Mike Leigh

Mr Turner Movie

What’s crueler to witness: a force of nature that sinks a great many ships, or a tide of opinion that destroys a lone artist’s reputation? Nineteenth century landscape painter J.M.W. Turner often concerned himself with the former subject on his canvas — sunrises, shipwrecks and such — but leave it to writer/director Mike Leigh to make room for the latter in his latest period piece, Mr. Turner, an emotionally muted biopic less beholden to Leigh’s similarly set Topsy-Turvy than one might initially assume. After all, in a career defined almost entirely by present-day character studies set in working-class Britain — Happy-Go-Lucky, Another Year, Secrets & Lies — only these two stand out as stately reflections of artistic anguish. However, Topsy-Turvy addressed the burdens of a stagnant creative partnership between a composer and a playwright, and by extension an entire theatre company, whereas Turner is more mindful of the man’s often solitary struggles with navigating the mundane and depicting the sublime, two qualities which Leigh has hardly ever kept mutually exclusive. Amid the expectedly impeccable costume and production design of an early 1800s setting, we’re given brash reminders of baser human instincts at play as Timothy Spall’s grunt-heavy interactions with all who cross his path suggest that the Romantic figure was himself far from the portrait of sophistication. Not long after doting father and assistant William Turner Sr. (Paul Jesson) has shaved a pig’s head with it does the same razor blade make its way to Turner Jr.’s porky visage. When the […]



It’s pretty clear that Edgar Wright and his sometime co-writer/star Simon Pegg are movie junkies. Their series Spaced was all about allusions to their TV and film favorites, while the first two installments of the “Cornetto trilogy,” Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, were tributes to zombie and action flicks, respectively. With The World’s End, the homage and referencing continues. Even though the message of the movie is to move forward not backward, and even though it’s apparently a veiled criticism of Hollywood’s own nostalgic impulses, it’s okay for a movie this clever to have its influences and predecessors as long as the acknowledgment is through nods to the past works rather than a recycling or cloning of them. One key difference between what Wright does and what the remake/reboot machine does is he provides a gateway to older movies and the machine creates a substitution, a replacement. As a true movie lover, Wright is known for hosting programs of beloved classics and cult classics, usually in hopes of introducing his fans to stuff they’ve never seen. He also likes to name other films that have informed his work and are worth checking out either prior to or after seeing his movies. The following list is not all selections that he has credited nor that he would necessarily endorse. It’s a combination of some of his picks (found mentioned elsewhere) and some of my own, some obvious and some not, some great and some just worth a look for […]


Culture Warrior

In the late 1990s, two quite divergent Iranian films were recognized on the Western stage. During the 1999 Academy Awards, Majid Majidi’s Children of Heaven, a touching Satyajit Ray-like neorealist drama about a pair of siblings searching for lost shoes, became the first Iranian film nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Two years earlier, in May 1997, Abbas Kiarostami’s minimalist exercise Taste of Cherry won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, the first Iranian film to do so. By the tail end of the twentieth century, Iran had made its way onto the stage of world-renowned arthouse filmmaking. While other cinematically underrepresented nations have oscillated in and out of prominence as the place where great new movies are being pioneered (South Korea, Romania), Iran has consistently, albeit quietly, given the West a limited but incredible output of challenging and innovative films.



Acts of spontaneity have been an essential component of artistic expression in the twentieth century, based in the notion of a perceived “purity” within the spontaneous act that allows art to be directly articulated without mediation or interference from social pressures and constructs. From the improvisatory paintings of Jackson Pollock to the idea of the rewrite as heresy within Jack Kerouac’s prose, spontaneity in many cases is seen as the only way to make art that has any “real” meaning. According to Daniel Belgrad, mid-century efforts toward artistic spontaneity provided a means of expression free from the constrains enforced by an oppressive, conformist hegemonic culture: “This new avant-garde shared the belief that cultural conditioning functioned ideologically by encouraging the atrophy of certain perceptions and the exaggeration of others…In the recovery of such an alternative “reality”…they saw the only basis for constructively radical social change.” Spontaneity through art then doesn’t alter perception as much as its restores it to its ideal original state, allowing artists and spectators of art to see beyond a regime’s oppressive confines.


Oscar Week Best Original Screenplay

This article is part of our Oscar Week Series, where you will find breakdowns and predictions for all of the major categories. As I mentioned in the Best Adapted Screenplay post, the process of making a film involves thousands of moving parts and pieces from the actors to the director to the caterers and beyond, but arguably the most integral aspect of the process is the script. I say arguable, but I’m only being polite. The script is the most important part of a film… it’s responsible for the words coming out of the actors’ mouths, for the shifts in story, for the very tale itself. Actors bring it to life and the director makes it a visual reality, but it all starts from the script. Some folks may argue otherwise, but an original screenplay is far tougher to write than one adapted from a previously existing source. The heavy lifting has all been done for you when the story beats are already laid out in a book, play, or previous film. An original screenplay demands the writer create and craft everything from scratch, from the characters to the story, and the ones who get it right deserve a bigger statuette than their “Adapted Screenplay” contemporaries. And yes, I’m kidding. Anyone who completes a screenplay, whether it be an original or an adaptation, whether it win an award or not, whether it gets produced or not… you have my respect and awe. The nominees are listed below with my prediction […]



Famed British filmmaker Mike Leigh recently received his fifth screenwriting nomination for Another Year. Another Oscar nomination for a highly celebrated filmmaker should be surprising to no one except, in this special case, for the fact that precisely zero of Leigh’s nominated films actually use screenplays. Leigh’s films are constructed through a painstaking and long-term process of creating characters and scenarios with his cast and creative team. His films aren’t improvised in the sense of, say, a Christopher Guest film, where a basic framework exists and actors are allowed to ad-lib and play with(in) that paradigm. Leigh’s films are instead created from the outset through an involved collaborative process. Leigh’s regular team of actors bring to each individual film their construction of a character from scratch. Details arise eventually through this collaboration, and the final work projected onscreen is the end result of a long selection of various possibilities. The only reason Leigh’s films even qualify for screenwriting awards is because of the written script that Leigh creates after the end product has been made. The physical screenplay, in this case, is nothing more than a transcription written after the fact, or a record of a much larger event (whose details are largely unknown to the audience). While Leigh is the sole nominee for Another Year, the creation of the script (or, in this case, the transcript) is just as indebted to the creative efforts of other individuals involved. Stars Jim Broadbent and Lesley Manville are, in a sense, just […]


Happy-Go-Lucky Poster Giveaway

In order to help get the word out on Mike Leigh’s new film, which hits theaters in limited release on October 10th, we’ve received a few posters to give away.


Sally Hawkins in Happy Go Lucky

Here comes a very enjoyable trailer for the film Happy-Go-Lucky, which stars Sally Hawkins (The Painted Veil, Vera Drake) as a woman who is, as the title states, very happy-go-lucky.

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published: 01.31.2015
published: 01.30.2015
published: 01.30.2015
published: 01.29.2015

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