the desperation and the hope of finally driving the corruption out of Gotham, one broken limb at a time.

While investigating the mysterious murder of several high-ranking Gotham officials, the Batman and Lieutenant Gordon would begin to uncover several cryptic letters addressed; “TO THE BATMAN”.

The originator of these letters would be revealed as the cold, calculating, Zodiac-like killer, The Riddler (portrayed by Paul Dano). This discovery would unknowingly swallow Bruce Wayne whole, throwing him down a spiral of criminal conspiracy, family corruption, high-level murder, and uncovering the true actual effect that The Batman is having on Gotham City.

Along Bruce’s chase for The Riddler, he would also cross paths with the likes of Zoe Kravitz’s Catwoman, Collin Farrell’s Penguin and, John Turturro’s Carmine Falcone. Each one of these characters serving a crucial part in the wider conflict between The Batman and Riddler, whether they wanted to or not.

The story that Matt Reeves and Peter Craig presents to the audience is one that pulls no punches. Every character, subplot and action within the film is given plenty of time to flourish under the film’s almost three-hour runtime, and every single element that Matt Reeves and Peter Craig place within the narrative of The Batman serves its purpose.

The film is endlessly engaging and its dark noir-thriller take on the superhero genre is something that audiences haven’t seen since Batman’s previous solo outing; The Dark Knight Rises (2012), 10 years ago.

The story is so meticulously crafted that every element within the film has weight and only serves to add emotion to the film’s narrative.

The Batman’s Cinematography and Atmosphere:

The Batman’s cinematography and atmosphere accentuates the dark and gritty world which is presented to the audience. Cinematographer, Greig Fraser, who is notable for his work on Foxcatcher (2014), Last Ride (2009) and Dune Part 1 (2021), uses both camera and lighting to create a visual feast for the eyes, that harkens back to the noir films of the ’40s and ’50s.

Every shot in The Batman feels dark and cold because Fraser utilises heavy amounts of shadow and contrast. This consistent shadow mixed with the desaturated blue rain, the orange hew of Gotham city and the ever-present darkness that creeps its way into every shot, combines together to create a visual symphony that allows the film to look just that bit more grimy and akin to films produced by Alfred Hitchcock.

Greig Fraser’s cinematography shines brightly throughout The Batman, each frame bleeds character and uniqueness. Greig Fraser’s use of the ARRI ALFA anamorphic lenses creates a focal point in the centre of each frame. This choice of lens also created a severe falloff of resolution with the edges of the frame. This creates the effect that the audience is watching the film layout through a fish eye lens and gives The Batman a truly unique look.

The Batman is a masterclass in both cinematography and atmosphere, Greig Fraser’s use of Mise En Scene, lighting and ARRI ALFA anamorphic lense creates a visually stunning and unique piece of cinema with has the potential to inspire a new generation of cinematographers for years to come.

Not Your Typical Superhero Film:

The Batman feels unique when viewed in the same light as other superhero films that have been released in 2022. While the recent slate has begun to feel similar and generally formulaic over the last couple of years, The Batman differentiates itself from the norm of flashy action and jokey dialogue.

Instead of presenting The Batman as an MCU copycat (which has been the trend for most superhero films of recently), Director Matt Reeve’s instead opted to present a story that is more akin to the pulp noir films that dominated the box office almost a century ago. Instead of a fun, light-hearted, family-friendly superhero film that is appropriate for all ages, The Batman instead replaces everything audiences have come to expect from a superhero film with grit, grime and mature themes.

The Batman is through and through a slow-burn detective story that prioritizes’ s characters and story, over flashy CGI fights and comic relief. The film is cold, dark and violent, its characters are mature and given time to breathe over the film’s 2 hours and 50-minute run time. The film’s action is brutal and given weight by the character’s established beliefs and values clashing against one another.

The Batman feels like the breath of fresh air that the superhero genre needed after Avengers: Endgame. The film feels fresh and brings a lot to the table in terms of storytelling, character exploration and, how to tell a new, intriguing story with old, iconic characters that have been around for generations.

Conclusion:

The Batman has raised the stakes when it comes to creating a compelling superhero drama. Matt Reeve and the entire production team have shown that innovation within the superhero genre is still possible and that not every superhero film has to follow in the footsteps of the MCU.

The Batman exceeds in telling an interwoven, complex story with characters audiences are already familiar with.

Greig Fraser’s use of the ARRI ALFA anamorphic lenses is a serious game changer in the realm of cinematography, the unorthodox use of these lenses grounds The Batman’s story in realism and creates an effect that general moviegoers have never seen before.

The Batman is one of the greatest films that I have ever seen, and I truly believe that this film has reinvented what moviegoers should consider to be quality superhero films. Not a flashy, high-budget mess of CGI and comedy, but, a meticulously crafted narrative that engages the audience not just through its story and characters, but also through its cinematography, world-building and use of Mise-En-Scene.

That’s what sets The Batman apart from the rest, that is what The Batman is the New Gold Standard of Filmmaking.

By Michael Qualischefski.

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Why this book needs to be an animated movie?

Via – the literary edit

Trent Dalton. The most heartfelt, talented, and remarkable writer I have ever read in my 19 years of reading. The most beautiful thing about his work – it comes from Brisbane – his insight and knowledge into the Australian psyche, the idiosyncrasies of people and fundamental belief in love is something truly unmatched. You’ve probably heard about his debut book Boy Swallows Universe (now being made into a Netflix series!) or his most recent (and my favourite) book Love Stories, but I would like to pitch a case for his second book: All Our Shimmering Skies, and why in my opinion, it would make a fantastic animated movie.

The plot and its themes

A supernatural, mystic adventure amidst the backdrop of World War 2 and the Australian outback; the plot of this book translates onto the animated screen so well it is crazy. The protagonist of the story, Molly Hook, reminds me of so many strong female leads in animated movies like Coraline (in Coraline), and Chihiro in Spirited Away, who overcome immense struggle through finding themselves in a world that is actively pitted against them.

Both of those films would make a great template for the sort of movie this would be – a beautifully animated, dream-like mystery where the young main character finds themselves through a long and perilous journey, exploring themes of history, family, grit (quite literally), passion and hope.

Animated movies, like Up, Inside Out and Soul, all work on an emotional level because the medium enhances their messages, accentuating their themes of love, self-discovery and realisation through exaggerated, larger than life animations and characters. This would be perfect for All Our Shimmering Skie’s protagonist Molly, who develops and changes immensely throughout the novel, from a frightened girl to a strong and brave young adult. As well as this, with many different sublots intertwining throughout the narrative, the books’ non-linear structure works well for the animated medium as it allows for jumping around – being able to delve into backstories, past trauma, family and dreams without sacrificing continuity, similar in execution to something like Coco.

“Hearts don’t turn to stone, Molly,” Greta says. “But they do turn. One day your heart is filled with nothing but love and then something gets inside and mixes in with all that love and sometimes that something is black and sometimes it’s cold and feels just like stone because it’s heavy, and sometimes it gets so heavy you can’t carry it inside you no more.”

The Land

As we all know, the land is the fundamental jigsaw piece in the puzzle we call Australian existence. It provides us with culture, spirituality, language, law and identity – a tenet in Indigenous Australian culture – it is the place we all stand, love, and act. In the book All Our Shimmering Skies, Trent’s description of Australian landscape is stunning alchemy of light, colour, history, emotion and vigour, traversing the bomb exhausted streets of Darwin to mysterious deep caves in the heart of scrub and bush. It is honestly some of the best descriptions of landscape I have ever read, and I think it would translate beautifully onto an animated screen, something unachievable in the realm of live action.

“Purple sky with streaks of pink and red, streaks of fire. Three wanderers moving under and over sandstone ledges, around freestanding rock outcrops. A shifting landscape, stone country turning to brief rainbow-coloured of clusters of orchis and banskias…”

The choice of art-style to bring this to screen could go many ways. Personally, I think something like Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox and Isle of Dogs is a good starting point, as they project beautifully rich, romantic and meticulously crafted landscapes to life, and you can tell genuine care and effort has been put into every frame.

Likewise, movies such as Fantasia, Kubo and the Two Strings, and pretty much anything Studio Ghibli are all great starting points to explore the vast expanse of the empty Australian outback through virtue of emotional thematic and aesthetic association.

Something Australian

Australian cinema is on the rise, which is fantastic. But alongside this rise should also come a focus on animated movies, and I think we can do better than Blinky Bill’s Outback Adventure. As the narrative is deeply entrenched the Australian mythos, the film would provide foreign audiences an insight into Australian culture; an homage to our way of life and what makes us tick. But most importantly, All Our Shimmering Skies pays its respect to First Nations history and culture and does so in a way that is not in your face or forceful – as I said, the land is a pivotal character within itself.

“…he said the land gives you all you need if you know the right way to ask for it.”

The exploration of Indigenous culture is something that can be done beautifully through the lens of film, and I believe adding an animated picture to the increasing amount of great Indigenous Australian movies would be an incredible milestone for our country. Stories provide all cultures with information about people, values and truth telling. If steadfast and committed to its visual style, All Our Shimmering Skies would be a visual tone poem beyond language, connecting to the spiritual ancestors of the land in a stunning visceral way whilst also paying homage to a momentous time in our nations history, and something I believe all Australian Audiences need to see.

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La La Land – Jazz, Love and Everything In Between

“I think about that day, I left him at a Greyhound station West of Santa Fé.”

From its very first line Damien Chazelle’s La La Land introduces the core dilemma of not only its characters, but countless creatives everywhere; the things we sacrifice for our dreams. This sacrifice is played out in the beautiful but heart wrenching story of a struggling jazz pianist and an aspiring actor, played by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone respectively, who meet and fall in love while pursuing their dreams in Los Angeles.

And what a Los Angeles it is. Damien Chazelle paints a rich portrait of the city and its duality for those who pursue their ambitions there. La La Land’s Los Angeles depicts itself as a technicolour dream world right from the opening number, only for this illusion to come crashing back down as soon as the music stops, leaving behind a still beautiful, yet callous Los Angeles. Chazelle walks a fine line between romanticising the city and showing the reality of living there, never sugar coating how cruel Hollywood can be, but still managing to depict the beauty that the characters see in it when viewed through the lens of their dreams and aspirations.

For Sebastian, played by the always impeccable Ryan Gosling, that dream is jazz. Seb’s main goal in life is to open a jazz bar in the city where he can play whatever he wants, for as long as he wants, as long as it is pure and true jazz. The only issue – Jazz can never really be pure and true, even though Seb would never admit it. Seb is a firm believer in the idea that ‘Jazz is dead’, a saying common among jazz elitists who think that, unless you’re playing Miles Davis to a tee, you’re not playing jazz. For a genre where one its most influential pieces is literally called Giant Steps, this belief is a bit limiting to say the least.

Jazz thrives on experimentation and growth, and while they mightn’t sound like a Coltrane quartet, artists like Kamasi Washington and BBNG are proving with every new release that Jazz is anything but dead. Regardless, to Seb, Jazz is in need of saving and he is willing to face conflict and compromise and everything in between to be the one who saves it. To him, the dream of owning a jazz club and saving the genre, is beautiful, perfect and very, very exciting.

Doubtlessly, just as exciting for Damien Chazelle, was being able to include this reflection on Jazz into a film of his own. An ex-drummer himself, it’s easy to see how big of a role the genre has on Chazelle as an artist, with him and his frequent collaborator, Justin Hurwitz, including elements of the genre in every score they compose, from their breakout hit Whiplash to their earlier student film Guy and Madeline on a Park bench.

It’s not just a novelty either, as in every film they make, Jazz is the perfect choice for their soundtrack, style and setting; La La Land is no exception. Jazz is, in its DNA, inherently a genre about dreaming, moving forward from traditional forms of music, chasing improvisation and energy, following the emotion of what this sequence, what this half-second  of music could be. It’s an electrifying genre that sets the perfect stage for the development of La La Land’s story and style. That is until something else joins the fray. A new tune, a new sound, a new player in the composition and a new dream for both Sebastian and Mia, love starts to blossom.

Who isn’t a sucker for love? It’s easy to act like a snob who hates anything that could be considered a rom com, but deep down, even if we never admit it, we’ve all watched that one trashy Adam Sandler film way too many times. Love in rom coms and the majority of films on the gilded Hollywood screen is perfect, heart-warming and entirely constructed. The romanticisation of ‘love’ as  a concept is a well-known issue in cinema and narratives as a whole, with a large majority of movie going audiences at least unconsciously aware of the questionable reality of Hollywood love.

And yet, you’d be fooling yourself if you said you’d never found yourself wishing to find someone with a boombox outside your window, someone to tell you that ‘you’ll always have Paris’, that you ‘complete’ them. Everyone wants Hollywood ‘true’ love, whether they admit it or not. The reality is though, that ‘love’ only exists in the sometimes.

I don’t know whether I’m qualified to say it but sadly for those of us that dwell in the real world, happily ever after isn’t a possibility, hell even ninety minutes of enemies to lovers followed by a fade to black isn’t going to happen. In real life, love, as written by Hollywood, is harder to catch than that. But it can be caught, and that is what La La Land is so adept at doing.

In real life, that look, that touch, that kiss, are the only moments of Hollywood magic that make it into our mundane lives, and La La Land understands this, telling its viewers that if you want to find Hollywood love in reality, you have to look for the magic in the moments. By using old school Hollywood mainstays, musicals, tap sequences, Chazelle creates moments of acknowledged unreality to portray the reality of love. Love isn’t a rom com. Love is, walking past your car to get a few more minutes of chatting in, touching hands in a cinema, dancing in between shimmering stars. Love is a dream, shared by two people, and it is beautiful. But you can’t dream two things at once. So what happens when that love clashes with your dreams for the future? Cue the epilogue.

Five years after parting ways both Mia and Sebastian have made their dreams a reality, with Mia ordering coffees from her old work before being driven off to set in her own personal golf buggy, and Seb fine tuning the keys on his very own Jazz club’s piano. By a twist of fate, Mia manages to stumble upon Seb’s club and is dragged in by her husband to listen to just one song.

Seb spots Mia as she takes a seat and the two share a look that tells you everything about their past five years. You can practically hear the voices in their heads running rampant, going over every ‘what-if’ scenario, every scrap of connection, and conflict that brought them to this very moment. Seb takes a seat as his piano. He plays three notes. The world stops.

Suddenly we are rocketed back to Mia and Sebastian’s first meeting, to a different reality where a kiss starts the couple on a whole new dream, in a whole new Los Angeles that is just as stunning as a musical and everything that could go right, does.

A melody of every love motif, date song, and moment of musical passion from the film plays as Mia and Sebastian dance, hand in hand, from beautifully dressed sound stage to sound stage, each set depicting a defining moment in their relationship that, in this technicolour dream world, goes exactly the way they wanted it to. Mia aces her audition, leading to the two weaving in between waves of back up dancers as they make their way to Paris, kissing under the Eiffel tower. Seb opens up his jazz club ‘Chicken on a Stick’ and plays his heart out, while Mia gets made up for her leading role, coming back together at night to wander the streets of Paris, hand in hand, a portrait of true love.

After yet another dance in the stars, the pair sit down to watch their life together play out on a cinema screen showing their home movies. Moments of real-life magic, true love, flicker on the screen, the pair living happily ever after as a family, with all their dreams a reality. Finally the lovers wander the streets of Los Angeles, finding their way into a Jazz bar. And suddenly we are back to reality. Seb plays the tune out. He looks up at Mia from his piano. She knows exactly what he played. A song of dreams, jazz, love, and everything in between. Their song. Mia smiles. Seb smiles back.

Mia follows her husband out of the club and Seb starts on another song. They each return to their lives, their dreams made reality, knowing what could have been but still being happy in spite of it. That’s what the film has to say about the things we sacrifice for our dreams. That is the creative struggle. That is Damien Chazelle’s La La Land.