The (Un)official Ethan Hawke Film Festival.

Last week I flopped on the couch looking for something to “decent to watch” on Netflix.  I settled on  Juliet, Naked, a rather clever 2018 comedy starring Ethan Hawke and Rose Byrne.  It was light and funny with an interesting premise and I  thoroughly enjoyed it. Ethan plays an old(ish), craggy, has-been rock star. His clothes are as messy as his life and his character has real depth.

I would NEVER describe myself as a movie buff and I can get halfway through a movie before exclaiming “oh yeah, I’ve seen this before”. My memories of Ethan Hawke movies are patchy and I couldn’t remember seeing Ethan in anything else. A quick Wikipedia search showed he has an impressive and extensive back-catalogue dating way back to 1985 reminding me of Hugh Grant’s long list of achievements. It turns out I have in fact seen at least two of his movies.

How to avoid endless scrolling

Last year, during the early stages of the Pandemic, when we were ALL locked in, I announced the (Un)official Hugh Grant Film Festival. Rather than randomly scrolling through Netflix looking for something “decent to watch”, I set myself the challenge of watching as many of Hugh’s movies as I could. The good, the bad and the ugly. The procurement of titles was in itself a challenge. I searched op shops to find DVDs, borrowed a few from the local library, borrowed some log-ins to subscription services I don’t have, in addition to the ones I had on Netflix or could rent on Apple TV. Over two months, I watched thirty of the more than fifty titles in his anthology. Pretty good I think! I have now exhausted all the movies I could find in Australia at least.

File:Ethan Hawke 66ème Festival de Venise (Mostra) 7.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
As I am not a Hollywood photographer this is not my image!
Photo Credit: nicolas genin from Paris, France

Impressive back catalogue

Ethan’s back catalogue represented a similar opportunity for a challenge and I am officially launching the (Un)official Ethan Hawke Film Festival!

After Juliet, Naked I  re-watched Dead Poet’s Society which, after 32 years remains a classic and relevant story.  Next, I devoured the critically acclaimed Before Series; (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight) a trilogy spanning 18 years both in real-time and in the plot. It traces the life of Jesse and Celine (Julie Delpy) who meet on a train in their early 20’s and follows them up nine years later and then again in another nine years in their early 40’s.  There is very little action other than long, rambling and intimate conversations between the two leads. Sounds boring, but it is fascinating and so well played. If you are going to watch the series, do it in order and resist watching the trailers. Too many spoilers!

A mixed bag of goodies

Unlike Hugh, Ethan has escaped being suffocatingly typecast and he has played a wide variety of roles. In addition to acting, both on stage and for the big and little screens, Hawke has written screenplays and several novels. Looking at his Goodreads profile he appears to have a very handy side hustle narrating audio books too. He has also made a number of documentaries.

Although nominated for plenty of awards he has won only two. A Critics’ Choice Award for the Before Series and an Independent Spirit Award for First Reformed.

So tonight it will be Gattaca, I’ve seen it a couple of times before having used it as a teaching aid when trying to get Year 10 interested in genetics and DNA codes. There is only one tiny sex scene you need to skip!

That will be five down and only eighty (80!!!!!!!)  more to go! I’ve got three months off work so it might be just the thing for my upcoming Great Southern Road Trip. It can be the (Un)official Travelling Ethan Hawke Film Festival.

If I have any energy left after that I might branch out and read his novels! 

Wish me luck!

File:Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, red carpet for the premiere of "Before  Midnight".jpg - Wikimedia Commons
With Before Series co-star, Julie Delpy. Photo Credit: Thore Siebrands

PS: Since writing this post and before publication, I have now watched Training Day, Taking Lives and Boyhood, all good! Training Day with Denzel Washington is suspenseful and violent, I watched much of it though my fingers! Denzel won the Oscar for Best Actor for this one and Ethan, while nominated for Best Supporting Actor, didn’t take home the trophy. Boyhood is another long term project and follows the same actors over 12 years. It’s almost a documentary.

PSS: Add to the list: Adopt-A-Highway! OMG such a lovely, sad, poignant story with a happy ending! Once again not much action and Ethan is in every scene. That must be hard work! Why has this guy not won an Oscar???

Game of Thrones Sequel

GAMES OF THRONES SEQUEL???

Yep, that title was a cheap shot at getting your attention!

Game of Thrones (GOT)  apparently had its final episode in May 2019. It might have even been the year before for all I know. At the time, I knew it was happening because it was what everyone was talking about. I had no idea of the plot line but there was some intrigue as to who would take over as King? Ruler? There were rumours, or rather hopes that there would be spin-offs to take up the various sub-plots and story twists.

The interwebs tell me that Game of Thrones first screened in 2011 and is based on a book by George R.R. Martin. (Check out the double initials? Is he channeling Tolkien or what?).  An image search shows me that there were dragons and some odd alien-looking humanoids.  The garb of choice was grey leather with a bit of fur and chain mail thrown in. Overall the mood was very, very grey and serious looking. There is apparently no ethnic diversity in wherever it is they live. The only coloured bits appear to be blood. It looks damn cold!

Bleak is the first impression I get.

I haven’t watched GOT.

Not. one. single. episode.

Not even part of one.

I know the name of one character- John Snow and I’m not even sure if that is right.

I don’t plan on watching it.

I am not suffering from FOMO. Not in this case. I am sure it’s a grand story. It must be. The worldwide attention and the continual references and media interest proved that.

The main reason I’m not planning on watching it is the required investment in time. I’d have to put in some serious hours to catch up with 8 seasons. (There are 73 episodes in total)

I’m more interested in understanding why this show was so popular? Why does something become a smash hit and something else not? Is it as simple as the successful ones are just better? Better acting? Better production? Or is it simply better promotion?

According to a study published by the University of Technology – Sydney, there are three key elements that must be in play for a financially successful movie. I am not sure if this translates to TV series.

These elements are

  1. Star power  – there must be a star(s) who attracts the initial attention
  2. Reviews – organic, spontaneous reviews are important but professional reviewers still have enormous sway
  3. Distribution – the more screens a movie opens on the more money it will make.

These factors determine what movies will make money, but does this correlate to a good movie? Lots of “good” movies, those that are subsequently held up as classics, flopped at the box office.

Star power is what brings people to the cinema in the first place, although it is only important when the movie is first released. After that, the reviews take over. A big star cannot make up for a crummy movie. Finally getting your movie in front of people is very important.This process is controlled by film distributors and is big business.

In the beginning, the only way you could watch a movie was in a theatre on a big screen. Next, we had the technology to watch movies in our homes on videotapes but only after the theatrical release period was over. The length of time between theatre release and video release has become shorter and shorter. If your not quick you miss seeing a movie on the big screen altogether. Now, with video-on-demand services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime the theatrical release may be completely bypassed. These streaming giants are creating more or more content of their own specifically for the small screen.

While the number of people attending theatres is declining in places like America and Australia it is booming in China, South Korea and some Latin-American countries.

One thing for sure 2020 is certainly NOT the year to be releasing a big-budget movie. Cinemas are closed due to the requirements of social distancing and quarantine. Netflix and the others must be raking in the cash as people sign-up for their 14 or more days of binge-watching lock-down.

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day that said something along the lines of Shakespeare writing one of his famous plays while in isolation due to the plague and Newton coming up with one of his grand theories due to another epidemic. Are we Coronial-isolates going to come up with any new masterpieces? Should we aim to create a better, less wasteful world?

Let’s hope our legacy of this time isn’t just trawling the entire back catalogue of the X-files!


Some sources used in putting together this post:

https://phys.org/news/2017-11-explores-movie-successful.html

https://www.lightsfilmschool.com/blog/when-is-a-film-a-success-afe

http://mentalfloss.com/article/581606/highest-grossing-movies-all-time-worldwide