Why Deborah Davis’s The Favourite should give courage to all aspiring writers

The plot of The Favourite doesn’t sound like a laugh-a-minute comedy. Just look at it:

In 18th century England, the close relationship between Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) is threatened by the arrival of Sarah’s cousin, Abigail Hill (Emma Stone). The resulting bitter rivalry between the two cousins impacts their lives and their relationship to the Queen, who is manipulated by both in the midst of a turbulent time in England’s political landscape.

It may not sound promising, but it doesn’t take long to realise that this isn’t your standard period drama. It’s a sharp script and a twisting plot, delivered to perfection by the three lead women. That this is Deborah Davis’s first ever script makes it even more remarkable.

Davis gave some insight into the writing process when she spoke to Awards Daily in November 2018. “I wrote the first draft in 1998 and I had no experience in scriptwriting. I took myself to night school to learn. I was accepted into the University of East Anglia to do a scriptwriting course and I was helped and influenced by my tutor who was really interested in The Balance of Power as it was then called. [Ceci Dempsey (of Scarlett Films) has] never ever wavered in her support and passion for this project.”

The phenomenal journey should be an inspiration to all aspiring writers around the world. Sure, it’s a twenty year process in this case, but Davis believed in her own capabilities and surrounded herself with others who were equally supportive of her work.

The success of the film is unquestionable. It continues to bring in audiences across the globe, building momentum through word of mouth and positive press responses. Now a Golden Globe winner (Olivia Colman for Best Actress), it has also been nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the BAFTAs. The team will undoubtedly be hoping for yet more success at the Academy Awards when the nominations are announced next week.

Of course, it isn’t all Davis’s work. Yorgos Lanthimos is well known for quirky comedy dramas that find hard to stay away from the surreal, which certainly shines through in a bizarre dance sequence that couldn’t possibly have been scripted. Equally, Colman’s hysterics when a young doorman may or may not have looked at her is played to perfection by both actors. That it’s all set in a traditional English country house (Hatfield House in Hertfordshire) with the expected pompous outfits just adds to the unnerving effect.

But it’s all hung on this brilliant script that mixes the most bizarre of comedies with a power struggle akin to a game of chess. Indeed, the women’s costumes, created especially for the film by Sandy Powell, were designed exclusively in blacks and whites to emanate the pieces of a chess board.

One of the most effective results of the writing is the subtle way the audience is drawn in to care for Abigail (Stone). We go on an emotional journey with her, seeing her at rock bottom as she rises through the ranks within the palace. The moment she gains power by marrying Samuel Masham (Joe Alwyn), her character completely changes and we realise that she’s as horrible as we feared. It’s a tough pill to swallow for an audience who think they’ve found a character to root for, but the best film-makers know just when to pull the rug from under the feet of its viewers. Emma Stone said of the script: “It feels amazing when the script is right and the director is right and you are like, ‘Now I can go and have fun and trust the process.'” And it shows. All the actors on screen look like they’re completely at ease with what they’re doing and saying.

It’s just a great piece of cinema.

For anyone out there sat on the next homemade cinematic masterpiece script, The Favourite is the perfect catalyst for you to get it finished and get it out there.

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Review of the year – Best Music of the Year 2018

I’ve been listening to a lot of new music this year. Here’s some recommendations.

Albums of the Year 2018

  • Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
  • Gaz Coombes – World’s Strongest Man
  • Elvis Costello – Look Now
  • First Aid Kit – Ruins
  • The Go! Team – Semicircle
  • Jonny Greenwood – Phantom Thread OST
  • Manic Street Preachers – Resistance Is Futile
  • Paul McCartney – Egypt Station
  • Villagers – The Art Of Pretending To Swim
  • Paul Weller – True Meanings

Songs of the Year 2018

  • Courtney Barnett – Nameless, Faceless
  • Keegan DeWitt and Kiersey Clemons – Hearts Beat Loud Pt 1
  • Flight of the Conchords – Father and Son
  • The Go! Team – Mayday
  • Jonny Greenwood – The House Of Woodcock
  • Paul McCartney – I Don’t Know
  • Miguel ft Natalia Lafourcade – Remember Me
  • Manic Street Preachers – International Blue
  • Villagers – Trick of the Light
  • Thom Yorke – Suspirium

 

Watching the AFI 100 Years with the Unspooled podcast in the UK? Here’s where to watch all the films.

In 1998, in the run-up to the end of the millennium, the American Film Institute (AFI) published a list of their top 100 films of all time. It counted down the best of English-language American cinema (including those heavily-funded by American production companies), with Citizen Kane topping the list.

In 2007, an updated poll was published, with the Orson Welles masterpiece again topping the bill.

In 2018, a new podcast called ‘Unspooled’ was started by Paul Scheer and Amy Nicholson on the Earwolf network. The brilliant podcast involves Paul and Amy doing a deep dive on each of the films, often bringing along special guests and always offering a personal take on what they’ve seen. It’s a perfect way to educate yourself on critically-acclaimed films. I myself have recently discovered The Marx Brothers thanks to the podcast covering Duck Soup, and looked at The Wizard of Oz with completely fresh eyes.

It’s available to download from all good podcast distributors by searching for “Unspooled”

Where can I watch the Top 100 films?

If, like me, you’re in the UK, it’s useful to know what films are available on each of the three most popular streaming platforms: Netflix, Amazon Prime and Sky Cinema/NOW.

So, here’s a table of what is in the list and where you can watch the films as of 26th December 2018. Note: some films may be purchased from Amazon to stream or from Sky Box Office; the table only notes those included for free in your package.

Rank 10th anniversary list (2007) Netflix Amazon Prime Sky Cinema
1 Citizen Kane No No No
2 The Godfather No No Yes
3 Casablanca No No Yes
4 Raging Bull No No Yes
5 Singin’ in the Rain No No Yes
6 Gone with the Wind No Yes Yes
7 Lawrence of Arabia No No Yes
8 Schindler’s List Yes No Yes
9 Vertigo No No Yes
10 The Wizard of Oz No Yes No
11 City Lights No No No
12 The Searchers No No No
13 Star Wars No No No
14 Psycho No No Yes
15 2001: A Space Odyssey No No Yes
16 Sunset Boulevard No No Yes
17 The Graduate No No Yes
18 The General No Yes Yes
19 On the Waterfront No No No
20 It’s a Wonderful Life No No Yes
21 Chinatown No No Yes
22 Some Like It Hot Yes No Yes
23 The Grapes of Wrath No No No
24 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial No Yes Yes
25 To Kill a Mockingbird No No Yes
26 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington No No No
27 High Noon No No Yes
28 All About Eve No No Yes
29 Double Indemnity No No Yes
30 Apocalypse Now No No Yes
31 The Maltese Falcon No No Yes
32 The Godfather Part II No No Yes
33 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest No No Yes
34 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs No No Yes
35 Annie Hall Yes No Yes
36 The Bridge on the River Kwai No No Yes
37 The Best Years of Our Lives No No No
38 The Treasure of the Sierra Madre No No No
39 Dr. Strangelove Yes No No
40 The Sound of Music No No Yes
41 King Kong No No No
42 Bonnie and Clyde No No No
43 Midnight Cowboy No No Yes
44 The Philadelphia Story No No Yes
45 Shane No No Yes
46 It Happened One Night No No No
47 A Streetcar Named Desire No Yes Yes
48 Rear Window No No Yes
49 Intolerance No No No
50 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Yes Yes No
51 West Side Story No No Yes
52 Taxi Driver Yes No Yes
53 The Deer Hunter No Yes Yes
54 MASH No No No
55 North by Northwest No No Yes
56 Jaws No No Yes
57 Rocky No No Yes
58 The Gold Rush No No No
59 Nashville Yes No Yes
60 Duck Soup No No No
61 Sullivan’s Travels No No No
62 American Graffiti No No Yes
63 Cabaret No No Yes
64 Network Yes No Yes
65 The African Queen No No No
66 Raiders of the Lost Ark No No Yes
67 Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? No No Yes
68 Unforgiven No Yes Yes
69 Tootsie No No Yes
70 A Clockwork Orange No No Yes
71 Saving Private Ryan No No Yes
72 The Shawshank Redemption No Yes No
73 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid No No Yes
74 The Silence of the Lambs No No Yes
75 In the Heat of the Night No No Yes
76 Forrest Gump No No Yes
77 All the President’s Men Yes Yes Yes
78 Modern Times No No No
79 The Wild Bunch No No Yes
80 The Apartment No No Yes
81 Spartacus No No Yes
82 Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans No No No
83 Titanic No No Yes
84 Easy Rider No No Yes
85 A Night at the Opera No No No
86 Platoon Yes No Yes
87 12 Angry Men No No No
88 Bringing Up Baby No No No
89 The Sixth Sense No No Yes
90 Swing Time No No No
91 Sophie’s Choice No No No
92 Goodfellas No Yes Yes
93 The French Connection No No Yes
94 Pulp Fiction No Yes Yes
95 The Last Picture Show No Yes Yes
96 Do the Right Thing No No Yes
97 Blade Runner No No Yes
98 Yankee Doodle Dandy No No No
99 Toy Story No No Yes
100 Ben-Hur No No Yes

The conclusion? If you want to watch all the films on a subscription-package, your best option for maximum coverage is Sky Cinema. This is a pain because it’s the only one I don’t actually have! With 70 of the top 100, buying a couple of months of Now TV Cinema to clear the ones you’re keen to see would really make an impact. Netflix has just 10 of the films and Amazon has 13. 26 films are not available on any streaming platform, so you’ll need to fork out extra to enjoy those on DVD or Blu-ray.

Note – the list above is subject to change without notice, so please be aware that this is only up-to-date as of 26th December 2018.

Review of the year – Best Films of the Year 2018

This year has been a really amazing one in my personal life, with the birth of my first baby bringing a real joyous end to the year. I still had a very enjoyable year of film watching. Here’s my top ten films of the year (in alphabetical order).

A Simple Favor – “A film that oozes style, with a top-class plot and performances to match. The two leads – Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively – are at the top of their game. The story and its resolution was one of the most memorable of the year.”

Coco – “A return to form for Pixar and one of the best animated films I’ve seen this decade. They’ve worked out the magic formula to pull on the viewers’ heartstrings and they don’t shy from using it. It’s a beautiful concept executed to perfection.”

Cold War – “Director Paweł Pawlikowski has followed up Ida with a beautifully-shot film, again teaming him up with Łukasz Żal. The story is set over a number of years during the Cold War, dipping into a relationship between the young Joanna Kulig and her musical mentor Tomasz Kot. It plays out as a series of shorter vignettes, capturing a snapshot of their lives and how they come together and fall apart. It’s short, snappy and an extremely satisfying watch. I can’t recommend it enough.”

Hereditary – “Whilst Hereditary is one of the scariest horrors I’ve seen for a while, as typified by the long list of visually-arresting moments that have been swimming around my head for the few days since I watched it, at the heart of the film is a genuinely engaging story that would make for a very good film even without any of the horror leanings.”

Isle of Dogs – “The animation is beautiful and quirky, matching well with a bizarre storyline about a boy rescuing his dog from Trash Island. The voice cast are on top form. Another Wes Anderson five star from me.”

Lady Bird – “A joy to watch. From start to finish the balance between humorous dialogue and well-paced plot progression is very fine indeed.”

Mary and the Witch’s Flower – “The animation and character design is as breathtaking as you’d expect from Hiromasa Yonebayashi.”

Phantom Thread – “Script, acting, cinematography, lighting, score – everything is just right. A masterclass in film-making.”

The Shape of Water – “It looks absolutely beautiful and the story lives up to the visuals. The lead performances from Hawkins, Shannon and Jones are all top drawer. I managed to fight through the anticipation after the plaudits and find myself enjoying an excellent film, though I do wonder if people are now expecting too much of it.”

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri – “He’s created his first real masterpiece and it’s a wonder to see it unfold for the first time. It is every bit deserving of the praise and accolades it has received.”

Film Quiz 2018 – Answers

ROUND ONE – BLOCKBUSTERS

1. What plot device was the excuse for Ant-Man not being involved in the story for Avengers: Infinity War?
– He was under house arrest.

2. Prior to the release of Mary Poppins Returns in December, which three musicals were the three highest-grossing of the year in the UK?
– Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again, Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star Is Born

3. In 2018, the Marvel Cinematic Universe became the first film franchise to release six $1 billion dollar films in the same series. Name all six.
– The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War

4. How many years were there between the release of the Incredibles and the release of its sequel?
– 14 (2004 to 2018)

5. Which May sci-fi blockbuster was described by A. O. Scott as “a curiously low-stakes blockbuster, in effect a filmed Wikipedia page”?
– Solo: A Star Wars Story

6. In which fictional US town is the original Halloween set, along with the 2018 sequel?
– Haddonfield

7. Michael Jackson’s Thriller was released in IMAX 3D alongside which Jack Black film released in September?
– The House With A Clocks In Its Walls

8. How did Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively’s characters meet in A Simple Favor?
– Their children were schoolfriends (and Anna’s character Stephanie babysat for Blake’s character Emily)

9. Who voiced Peter Rabbit in the big-screen adaptation, released in February?
– James Corden

10. Which Spielberg film featured references to Jurassic Park, Big Trouble In Little China, Back to the Future, Robocop and umpteen million other pop culture touchpoint?
– Ready Player One

ROUND TWO – AWARDS, FESTIVALS AND CRITICS’ CHOICE

1. In which US state was the Sundance Film Festival held in January 2018?
– Utah

2. Which film won this year’s Oscar for Best Film?
– The Shape of Water

3. And who won Best Director?
– Guillermo Del Toro (for The Shape of Water)

4. Name the event, sponsored by The National Lottery, that took place in independent cinemas across the UK on 30th September 2018.
– Free Cinema Day (or any variation on that name).

5. Which musical act connects the films Phantom Thread and Suspiria?
– Radiohead (Jonny Greenwood and Thom Yorke did the scores for the respective films).

6. In which country was Pixar’s Coco set?
– Mexico

7. Which directors were responsible for the film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, which was released on Netflix in November 2018?
– The Coen Brothers

8. Which comedian has pulled out of presenting the Oscars in 2019 after some controversies over Tweets posted several years ago?
– Kevin Hart

9. Which actor links Call Me By Your Name and Lady Bird?
– Timotheé Chalamet

10. What was the name of the black police officer who joined the Ku Klux Klan in the film BlacKkKlansmann?
– Ron Stallworth

ROUND THREE – MUSIC ROUND

1. I learned to be ashamed of all my scars. “Run away,” they say, “No-one will love you as you are.”
– The Greatest Showman (This Is Me)

2. Now is the time, here is the place, this Slaughterrace!
– Wreck It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks The Internet (This Place Called Slaughterrace)

3. Cos you’re bringing me back to life, I was looking for something that I couldn’t find.
– Bumblebee (Back To Life)

4. I sing this secret song to you each night we are apart.
– Coco (Remember Me)

5. Surly Joe, Surly Joe, where the heck his face has got to we don’t know.
– The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Surly Joe)

6. Love of my life you’ve hurt me. You’ve broken my heart and now you leave me.
– Bohemian Rhapsody (Love Of My Life)

7. I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in, I’ll never meet the ground.
– A Star Is Born (Shallow)

8. You can stamp and scream out loud or you can trip a little light fantastic with me.
– Mary Poppins Returns (Trip A Little Light Fantastic)

9. This is a waltz, thinking about our bodies, what they mean for our salvation.
– Suspiria (Suspirium)

10. Your heart is what it is. You stood in the hallway staring back.
– Hearts Beat Loud (Hearts Beat Loud Pt. 1)

ROUND FOUR – NETFLIX OR NOTFLIX

1. A Christmas Moose Miracle – NETFLIX
2. We Wish You A Metal Christmas – NETFLIX
3. Driving Gnome For Christmas – NOTFLIX
4. A Christmas Prince  – NETFLIX
5. The Christmas Chronicles – NETFLIX
6. The Mayor of Christmas – NOTFLIX
7. Christmas Inheritance – NETFLIX
8. The Christmas Woodpecker – NOTFLIX
9. The Holiday Calendar – NETFLIX
10. Christmas Wedding Planner – NETFLIX

2018 Film Quiz – free and just for fun

Here’s a quick film quiz to play with your office, friends or family over the festive period. No prizes – it’s free just for fun!

Answers will be revealed in a separate post.

ROUND ONE – BLOCKBUSTERS

1. What plot device was the excuse for Ant-Man not being involved in the story for Avengers: Infinity War?

2. Prior to the release of Mary Poppins Returns in December, which three musicals were the three highest-grossing of the year in the UK?

3. In 2018, the Marvel Cinematic Universe became the first film franchise to release six $1 billion dollar films in the same series. Name all six.

4. How many years were there between the release of the Incredibles and the release of its sequel?

5. Which May sci-fi blockbuster was described by A. O. Scott as “a curiously low-stakes blockbuster, in effect a filmed Wikipedia page”?

6. In which fictional US town is the original Halloween set, along with the 2018 sequel?

7. Michael Jackson’s Thriller was released in IMAX 3D alongside which Jack Black film released in September?

8. How did Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively’s characters meet in A Simple Favor?

9. Who voiced Peter Rabbit in the big-screen adaptation, released in February?

10. Which Spielberg film featured references to Jurassic Park, Big Trouble In Little China, Back to the Future, Robocop and umpteen million other pop culture touchpoint?

ROUND TWO – AWARDS, FESTIVALS AND CRITICS’ CHOICE

1. In which US state was the Sundance Film Festival held in January 2018?

2. Which film won this year’s Oscar for Best Film?

3. And who won Best Director?

4. Name the event, sponsored by The National Lottery, that took place in independent cinemas across the UK on 30th September 2018.

5. Which musical act connects the films Phantom Thread and Suspiria?

6. In which country was Pixar’s Coco set?

7. Which directors were responsible for the film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, which was released on Netflix in November 2018?

8. Which comedian has pulled out of presenting the Oscars in 2019 after some controversies over Tweets posted several years ago?

9. Which actor links Call Me By Your Name and Lady Bird?

10. What was the name of the black police officer who joined the Ku Klux Klan in the film BlacKkKlansmann?

ROUND THREE – MUSIC ROUND

Name the film based on the song lyrics. The films may have been released in late 2017 in some regions.

1. I learned to be ashamed of all my scars. “Run away,” they say, “No-one will love you as you are.”

2. Now is the time, here is the place, this Slaughterrace!

3. Cos you’re bringing me back to life, I was looking for something that I couldn’t find.

4. I sing this secret song to you each night we are apart.

5. Surly Joe, Surly Joe, where the heck his face has got to we don’t know.

6. Love of my life you’ve hurt me. You’ve broken my heart and now you leave me.

7. I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in, I’ll never meet the ground.

8. You can stamp and scream out loud or you can trip a little light fantastic with me

9. This is a waltz, thinking about our bodies, what they mean for our salvation.

10. Your heart is what it is. You stood in the hallway staring back.

ROUND FOUR – NETFLIX OR NOTFLIX

Can you identify which of the following Christmas films are real Netflix releases and which ones are made up?

1. A Christmas Moose Miracle
2. We Wish You A Metal Christmas
3. Driving Gnome For Christmas
4. A Christmas Prince
5. The Christmas Chronicles
6. The Mayor of Christmas
7. Christmas Inheritance
8. The Christmas Woodpecker
9. The Holiday Calendar
10. Christmas Wedding Planner

Shortlists Announced for 91st Academy Awards in Nine Categories

The shortlists for nine categories have been announced for the 91st Academy Awards. These lists will be further cut down when the final nominations are announced on Tuesday 22nd January 2019.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

“Charm City”
“Communion”
“Crime + Punishment”
“Dark Money”
“The Distant Barking of Dogs”
“Free Solo”
“Hale County This Morning, This Evening”
“Minding the Gap”
“Of Fathers and Sons”
“On Her Shoulders”
“RBG”
“Shirkers”
“The Silence of Others”
“Three Identical Strangers”
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

“Black Sheep”
“End Game”
“Lifeboat”
“Los Comandos”
“My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes”
“A Night at the Garden”
“Period. End of Sentence.”
“’63 Boycott”
“Women of the Gulag”
“Zion”

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Colombia, “Birds of Passage”
Denmark, “The Guilty”
Germany, “Never Look Away”
Japan, “Shoplifters”
Kazakhstan, “Ayka”
Lebanon, “Capernaum”
Mexico, “Roma”
Poland, “Cold War”
South Korea, “Burning”

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

“Black Panther”
“Bohemian Rhapsody”
“Border”
“Mary Queen of Scots”
“Stan & Ollie”
“Suspiria”
“Vice”

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

“Annihilation”
“Avengers: Infinity War”
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”
“Black Panther”
“BlacKkKlansman”
“Crazy Rich Asians”
“The Death of Stalin”
“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”
“First Man”
“If Beale Street Could Talk”
“Isle of Dogs”
“Mary Poppins Returns”
“A Quiet Place”
“Ready Player One”
“Vice”

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”
“Treasure” from “Beautiful Boy”
“All The Stars” from “Black Panther”
“Revelation” from “Boy Erased”
“Girl In The Movies” from “Dumplin’”
“We Won’t Move” from “The Hate U Give”
“The Place Where Lost Things Go” from “Mary Poppins Returns”
“Trip A Little Light Fantastic” from “Mary Poppins Returns”
“Keep Reachin’” from “Quincy”
“I’ll Fight” from “RBG”
“A Place Called Slaughter Race” from “Ralph Breaks the Internet”
“OYAHYTT” from “Sorry to Bother You”
“Shallow” from “A Star Is Born”
“Suspirium” from “Suspiria”
“The Big Unknown” from “Widows”

ANIMATED SHORT FILM

“Age of Sail”
“Animal Behaviour”
“Bao”
“Bilby”
“Bird Karma”
“Late Afternoon”
“Lost & Found”
“One Small Step”
“Pépé le Morse”
“Weekends”

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

“Caroline”
“Chuchotage”
“Detainment”
“Fauve”
“Icare”
“Marguerite”
“May Day”
“Mother”
“Skin”
“Wale”

VISUAL EFFECTS

“Ant-Man and the Wasp”
“Avengers: Infinity War”
“Black Panther”
“Christopher Robin”
“First Man”
“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”
“Mary Poppins Returns”
“Ready Player One”
“Solo: A Star Wars Story”
“Welcome to Marwen”