Manhunter VS Red Dragon

The relevance of these two films in 2017 may just be about dead.  Hannibal, the TV adaptation of the Thomas Harris novels, is opening them up for re-watches.  The story of Hannibal Lecter is of course now legend, thanks to the classic 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs.  Yet, what is interesting is the differences between the adaptations of the first novel.  Manhunter, released in 1986, was our first look at this world and its characters.  Red Dragon, released in 2002, was the much more mainstream edition of the story.  Together, they sit side by side as very similar but also incredibly different, down to simple stylistic abilities.

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On a basic narrative level is where the films are the most similar, which makes sense considering they are taken from the same novel.  There are several lines of dialogue that are clearly taken from the page as they are in both films.  It’s the timings and character moments when the films move away from each other.  Hannibal Lecter’s usage is one of these character moments.  In Manhunter he is used pretty sparingly, with Will Graham being more at the centre.  He dictates the story much less in this version and is only in the film for three short scenes.  In Red Dragon Lecter is very much a vital part of the plot, and often throughout the film directs Graham in his investigation.  This is due to the film having a closer relationship with The Silence of the Lambs and the success of it.  The producers clearly wanted to lean on the popularity of the Lecter character and utilise Anthony Hopkins in the role.  Manhunter, being released before The Silence of the Lambs was without the Hannibal Lecter legend and cult status, therefore he is used much less in the film.  As well as this, in Manhunter, Lecter is played by Brian Cox in a much more low-key fashion.  For me, Hopkins portrayal has always been overrated, but you cannot doubt the greater impact Hopkins has in his versions of Lecter than Cox does in his.

Lecter is not the only character in which the time spent with him is different in the two films.  Our main protagonist of Will Graham has varying weight between the films.  In Manhunter the camera spends more time on his silence and brooding.  There is more of a mystery and damage behind the character that is only brief in Red Dragon.  This is down to execution of the scenes, but also because of the different actors who play him.  William Peterson stars as Graham in Manhunter, and it’s probably his biggest ever role, which means there’s an unknown to him.  Consequently it creates a much more transfixed and dreamy character, thanks to the singular nature of it.  Whereas in Red Dragon, he is played by Edward Norton just past his peak.  The film came out post Primal Fear, Fight Club and American History X, meaning that is hard to separate the actor from the character.  Norton does a fine job, like he always does, but Peterson plays Graham so closely and with much more angst that he comes across as far more intriguing.  Often in Manhunter the film spends scenes really examining Graham and his thought process, which is where the timing of the narrative comes in.  Both films dwell on different plotlines of the story, creating different effects.  For example, they use the family of Graham to show different themes.  In Manhunter it is about Graham’s relationship with his son, and that battle for masculinity over the woman in their life.  And in Red Dragon it is much more about Graham’s relationship with his wife, and her ability to be strong without him.  These subtle differences allow the films to have different character arcs, and what I would say is that Manhunter focuses on these more.  Red Dragon is more transparent with its delivery and so Manhunter has perhaps some deeper messages hidden within it.

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Style is the massive comparison between the two films.  It’s easy to say that Manhunter is more artistic than Red Dragon and can stand alone as its own film; not part of some Thomas Harris – Hannibal Lecter universe.  However it’s the simple things and creative control that highlight this.  Manhunter is directed by Michael Mann, who shortly after went on to direct Heat, which is the definite heist film and a crime classic.  As a filmmaker he has individual look and way of storytelling.  Some of the shots in Manhunter are sparse and lonely, bland but full of depth.  He uses a wide view in most of the scenes, yet isn’t afraid to get extremely personal with the characters.  His use of colours is evident to show emotion, and there are a couple of scenes of strong blue that is prominent throughout all his work.  Mann has put his stamp on this adaptation, and it also helps that he had writing control.  This is a Mann written project and so his screenplay blends together with his directing.  The same cannot be completely said about Red Dragon.  It is not at all a badly directed film, and has moments that are pleasing on the eye, yet there is a lack of style there.  The director Brett Ratner is much less acclaimed than Mann and is certainly a poppy mainstream director.  He relies more on his cast and the story to keep the film going.  There is seldom use of techniques that make it individual and at times it is a culprit of attempting to copy The Silence of the Lambs.  This is something that Red Dragon can’t escape from, as the film has the same writer as The Silence of the Lambs.  Subsequently you quickly get a film trying to desperately replicate the success of The Silence of the Lambs, but also be separate from its director.  Ratner seems to be going scene by scene without really touching on the complexities of the story or characters.  Overall it doesn’t make the film any less entertaining, however it does leave Manhunter the more compelling watch, due to its auteur driven nature.

So far I think I’ve made it clear that my favourite of the two is Manhunter.  Despite this, I like Red Dragon for a multitude of reasons, the main being its remarkable cast.  I’ve already mentioned Ed Norton, but alongside him is Harvey Keitel, who I think is slight miscast because he’s caught between the straight up nature of Jack Crawford from The Silence of the Lambs and the more laid back nature of Crawford from Manhunter.  There is the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, possibly my most beloved actor, playing the slimy reporter.  And then Ralph Fiennes and Emily Watson in a wonderful pairing.  Fiennes plays the villain with much more vivacity than Tom Noonan in Manhunter and he is the king of many scenes in the film.  The Emily Watson character as the love interest of killer Fiennes is much more fleshed out and her empathy in the film is really beautiful.  She does an excellent job of bringing another element to the film quite late on.  This ensemble cast means that the big moments in the film are exciting, as there is Hollywood finesse to it.

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To conclude all of this rambling, both films are great on different levels.  Manhunter is becoming a film I love more every time I watch it, because of its nuances and its care with the source material.  It is crafted stunningly together by Michael Mann, and sits almost like 70’s independent auteur film, whilst also having some 80’s romp sensibilities.  The darkness and pacing is balanced so well, putting it on a must watch list.  Red Dragon sits well as a follow up, yet prequel, to The Silence of the Lambs, and if you ignore the weird ageing of the recurring characters it can be brutally entertaining.  It loses its shine after a couple of watches, but holds up under inspection thanks to two great performances in Ralph Fiennes and Emily Watson.  Summing up, no one cares about the intricacies of these films like I do; it’s just interesting to look at two films that have the same content but vastly different styles.  It’s a great example of what makes a quality film, rather than just a mainstream attempt of pulling in an audience.  The Silence of the Lambs will always be the classic view of this world, and the TV show is viscerally enjoyable, however you shouldn’t sleep on a great like Manhunter or a convincing tale like Red Dragon.

Results – 12/06/17

These are the words written when I think today.  It is June. The sun is not out, but it is warm.  My feet ache from walking, though I have not walked far.  Tapping and lawnmowers is what I hear.  A droning.  A moaning.  A systematic approach to thinking.  Being displeased with the current situation of sitting, and rising up to attention.  To flow, I allow my fingers to move, not my brain.  My brain moves too slow, or so quick it appears slow.  Like the earth spinning.  Like clouds moving.  Cumulonimbus.  Full of rain and dampness.  An uncomfortable setting of clothes.  It creates an itch, completely scratch-able yet completely avoidable.

Is Jeremy Corbyn a fashion icon?  Is the culture he presents strong or weak?  My answers to both these questions is no.  My answer to most questions surrounding the labour party leader is no.  The answer to most things in general is no.  Yes is not a complex enough answer.  Yes appears perfect and absolute.  No requires explanation.  Explain yourself, said American serial TV detective to the unassuming suspect.  They never explain themselves.  It was a victory for the left, the 2017 snap general election.  It was victory for the Owen Jones and the indie twitter goons.  I celebrated this victory heartedly and for once felt content with political views.  Frustration had fled away from me, and hope replaced it.  Laughter is the key, and at the centre of it all.  Laughter at Theresa May, and the failings of the uninformed.  The blindness of the ignorant must be mocked, and not shunned.  Mocked to the point of obscenity would be my preference in the future.

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The plan is to continue to be amused by the current political climate.  An amusement at the red versus blue, and the desperate colours in between.  A more pragmatic attitude would be welcome in me.  Where would I find it from?  Coffee or adderall?  Patience is a nice word to use.  Patience for a film to inspire me or a politician to anger me.  My anger stems from those who follow, not those perpetuate.  At this time it seems as though no-one is following Jared Kushner, except for perhaps his father-in-law.  I can’t wait to hear him speak.  His voice must be of an odd nature, or a crude one.  It must whine or croak for it to have been hidden for so long.  I picture a United Kingdom with a strange coalition.  At the top sits Corbyn, alongside Nicola Sturgeon and Tim Farron.  They are on a peculiar mound inside the houses of parliament and Farron is lighting up a joint whilst tweaking a newly fitted reverend band.  Kushner enters, before a state visit from the American president.  He delivers a statement and the coalition laugh at his voice.  An echoing laugh and the speaker calls order.  From then, they begin to tease him on the President’s policies of coal mines, an industry worth about 1% in workforce and effort.  Kushner cries, then goes home, only to realise that James Comey has in fact eaten the whole Trump family.

Edgar Wrights new film Baby Driver is in cinemas soon and it is just making me want to un-follow Wright on twitter.  There must be a limit on the amount of posters created for a singular film, and the amount of times a director can self promote.  At least the film is something to look forward to, away from this sea of current boring cinema.  Wonder Woman as a concept and a film falls right into that, and whatever anyone says, it’s still a superhero movie.  Thankfully, my mind hasn’t been on writing about film and has been fixated on the election.  That is not going to change anytime too, thanks to a literal non-existent government.  A non-existent government that may soon be a Tory slash 1980’s right wing collaboration.  The notion of reverse Northern Irish devolution is both terrifying and hilarious.  Also a possible chance we can fight terror with terror, thanks to a return of an IRA movement.

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Passing judgment or thoughts on the recent terror attacks is hopeless and I have just about given up fighting for any sort of flagship position.  Being passive is the way forward, and muting tweets is my new favourite hobby.  My timeline (without creating my own echo chamber) is slowly being catered to less nonsense and stupidity.  I’m not blocking out varying views, but stuff I can live without, like a tweet a minute about Rhianna.  I’m not even sure I’ve spelled her name right.  Either way, I can’t run away from the horrors of the world, and I’m still very much in the camp that the world’s demise is incoming.  However there is much to be excited about, such as the cricket, a sport in which I’m happy to say England are quite good at.  For now.

 

The End of the Tour & Inspiration

One of the problems that I have is that I’m very aware of myself.  I’m aware that writing like this is silly, and that I’m not as good as I think I am.  I’m aware that the people reading this are mostly people around me, and that scares me not to open up as much. I’m aware that I want to be a writer, and the idea of pursuing something that I actually want to do is a terrifying thing. It’s the reason why my content level fluctuates and why I don’t particularly have a focus on here.  My focus comes completely from inspiration and a sudden drive to write something.  I’m also aware that analysing my own writing is ridiculous considering this page has been looked at less than 700 times.

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I recently did a thing that I only do when I’m sad, or melancholic, and that’s watch a film in the middle of the day.  On Netflix there is a film called The End of the Tour that stars Jesse Eisenberg and is about an interview with writer David Foster Wallace.  I was drawn to it because of Eisenberg then did the terrible thing of looking at its reviews, and seeing it was mostly positive, I pressed play.  On a film making level it scores high, being simple in premise but executed perfectly.  Director James Ponsoldt does a great job of keeping it centred on the dialogue, where the film shines.  Rarely is there any advanced camera movement or edit, and this allows the words being said by the actors to be broad and open. What they have to say is profound and interesting, casting a wide eye on people, politics and life.  Wallace, played by Jason Segel, is a writer of great intrigue to me, and I’ve never read any of his books, so listening to him talk about the world is fascinating.  His back and forth between fellow writer and Journalist David Lipsky (Eisenberg) is the joy of the film. Segel is remarkable in this role and makes Wallace empathetic, awkward and certainly a presence in a room.  From all of this I was inspired by this film within the first ten minutes.

Inspired in a way of the film being about writing, and the problems that come with it. Inspired by the fact that is directed by the same guy who made The Spectacular Now, a film that I adore and a film that has always been a great inspiration to me.  During the film I was laid there, in bed, feeling sorry for myself, having completely nihilistic feelings about my own work. I was getting a sudden urge to do something about it, without having the energy to actually do it.  It’s a sad movie, about a man having exactly what any writer wants, yet feeling so empty by it. Shadowing the film is Wallace’s suicide in 2008, and allows the audience to really engage with why he took his own life.  It ultimately shows how impersonal writing is, and how frustrating and lonely it can be.  I enjoy writing nonsense for 500 words about stuff that doesn’t matter so that people who don’t really care can read it.  Wallace has the opposite, and is still as conflicted as I am.  It reminds me of a quote from Woody Allen which goes: “You know how you’re always trying to get things to come out perfect in art because it’s real difficult in life”.  And that is an epiphany of a few words because why would a piece of writing being so perfect, why would a film be so perfectly made, it’s impossible.  It’s about embracing the cracks and that’s the scariest thing.  Nothing will ever be perfect, or your best work, and you will always be chasing the dragon of art.

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This notion is kind of relaxing, and takes the pressure of a little bit.  I’m not having an existential crisis at 19, nor am I particularly unhappy, but I look around and see only blankness.  It baffles me that there are people that I know and love, who don’t get it. They either don’t get me, or fall in line with my views, or understand what I’m trying to say.  I can’t talk to people, asking someone a question or taking part in small talk is impossible to me.  The bubble I am a part of is so small and the world is so big.  Though I will continue to be inspired, by books, by films, by my girlfriend who surprises me all the time with how she is creatively above the rest of us.  If anyone was destined to catch the dragon it would be her.  The End of the Tour is a fantastic film, and I would advise anyone to watch it, to perhaps get a little taste with how I feel every second of my life, just so incredibly self aware of my own pointlessness.

Side-note: I’ve started an Instagram page where I catalogue every film that I watch.  I’m going to try and attach it to a widget on here, but if you search ‘insiderobfilms’ it will come up.  It would be nice if you followed it.

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The bitter cold in my room is beginning to worry me.  Can you freeze to death from prolonged sessions in a mildly cold room?  I ask myself that question now as I drink coke and plough through this writers block.  Coke is awful, evil capitalist superpower dragging my morals across the floor as I take each sip.  I don’t particularly care though, I care about Newcastle, and Simon Sheffield, and history, and Tom Cruise.  Can all these things be represented through my early lonely university experience?  I ask myself this question as I put a second jumper on to clothe myself from the dread.  The coke is nice, yet I can taste the sugar more than usual.  Perhaps it’s because I’m having one of my transparent periods, where everything seems clear.  My typing hands are possessed by some writing demon, a friend inside me I don’t see often enough. Or an enemy I’m at war with.

I can see out of my window two men across the bridge.  Are they workers?  Honest people, that actually contribute to society?  Possibly electricians, the white box they are circulating around looks full of electrics.  One of them is on the phone.  I wonder what he’s talking about.  Probably how they are ill prepared for the job at hand, but still require payment. Are they lazy or righteous?  They’ve gone inside to what I envision is a much warmer building than the one I’m sat in. Although it has warmed up a bit, thanks to my ability to switch the heating on.  I can hear the coke fizzing still.

Continuing to stare out of my window is meaningless; I need to get out there.  Talk to people; not let my anxiety control me.  Who would I talk to?  The homeless guy outside the old baths?  He doesn’t scare me like the rest of them.  There is a patience too him, an enormous sense of experience.  He doesn’t need your change; he’s had your change.  I finished my coke.  This is far more rewarding than my university course.  A foundation year. What a joke I am, what a failure, what a reject.  Maybe not that last one, I am sure I have some fans out there. Selasi from Kenya reads my blog on a library computer that he commutes to after his school day.  He is a well of Kenyan, adopted by rich parents, saved from the Nairobi slums.  Lived through turmoil and now he enjoys my witty rhetoric on a Woody Allen film.  This is my dream.

Shall I research for this?  Is my goal to plunge through page after page in the library?  I’m not entirely sure what this is.  Is it real, or am I just asking myself too many questions.  It’s too abstract, too indefinite to be called anything.  There’s no need for a title or a description.  My teeth hurt from the coke, I’m regretting drinking it. The plan was to write about the new Daniel Radcliffe films, and it’s transformed into this.  I have sat down at my laptop and metamorphosed into some languid poet. Or a fool.  The sentence before the last probably doesn’t make any sense under the microscope.  The green pen of the a-level marker would ruin those few words, and then write a series of ‘poor comments’ in the margin.  Thank god that’s over with.

I have 11 minutes left until I have to start getting ready to leave.  Or meet.  Or whatever it is I’m doing.   Putting a time limit on this makes it all the more exciting.  Will this ever be read?  Another question that will probably never be answered.  A question that will be lost in the stratosphere of my subconscious when I delete this in 10 minutes.  That was a fast 60 seconds.  I’ve always had this notion of time passing at the same rate as normal; making it easier to suffer through three periods of German when I was 14.  However now I see time for what it is.  A traitor.  Someone we put so much trust into for them only to kill us.  I’m going to stop now.

 

The Wire: An Actual Review

Having finally finished ‘The Wire’ after starting my crusade with it almost a year ago, I’d thought I’d write a bit about it.  And for the first time I’m actually going to label it as a review, but only in the sense that I’m going to break down every season and ‘review’ my thoughts on them.

Season 5

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I’m starting here because obviously it’s the one I’ve watched the most recently, so it’s freshest in my mind, but also because it’s my least favourite.  And it’s a shame that it’s my least favourite, because that seems to be the popular consensus, which I’m trying to shy away from. However this season for me felt more like a chore, just to get to end so I could write this.  Due to this, it’s probably the season I’ve watched the quickest, though it is only ten episodes long (first problem).  The problem I have with the season is that I stopped caring about the events and the characters.  All the character building of the youth in West Baltimore felt lost and the plot lost all its momentum.  What seemed like an incredible rising climax at the end of season 4, had suddenly been replaced by a really strange turn of events.  Now I didn’t hate this season, mostly because of my already existing admiration of the major characters, but none of it really interested me.  The serial killing plot line felt sloppy, being an excuse to throw McNulty in the fire and the Sun newspaper narrative was half cut to say the least.  Effectively what had been a very rich piece of writing ended on a poor ten episodes, with the amount of cringey lines and uncharacteristic events rising.  Despite this, the season wrapped up okay, and overall, thanks to the other seasons I felt satisfied with the closing moments, even though it was a little disappointing.

Season 2

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Now, this is the season that grew the most on me, as at first I wasn’t too keen on the sudden change of pace from season 1.  Then I began to build an affection for the characters, with the world around them becoming thicker.  Immediately Bunk was more involved, who in honesty is a mystery of the whole series, being seriously gripping but also a lot of the times a foil for the rest of the cast.  The new addition to the team in Beadie Russell was nice, with her vital role growing as the season went on.  And on the other side of the coin Nick Sobotka was a complex new arrival to the game, tragically endearing, and his appearance in season 5 was probably the highlight of that season.  Most of all, the partnership between Prez and Lester emulated around the core team, and Prez’s rise of esteem was incredibly satisfying. Consequently you have this mix of great core characters, not the mention the advance of Stringer Bell, with a meaningful story-line.  And by meaningful I mean that everything in the narrative happened for a reason, and tied up to a thrilling climax.  For example, I hated Ziggy Sobotka’s character, a lot of his nature felt forced, but the shootout scene when he goes back and forth from the car made it all worth it.  This season was a slow burner for me, though a very enthralling one.

Season 3

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For the most part this season is a blur for me, and the one I remember the least about. This doesn’t mean I didn’t like it though, quite the opposite, I loved this season.  It boils down to one major reason and that’s Stringer Bell.  Throughout the whole of The Wire he was my favourite character (even though he’s absent from the last two seasons).  His attitude and demeanour create this wonderful villain, and in some ways anti-hero.  Idris Elba plays him so that it’s impossible to hate him, and allows his demise to be as heartbreaking as any of the deaths in the rest of series.  He’s only a small piece in a diverse 12 episodes and alongside his power surge you have the rest of the cast struggling with their own issues. The most intriguing being the introduction of Lieutenant Colvin and his attempt to legalise drugs, which starts of bizarre then grows to be a plot line that asks many curious questions.  There wasn’t a step this season took that felt off or strange, and each character had their own time in the spotlight.  Even the repeat fall of Prez was paid off in the next season to great extents.  Overall this season changed the game for the whole series, it felt like a stopping point for the original narrative, and left an effective feeling of completion to the original battle the wire team was facing.

Season 1

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Looking back at this season is more of a nostalgia trip more than anything else.  It’s where it all began, and where the characters were introduced.  If you compare this season to the last one, you can see how far everything has come.  All of the characters are sat in a different position to how they started and the Baltimore setting has completely shifted. This season was also simpler times, a team of police using a wire tap to crack down on Avon Barksdale.  An enigmatic king-pin who’s really just in it for the game.  The highlights of the season again are a blur, but I have great admiration to what the show used to be.   McNulty and Bunk analysing a crime scene, Prez and Lester cracking codes, Herc and Carver fooling around, and Daniels begrudgingly steering the ship.  You also have D’Angelo Barksdale playing a major role, and his death in season 2 is amongst the most tragic, with him being probably the deepest character, with the largest arc in the whole series.  However the most important thing this season brings is the character of Wallace, played wonderfully by a young Michael B. Jordan.  His heart-wrenching end (dealt by two equally loved characters) is arguably the highest point of the whole show, as well as the most harrowing.  To talk about this season is just about talking about the wire, which quintessentially this season is, and a great introduction to the epic series.

Season 4

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I’m ending with my personal favourite, and I think the most critically acclaimed season of the show.  And it’s weird, because this is the season that goes away from the classic wire format.  It sets up more of a look into Baltimore life, or even just slum life, by going through the struggles of young teenage males in the area.  Despite this, it still has the original cast with their own battles.  The beloved Bubbles is hit hard during this season, making a lot of his scenes uncomfortable to watch, but it feels right with the tone of the season.  Prez returns triumphantly as a teacher trying to make a difference, being the eyes and ears of the audience for a lot of the series.  McNulty is absent in the most brilliant way, leaving Bunk to buddy cop by himself and Kima is suddenly given plenty of weight to carry too. Omar is still relevant and I’ve noticed I haven’t really talked about him yet, and that’s not purposeful because he is a fascinating character, it’s just he’s always there and more of a constant of the wire, rather than a piece to pick out.  The same slightly goes for Marlo Stansfield, who takes the pedestal of Stringer Bell well, bringing a new sadistic side to the drug trade of Baltimore.  Also Tom Carcetti, who is played fantastically by Aidan Gillen, became a favourite of mine as he attempts to a make a real change to the city.  It’s hard to write about this season because it is so full of depth and I have a great affection for it. There’s a reason it’s considered the best season of television of all time, and I don’t have to describe it.

 

Sidenote:  From this, you’ll be able to tell I’m a massive fan of The Wire.  Yet, I’ve barely scratched the surface and left a lot of stuff out that I wanted to talk about.  I’d recommend to binge the show and find out for yourself.