Author: Summer McGrath

The Best Movie Cats for International Cat Day

Never have the Raindance HQ team been so confused as when I wandered around the office asking “What is your favourite cat appearance in any film?”. But nonetheless I gathered a comprehensive list of feline features and have whittled them down to a top 10 list of the Best Cat Movie Appearances for International Cat Day 2019. I want to get slightly technical with this so I’m going to devise a brief rating system and apply it to each furry friend. So without further ado here are the employees’ of Raindance paw-some picks. (I apologise in advance for the amount of puns in this blog post). 

Coraline (2009) – The Black Cat 

It would be wrong to start without my personal favourite, wouldn’t it? The Black Cat in Coraline, whose name is widely debated on the internet, is arguably one of the most useful feline friends in this list. His intellectual and witty personality (voiced by Keith David) makes him a captivating presence on screen and he is perhaps the driving force for Coraline to escape the Other Mother. 

Cuteness: 6/10- It doesn’t look you can cuddle a clay model but the eyes are amazing. 

Usefulness: 10/10- He tears out the eyes of the Other Mother so really he wins?

Screen Time: 8/10- I would personally like a movie of just him but as cat appearances go, he gets a lot more exposure than most.

The Godfather (1972) – Vito’s Cat 

Made famous in the opening scene of the film where honestly this kitty gave the performance of his/her life. I challenge anyone to stay attentive to the steely dialogue whilst that little cat rolls around in the lap of Marlon Brando. Supposedly it was also a stray cat from the Paramount lot, which is a sweet fact

Cuteness: 10/10- Obviously. 

Usefulness: 4/10- Unfortunately the cat doesn’t do much but that’s not to say it isn’t appreciated. 

Screen Time: 2/10 It seems the cat is only really seen in this scene but is heard throughout the film.

Cinderella (1950) – Lucifer

Harshly named I think? Lucifer belongs to Cinderella’s evil stepmother, and so naturally he only serves to make the heroine’s life harder. He certainly provides comic relief to what is actually quite a gloomy story.  The interaction between Lucifer and the mice is entertaining however, and his regal presence makes for a great character.  

Cuteness: 8/10- Very fluffy. 

Usefulness: 5/10- He is honestly just a nuisance. 

Screen Time: 7/10- Better than most! But he is also an antagonist.

My Neighbour Totoro (1988) – Catbus

It has so many legs? And windows? And is also a bus? Catbus plays an integral role in transporting Mei, Satsuki and Totoro out of the forest. I’m not sure what else to say about this cat appearance, aside from the fact that its eyes act as headlights and I find that mesmerising. I think I love it but I’m not sure. 

Cuteness: 5/10- Half cute also half terrifying. 

Usefulness: 15/10- It’s a cat… that is also a bus, need I say more? 

Screen Time: 6/10- He has an actual role so I salute that.

Blofeld’s Cat

One of the most iconic cats in filmic history. It is argued that most cat villain duos are a homage to Blofeld’s cat such as Mr Bigglesworth in Austin powers and the already mentioned cat in The Godfather. The cat who appears unnamed belongs to antagonist Ernst Blofeld, the head of criminal organisation Spectre, and is actually a recurring feature throughout the Bond franchise.

Cuteness: 20/10- It’s a Persian white cat so. 

Usefulness: 6/10- I can’t find anything that says the cat is much of an aid to the villain… 

Screen Time: 10/10- Appears in seven Bond films.

Shrek 2 (2004) – Puss in Boots

It wouldn’t be a complete list of cinematic cats without the fur-midible Puss in Boots. There is a rich history behind the feline character as written by Charles Perrault in 1697. But for rating purposes I’m going to refer to the adaptation of the character in Shrek which we all know and love. At this time I also want to note there is perhaps an argument here for animated cats over live action, but that is a debate for another time. 

Cuteness: 10/10- The eyes, the boots, the hat, enough said. 

Usefulness: 11/10- Wields a sword and is a hired assassin. 

Screen Time: 10/10- Arguably one of the best characters in Shrek

Alien (1979) & Aliens (1986) – Jonesy

There’s nothing better than a film in which you wholeheartedly do not expect a cat to be present, and then there is. Alien is a prime example of this because really why is there a cat in a movie about space and face huggers? He seems to provide emotional support and honestly adds value to the films in my opinion. 

Cuteness: 10/10- I think there is a theme here for the cuteness rating… 

Usefulness: 11/10- Survives the alien invasion of the ship and then enters hypersleep with Ripley. 

Screen Time: 5/10- Would like to see him catching rodents on the ship as is stated was his original purpose. 

Alice in Wonderland (1951) – Cheshire Cat

Another animated cat, sigh, perhaps I am biased. But I couldn’t leave the Cheshire Cat off the list as he is truly iconic. He supposedly inspired other cat appearances on the list such as the Coraline cat and Catbus. His magical presence and haunting smile perfectly complement his mischievous behaviour which makes him quite unforgettable. 

Cuteness: 8/10- Mostly cute and only slightly creepy. 

Usefulness: 5/10- Seems to be all knowing but only uses this gift to mess with people.

Screen Time: 7/10- More Cheshire Cat is always required but we see quite a lot of him.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) – Orangey

This one kept coming up time and time again, a classic cat appearance that everyone loves in the most romantic setting possible. I’m sure many hearts were broken when Audrey Hepburn throws Orangey out the New York cab and leaves him in the rain, but they make their way back to each other so I suppose that’s all that matters.

Cuteness: 11/10- The name alone is heartwarming. 

Usefulness: 6/10- Is once helpful as a kitty alarm clock and I suppose helps set a romantic tone?

Screen Time: 6/10- Would like to see poor Orangey do more that be sandwiched between two people kissing.

Men in Black (1997) – Orion

If I were an undercover alien trying to keep a whole galaxy under wraps then of course I would hide it on my cat, makes sense right? Orion the cat actually has an integral role in the film and remains fiercely loyal to his owner Rosenberg even going so far as to guard his dead body. If that doesn’t make him worthy of this list then I don’t know what does. 

Cuteness: 10/10- The ginger and white cat is a theme and honestly I like it. 

Usefulness: 100/10- Holds an entire galaxy on his collar. 

Screen Time: 5/10- We don’t know what happens to Orion after the galaxy is retrieved and thus his story remains untold. 

Filed under: Film History, In Our OpinionTagged with: , , , ,

Story Selling by Heather Hale – Book Review

Introduction

Anyone can write a story, but not everyone can sell one. Enter Heather Hale, an accomplished director, screenwriter and producer. If anyone knows how to get a story sold, it’s her. Luckily for late night writers and budding screenwriters Hale is giving you her golden compass to success in the form of her new book Story Selling. She made her authorial debut in 2017 with How to Work The Film and TV Markets: A Guide for Content Creators, which gives much needed industry advice to those looking to get into the world of film and TV. Her illustrious career includes two successful feature films The Courage to Love (2000) and Absolute Killers (2011) and when she isn’t producing industry successes she is uploading to her blog, offering a wealth of advice to people starting out in the industry. 

 A Story Worth Selling 

Starting from the ground up, the book reiterates how important it is to have a good screenplay, in order to be able to sell it. Encouraging writers to build a backbone to their work and create something solid enough to be able to withstand the cut throat environment of Hollywood. One of the best ways that Hale does this is including activities to complete as you move through the book, such as encouraging writers to create a comp list, build a convincing log line and writing characters that have substance. One of the best pieces of advice is her catchphrase “Kill Your Darling Cliches”. Although originally used to encourage writers to create an original log line, the phrase is a good way to encompass how Hale encourages the reader to move away from what has been done before and create something that will stand out. Though this is not a “how to write a good screenplay” book, Hale goes in depth about what your screenplay needs to be proficient – and most importantly why. So that in that nerve wracking or life changing pitch you won’t be caught out – instead you’ll have something solid, worth selling. Much of the book is dedicated to marketing a screenplay, teaching you common practises of the industry and how to use everyday tools such as IMDb to your own savvy advantage. 

From Industry Jargon to Pitch Perfect 

The advice in this book is relevant for writers in any stage of their career, whether you’re starting off and going it alone, have secured an agent or are already affiliated with a production company.  This doesn’t mean however that Hale scrimps on teaching the reader all the relevant industry jargon. Important terms are organised and made prominent in highlighted boxes, along with a handy definition and how they’re relevant to every chapter in the book. If you didn’t already know what a spec, high concept, macguffin or tagline is, then you will when you’ve finished reading.  Alongside these are handy do’s and don’ts, as someone who is well versed in the film industry, Hale offloads buckets of advice on what to do in every situation you might find yourself in when selling your screenplay. She even includes guidance for emails, so you can put your best foot forward when communicating with companies and high profile people. It’s also worth noting that Story Selling doesn’t pen itself into screenplays for narrative feature films, or even shorts for that matter. The book goes in depth with writing for TV, detailing formats for game shows, reality TV and even children’s programming so the advice can suit any kind of writer. If all this wasn’t enough, the book directs you to Hale’s online resources in certain chapters to provide more information and guidance where you might need it. 

Final Thoughts 

Story Selling is the ultimate how to guide to not only creating great screenplays, but making a pretty penny from them too. Heather Hale’s writing style is conversational and witty, which makes the sheer amount of information on offer easy to swallow. Bitesize paragraphs break up chapters and the use of online screenshots and highlighted text boxes make it easy to locate figures and definitions. It’s also a book that asks as much from you as you do from it, encouraging budding screenwriters to create practical documents such as great pitches to practising how to communicate with industry professionals. This is one of the reasons why Hale’s book begins as screenwriting  for dummies, but quickly graduates to getting down to business. Lending you all the industry know how so you can arrive at the conclusion of this book fully prepared to take on the scary (but exciting!) world of Story Selling. You can get the book here from Amazon! 

Filed under: Book Review, ScreenwritingTagged with: , , , ,

Must See Independent Animated Features

The year of 2019 certainly had a lot in store for lovers of everything animated. Disney’s cycle of remakes and new instalments are front running the line up with the highly anticipated CGI The Lion King remake hitting cinemas on July 19th. This is coming after DreamWorks released a third instalment of the How to Train Your Dragon franchise The Hidden World and last but not least the year will be closed nicely by the follow up to global phenomenon Frozen coming in November. With the apparent world domination held by Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks it’s easy to lose sight of the breadth of animation available to you, so this list will compile some of the best independent animated features out there. From fantasy worlds to darker themes closer to home, independent animation can often go where Disney does not, giving us all the more reason to watch them! 

Mary and Max (2009)

The first on the list is quirky claymation from Australian director Adam Elliot with this heartwarming story of unlikely friendship in Mary and Max (2009). His distinct style has made him well known in the world of independent animated film, showcased in his stop motion shorts and features which often tackle important but hard hitting topics such as disability and mental health. 

Mary and Max tells the story of two unlikely friends, brought together in the strangest of circumstances. Mary lives in suburban Australia with her best, and only friend, Ethel the rooster. She longs for friendship, taking matters into her own hands by picking a name and address from the Yellow Pages and sending off a letter introducing herself enclosed with a chocolate bar as a token of good will. The letter makes its way to Max Harowitz, a 44 year old Jewish man living alone in New York. Max suffers from anxiety and Asperger’s and as the friendship blossoms between the unlikely pair we see them grow together through their letters, Mary reaching adulthood and Max coming to terms with his mental health.

It’s almost impossible not to empathise with Elliot’s animated miniatures, their story is equally as heart warming as it is tear jerking. It is the perfect example of the ability of animation to visually display a characters internal struggle, making it an independent animated must watch.

Waltz with Bashir (2008)

Next on the list is an independently animated film in a very specific style, seen in Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir (2008). The director decided to rewrite the rules of animation by producing the film mostly in Flash software. Folman had the scenes filmed in live action to retain elements of realism and detail, before key frames were created and then manipulated in a distinctive cut out style. If you want more technical details on the making of Waltz with Bashir from the director himself, click here

The result is an arty exploration of the notion of memory, telling the stories of Israeli soldiers who invaded Lebanon in the conflict of 1982.  It’s easy to forget that Waltz with Bashir is actually a documentary, formed through Folman’s own desire to fill missing gaps of his recollection of the beaches of Lebanon. Folman embarks on a journey to interview his fellow soldiers bringing life to their stories and experiences as he goes. The surrealist rendering of the stories told make Waltz with Bashir a poignant and unforgettable watch, bringing new meaning to the definition of both animation techniques and documentary alike. 

Persepolis (2007)

Adapted from the novel by Marjane Satrapi this animation brings movement to the comic style established in her book Persepolis. The film not only retains the title but stays true to the events and narration established by Satrapi as she tells the story of her coming of age living in Iran during the Islamic revolution. The author and now director provides insights to her experiences as the society around her shifted into religious regime, forcing her to make the tough decision to leave her family behind and move to Vienna. 

The animation is as much about a girl growing into a woman as it is about Saptrapi’s experience of war. Her authorial voice is powerful and demanding of the viewer, whilst still finding time for light hearted comedy and heart wrenching moments any teen could relate too. The comic book style of animated adaptation is one that grounds the story into distinct chapters of her life as she tackles her own intellect, her emerging sexuality and troubles with boys, and negotiates her place in the world as someone who has seen more than most people ever will. Alike Waltz with Bashir, Persepolis is able to provide a glimpse, be it subjective, into what life is like in the midst of war. Inviting the audience to experience some of the darkest moments in humanity through a mode that people don’t typically shy away from, animation. 

Paprika (2006) 

It wouldn’t be a list of independent animated greats without some anime. To the untrained eye one could see the anime market as saturated by the infamous Studio Ghibli and, as hard as it is not to watch Spirited Away (2001) for the hundredth time, there is more Japanese animation waiting to be discovered. One of them being Paprika (2006), produced by Japanese company Madhouse, which occurs in a time where scientists have created a machine allowing people to watch and record their dreams. When the machine falls into the wrong hands it’s up to young psychiatrist Chiba to enter the dreamworld and assume her alter ego Paprika in order to reestablish the boundaries between fantasy and reality. 

Many have referred to Paprika as the first Inception (2010), both films exploring the nature of dreams and offering a surrealist style, there certainly are precise comparisons between the two (click here for an interesting side by side analysis) but I’ll leave it to you to decide if Nolan took a little too much from the anime original. On its own, Paprika is an outstanding use of the freedom of independent animation to showcase the limitless possibilities available to film makers. Animating a fantastical world with exciting characters and mind bending visuals, Paprika is not to be missed. 

The Secret of Kells (2009) 

Remaining firmly in the realm of fantasy the last film on the list is independent animated gem The Secret of Kells (2009) produced by Cartoon Saloon. The Irish animation company consistently produces Academy Award nominees, with later films Song of the Sea (2014) and The Breadwinner (2017), it’s not hard to see why when you enter their world of dreamy Irish folklore. The Secret of Kells follows Brendan, a young boy living the Abbey of Kells, a remote colony deep in the Irish woods. As villagers scramble to prepare the colony from a barbarian attack it is clear that danger is impending, but Brendan has other things on his mind. He works as an apprentice in the scriptorium of the monastery and is enchanted by a master illuminator who brings with him a magical book. Soon both Brendan and his white cat Pangur are set on a quest outside the fortified walls of Kells to retrieve necessary items for the completion of the book. 

The juxtaposition between dreamy forest landscapes and red stained battle scenes make the animation visually exciting, paired with the large eyes of the characters which draw you in. As animations often do, the story focuses on encouraging Brendan to follow his heart and revel in his natural talents as the master illuminator takes him under his wing. The combination of great story situated in rich history and folklore with breathtaking animation makes The Secret of Kells an enlightening experience. 

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