“The Expanse” Will Make You Feel Lost In Space

BY KEATON J. EVANS

Netflix’s new show, The Expanse, is extraordinary, visually stunning, and has a gritty, realistic look which makes the show quite unique and creative when compared to other sci-fi shows.

There’s a lot going on right off the bat, with colonies across the solar system, a futuristic Earth, a militant Mars, and plenty of water shortage on some smaller worlds. I would say there’s a lot going for the show.

This being said, there are also a few things which the show isn’t so great at doing. Below are some thing it does well and some things where it misses the mark. All points considered, you’ll feel lost in space watching this show.

Now whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to you.

The Worlds Are Incredible

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The production quality is the shows number one quality, hands down. The worlds and ships they show glisten with details and have almost a Blade Runner vibe especially on the Asteroid colonies.

The show also hits well on the realities of space and what could go wrong. One example, is the water shortage on the asteroid belt. There’s moments where shipments of ice are delayed and the people on the belt suffer because of it. It goes even farther to point out that if a second shipment is delayed then people will die.

It was refreshing to see so much thought put into the mechanics of world outside of earth, and see the messy reality, and complications which could arise. The visual aspects of the worlds and the realism they present are both excellent.

Seeing all these real intricate worlds allows you to get lost in them, a feeling which was a pleasant surprise.

Wait, Who Are These People?

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After watching The Expanse, I noticed the one thing I didn’t quite like: the character development. Probably the weakest aspect of the film. While the production design is quite superb, the characters fall short, especially in the beginning.

I thought about why this was. The characters are interesting enough, they live in incredible worlds, and the plot is good, so what gives. Well, here’s the deal. While the characters may be interesting, it’s hard to know because they rush the character development.

It feels like we are supposed to know who these people are as soon as we see the first shot. It almost seems like the beginning of the show is the middle of a show. Now, there is development of the characters, a little.

But for the most part, all the introductions are rushed and end up leaving you feeling  little connection with the people you are watching. I think to myself, “A spaceship explodes and people might die! Oh no! Wait, who are these people?”

If they want the events to hold any weight, they need to let us get to know the characters, and then put them into dangerous life-threatening situations, or we won’t care.

If you feel stranded and not quite sure how to feel then don’t worry, it’s an effect of rushed character intros.

Feeling Lost Could Be Either Good or Bad

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Both the best qualities of the show and the worst qualities of the show will make you feel lost. But which feeling sticks with you? Does the production design and visuals carry you through the hard-to-know characters, or do you feel not knowing the characters takes you out of the show?

Either way, it’s an inspiration to anyone who wants to make a science-fiction show.

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Gavin Hood – Practical Advice and Inspiration from Eye In The Sky Director

Gavin Hood is climbing the ranks in the film industry, having directed some popular movies with tenacious morale.

I first noticed him after watching Eye in the Sky, which is about the disputes of modern warfare. I was thoroughly impressed. I don’t remember the last time I was on the edge of my seat for the duration of an entire movie. When I realized he’s a fellow South-African, I was intrigued even more – I have to admit I’m a bit biased…

The more I found out about him, the more reasons I found to acknowledge him and his work.

Gavin Hood is the kind of filmmaker who is in the business for the right reasons.

He is driven to create current and applicable content which is entertaining at the same time. When asked why he chose to direct Eye in the Sky, he commented: “It’s completely current and it’s about what’s really happening in modern warfare and it has elements of black comedy and farce that are grounded in real life.”

His choice to cast Helen Mirren (the role was intended for a male lead) as Colonel Katherine Powell was very strategic. He didn’t want to box the movie in as a war movie for guys.

He recounts saying, “I want it to be a movie about war but that it’s a conversation starter for men and women about a subject matter that I think is very topical.”

He’s also a filmmaker who works extremely hard to get where he is right now. When asked to give advice to aspiring filmmakers, he shared, “Unfortunately, […] there’s this notion that you can become famous and rich very quickly. It’s a curse I think. […]

The way you make it is by getting good at making films.

There’s no shortcut; just study the craft and practise and hopefully you’ll eventually connect with an audience. And if you don’t connect with an audience, you won’t have a career in this business.”

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It took a while for him to gain international recognition. Even though he wanted to be an actor, he followed his father’s advice and “took his big mouth and studied law” though he only practiced it for 4 months. He was already 30 when he actually started studying screenwriting, cinematography and directing.

Although he knew he was always going to go into film, he doesn’t regret having studied law, instead he recalls, “it trained me in terms of thinking and story and conflict and moral and ethical questions.”

He continually emphasizes the importance of making films in order to connect with your audience. He himself is drawn to stories compelling him to think. “I personally, with my background of being a lawyer and growing up in the turbulent times of the 80’s in South-Africa, I tend to be drawn to […] stories that somehow challenge me in a moral or ethical way.

“Don’t tell me what to think, but present me with something morally or ethically challenging.”

He started small by making short films; The Storekeeper was one I remember seeing in Middle School. It left a big impression on me, not only because of the dilemma it presents, but because it was so close to home. It was a South-African story which could be understood universally.

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This is another thing I appreciate about him; he bloomed where he was planted. He started where he was and then expanded, instead of limiting himself to the small South-African film industry.

Tsotsi was his breakthrough film which garnered him an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2006 – a film I highly recommend by the way…

It was again, an authentic story, but one exploring universal humanity.  

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“I really believe that we focus so much on differences and not enough on similarities. Most people, on a very basic level, have surprisingly similar needs. The need for companionship, dignity, love. And when these basic needs are not met, you find individuals developing a very distorted sense of the world.”

By now, he has other popular movies under his belt like Ender’s Game, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Rendition.

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I celebrate people like Gavin Hood and believe there are many more like him out there who we simply need to discover.

Fellow filmmakers and actors, let us strive and work hard to tell stories worth telling. Stories that challenge people in their thinking to fight passivity.

Gavin Hood, I thank you for being an inspiration and persisting with a tenacious and creative spirit – all the best to you for your future projects!

Written by Annette Lange.

The Movie That Was To Be Poison At The Box Office

Written by Annette Lange.

If you want to know how to make movies, be sure to look at Michael Haneke’s work for inspiration in terms of affecting and capturing your audience through your film.

“How do you handle the suffering of a family member? What do you do when you stand helplessly and observe the merciless decline of a loved one’s mental and physical state?”

These are the questions Michael Haneke asks his audience with his latest film Amour (2013).

Haneke is known to be quite the perfectionist when it comes to his work. Every choice he makes has a specific purpose and is well thought-out. Haneke never gives answers. But he is able to stir up questions by getting to the very heart of his viewers’ emotions.

Amour deals with the question of how to deal with the suffering of a loved one. This same topic could have been explored through a story about young parents having to cope with their child dying of cancer, but Haneke chose a story that will concern us all at some point or another.

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The film revolves around an old couple of retired music teachers Anne and Georges. Their circumstances drastically change when Anne suffers a stroke and is left partially paralysed. They are forced to deal with their new set of circumstances as Anne’s physical and mental health gradually regresses.

Haneke chooses to tell the story through particularly long takes and steady shots. I found the distance of the camera to the characters very interesting because it was often far, while it’d be tempting to choose a close-up on the actors at particularly emotional moments.

Even these technical choices force the audience to witness and sit through uncomfortable situations we would intrinsically want to run away from, which makes the effect on us all the more impactful.

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This queasiness is added to through the choice of the location for filming. The story evolves almost entirely within the confines of Anne and Georges’ apartment – an exact replica of Haneke’s parents’ apartment. It feels as if the apartment is a character in itself, witnessing the succession of their challenges. We feel almost just as constricted as Anne who is unable to leave the apartment.

The story is not beautified through music in the background. In fact, the only music in the film is the music played by the characters themselves. This choice sets the film apart from being mere entertainment, to letting the audience feel entirely part of the story.

The audience experiences the events as they are – without embellishments.

Juliette Binoche, who has worked with Haneke, describes that “he has a drive to see and talk about the world ‘without fat’ so to speak, by removing the mask. […] A lot can be covered up in movies, and to get close to the skin, you need courage.” And Haneke definitely has that drive and courage, as well as his actors.

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His casting choice of Emmanuelle Riva (as Anne), Jean-Louis Trintignant (as Georges) and Isabelle Huppert (as Eva) couldn’t have been better. They allow themselves to sit in the emotion, the uncomfortable silences and the difficulties that come with dealing with Anne’s handicap physically and emotionally.

An example of these fascinating moments is when Georges’ realizes he just slapped Anne on the cheek in her feebleness. It hurts the viewer just as much as him. Or Anne having to be naked and washed by someone else is just as uncomfortable for us as it is for her. Most can identify with their daughter Eva who is left talking about investing in property because she doesn’t know how to handle her mother’s state.

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The situations themselves are ordinary. So ordinary, it’s scary. Haneke describes:

“My films are more difficult for the viewer to watch than they are for me and the actors to make.”

Haneke’s skill lies in the way he is able to make his audience feel.

When he introduced the idea of making Amour, his producer commented that it would be “poison at the box office” because of the taboos it would address. Countless awards later, it proved to have had the opposite effect.

Director Haneke reacts after receiving the Palme d'Or award for the film Amour during the awards ceremony of the 65th Cannes Film Festival

At first, I was trying to figure out what Haneke was trying to say or achieve, until I realized that it is Haneke’s intention to leave the interpretation up to us. “The film asks questions, something I always try to do, and if you expect an answer from me, or to provide you with an interpretation, I have to refuse it. […] I shouldn’t tell you how you are to view the film.”

Amour definitely had an effect on me. After watching it, I immediately gave my grandparents a call to tell them I loved them. And my view of the film changed from aversion to absolute appreciation after mulling over it within the next week.

Whether I understand or agree with the ending or not, is not the point. Haneke proved to be a master in his craft once again – using the powerful medium of cinematography  to its fullest potential.