Category Archives: Film & TV

Compare the opening episode of Doctor Who in 1963 to a recent episode (post-2005) of your own choice. How has it changed? How has it remained the same? What does this tell us about the changing make-up of the audience?

Since it began in 1963, Doctor Who has delighted audiences with its fun and exciting storylines. The series follows a time travelling alien journeying through space and time with his human companions. Throughout its original run and again in its re-launch, the series has seen a number of changes to its format and casting, most notably with the Doctor himself. Doctor Who was a massive success when it originally aired and since its revival in 2005 it has brought in huge audience numbers. Whilst Doctor Who (post-2005) is a continuation of the original series and not a remake of what had already been done, it is important that we distinguish between the two series as separate entities as well as one series as a whole. I will be discussing Doctor Who from its 1963-1989 run as well as the series from 2005 to the present day. As I examine the similarities and differences between the two series, I will see how these changes have affected the audience of the programme.  I am going to compare the opening episode from 1963 with the opening episode of the re-launch in 2005 along with various other episodes, exploring their social and cultural context.

On November 23rd 1963 the first episode of Doctor Who, ‘An Unearthly Child’, aired on the BBC. The programme begins in a similar fashion to that of Dixon of Dock Green (1955), with a policeman walking towards the camera and searching around the outside of an old junk yard. Inside the junk yard we see an old police box outside of its familiar locations on the main streets. Despite its resemblance to a popular crime drama of the time, the programme soon shifts to a school setting, establishing a ‘normal’ environment with children and teachers walking around the familiar school setting. As an audience we can assume that this ‘normality’ is soon going to be disturbed. This is soon confirmed when two of the schools teachers are discussing one particular pupil, Susan Foreman, who appears to “know more science that I’ll ever know” according to one of the teachers, Ian Chesterton. With the teachers unable to explain Susan’s odd behaviour and their concern and interest over her personal life, they go to her registered home address only to come across the junk yard seen within the opening sequence of the episode. This leads to their discovery of Susan and her grandfather and soon become involved with the duo. During ‘An Unearthly Child’ it takes almost twelve minutes before the lead character of the Doctor is first introduced to the audience. By doing so, the audience is able to build up the excitement and suspense surrounding the Doctor and the mysteries involving the previously seen police box and Susan.

Doctor Who - An Unearthly Child (1963)

Before the 1960s, space travel seemed like a distant dream and something that belonged simply to science fiction. However, in the 1960s space travel soon became possible with the ‘Space Race’, occurring between America and the Soviet Union, with both parties attempting to explore space on a faster and bigger level than the other. Two years previous to the start of Doctor Who, the Soviet Union were the first to achieve sending a man in to space in 1961. The US President, John F. Kennedy stated that America would be the first to send a team in to space and land on the moon before the decade was over. Although America would later achieve this in 1969, President Kennedy was assassinated on 22nd November 1963, the day before Doctor Who first aired in the United Kingdom.  It was during this time the 1960s that science fiction became less than just fiction and became real life and possible. Science fiction novels, television programmes and films were increasing in popularity with films such as The Time Machine (1960) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) being released as well as the start of the hugely successful sci-fi television series Star Trek (1966).

The early episodes of Doctor Who heavily referenced the popular culture of the 1960s. The Doctor’s grand-daughter, Susan, “resembles one of the teenage ‘pop’ star products of that culture, Helen Shapiro” (Tulluch & Alvarado, 1983. P25) By heavily incorporating popular and youth culture, the writers have tried to include a larger audience. Doctor Who could be compared to the other popular British fictional hero of the time, James Bond. James Bond was first adapted to film, Dr No (1962), a year before Doctor Who first aired, therefore giving similarities between the two franchises and their nods to the 1960s culture.

Having been off screen for sixteen years, in 2005 the BBC felt that it was time to bring back Doctor Who. The revival would see British actor Christopher Eccleston take on the role of the infamous Doctor in his ninth incarnation. The ‘new’ series would not simply be a continuation from the ‘old’ series but almost a different programme altogether. Chapman believes that “the series was able to reinvent itself for the vastly different cultural conditions of the early twenty-first century” and was able to do so because it “was produced, and promoted, as a new series in its own right” (Chapman, 2006. P184) It is with this in mind that we can make comparisons between the old and new series, seeing how the revival may have been influenced and inspired by the original series.

Doctor Who revival (2005) - Christopher Eccleston as The Doctor and Billie Piper as Rose.

Similarly to ‘An Unearthly Child’, the opening episode to the 2005 revival of Doctor Who, ‘Rose’ opens with a sequence setting up the introduction of the Doctor’s soon to be assistant, Rose Tyler.  The sequence follows Rose as she leads her life; going to work, spending time with her boyfriend and living with her mother. Once again the sequence showing how ‘normal’, and ultimately boring, Rose’s life is emphasises and foreshadows that something out-of-the-ordinary is going to happen. This is soon established when Rose is targeted by the ‘living plastic’, or the mannequins from the department store where she works. As if out of nowhere, the Doctor comes to Rose’s rescue and orders her to leave the building, then outside Rose sees the department store blow up. The Doctor is introduced much earlier than he was in ‘An Unearthly Child’, appearing on screen after just five minutes. This could be due to the fact that audiences are aware of the Doctor – both in terms of his character, as known by old fans of the series, as well as who he was being portrayed by due to the media attention surrounding the new series. The following day Rose once again comes across the Doctor and orders him to tell her who he is and why the mannequins attacked her the night before. Unlike ‘An Unearthly Child’, the Doctor’s main assistant is unrelated to him and is more similar to the several other companions that Doctor had over the course of the original run of the series.

In the modern day, there is a much darker view of mankind than there has been previously. The world today is engrossed with fears of ‘Carbon Footprints’ and damaging the earth that we live on. There are concerns that mankind itself is damaging the earth by using cars, too much electricity and generally polluting the planet. This has led to people questioning whether this will damage the earth enough to destroy it. Several films and television programme episodes have been made to outline these worries such as WALL-E (2008), Children of Men (2006) and I Am Legend (2007). These films all show worlds in which there are not many human survivors and suggest that this has happened due to mankind. In Doctor Who these concerns are outlined by Donna (Catherine Tate) in ‘Planet of the Ood’. When she learns that she and the Doctor have travelled to the year 4126, Donna exclaims; “4126? It’s 4126? I’m in 4126? What’s the earth like now?” to which the Doctor (here in his tenth incarnation, portrayed by David Tennant) simply replies, “A bit full… but you see the empire stretches out across four galaxies.” Donna then says, “It’s weird, I mean it’s brilliant, but, back home, the papers and the tele, they keep saying that we haven’t got long to live. Global warming, flooding, all the bees disappearing, but look at us. We’re everywhere!” Here Doctor Who is suggesting that the planet and the universe will still exist in more than 2000 years time, it will just be ‘a bit full’. The writers and programme are almost suggesting that there is no need to be concerned with how we are living our lives on earth and perhaps attempting to calm the audience and the public from such fears.

The growing advances in genetic modification and cloning have also become real life fears for the world today. Similarly to dystopia themes, the theme of cloning has been explored in recent literature as well as in Doctor Who. Never Let Me Go (2005) by Kazuo Ishiguro tells the story of three students who have been cloned in order to provide their organs for transplants, however they are not aware of the reason behind their existence. In ‘Planet of the Ood’, the Doctor and Donna visit the Ood-Sphere and explore the company Ood Operations as they are selling the Ood for slavery. It comes to their attention that the Ood are turning against their creators to stop doing what they were created for, serving. This is also explored in My Sister’s Keeper (2009) in which the lead character, Anna is seeking medical emancipation from her parents for the rights to her own body. Anna’s parents discovered that their elder daughter, Kate had leukaemia so they conceived Anna through in vitro fertilisation in order to become a donor for her sister. The film (and original novel by Jodi Picoult) explores Anna’s determination to defy her parents to stop her being used as a donor for Kate. Likewise, in Doctor Who thousands of Oods are created to obey and serve humans. The Oods begin to defy the humans they are serving with their instinct to kill the humans. Throughout the episode we learn that the Ood have not simply been created in order to serve but they have been modified by removing their brains.

Whilst there are huge differences between Doctor Who’s original run and the new episodes of the last six years, it is clear that the recent episodes have paid homage to the previous series. There are several factors that have been kept very similar to the original. Most notably, the theme music of the series has remained relatively the same, although it has been slightly modified and updated. The theme is just as iconic as the title character, being instantly recognisable to both existing fans and to those who may not have even seen the programme. By keeping the theme music almost the same, it adds familiarity to a programme that has been off air for a number of years. Tulloch and Avarado suggest that theme music “pronounces that the programme remains stable and the same” (p. 18) By keeping a small, yet important, factor the same in the revival of the series, Doctor Who is not only paying homage to what has come before it by allowing a sense of connection to the previous work despite the numerous changes that have been made. It is factors like this that have helped maintained the show’s popularity throughout the years it has been on.

The 11 incarnations of The Doctor (from 1963-2011)

One consistent change throughout both the original series and the new series is the changing appearance of the Doctor. The Doctor allegedly has thirteen lives and in the present day, he is in his eleventh incarnation. With each new Doctor there have been several distinct differences between each personality. The original Doctor, portrayed by William Hartnell, was almost rude, arrogant and a bit of a know-it-all character in the opening episode. When we compare this to the Doctor in the opening episode of the revival series, portrayed by Christopher Eccleston, he is more sarcastic and funny and often needs assistance from Rose, his new companion, for example when she realises that the London Eye is the transmitter needed to stop the ‘living plastic’. Eccleston “brings a greater emotional intensity to the role than any of his predecessors” (Chapman, 2006. P190) making him a much more likable Doctor to the one seen in ‘An Unearthly Child’. In both episodes we are not told who the Doctor is right away, although in ‘Rose’ the audience has a more cultural understanding of the character through the media coverage surrounding the series. In both episodes, the question “Doctor Who/Doctor What?” is asked when trying to discover who the Doctor is. Although there is some explanation in both episodes as to who the Doctor is, his story is not told right away, it is something that is to be discovered throughout the remainder of the series.

On April 23rd 2011, Doctor Who’s sixth series since its return began on BBC One. Starring Matt Smith as the Doctor in his eleventh incarnation, the series opener, ‘The Impossible Astronaut’ was seen by a staggering 8.86 million viewers. The viewing figures achieved by Doctor Who emphasises the importance and relevance of the programme in modern day Britain but also the gives us opportunity to think about the varying ways in which technology has improved and altered audiences viewing habits. Speaking about the large number of viewers, Dan McGolpin who is Head of Planning and Scheduling for BBC One says, “Once you take in to account catch-up viewing, the total audience for episode one is around 9 million… BBC iPlayer figures will take this even higher- last year’s opening episode was the most watched show on its platform, being streamed over 2.2 million times.”  Doctor Who is much more accessible today than it was when it had its original run. Due to technology, the television record and online catch-up services available allow people to view television whenever they wish. This kind of viewing makes the series available to a wider audience and therefore can increase its popularity. When Doctor Who began in 1963 there were simply only two television channels to choose from, whereas today there are hundreds of channels, some dedicated to specific themes and topics meaning that gaining a large audience for one programme, albeit on one of the main television channels available, is a huge accomplishment.

The outstanding audience figures are likely to stem from its wide ranging audience members as both children and adults alike watch and enjoy the series. “The series boasts a wide following, with audience members aging from young children to adults. Doctor Who enjoys a fairly unique audience demographic, boasting as it does a core audience of 30–45-year-old fans who watched the original series when they were young, as well as a large number of children who have discovered the programme during the 2005 re-launch.” (Perryman, 2008. P36) Due to its nature, Doctor Who is able to target audiences of a variety of age ranges with each taking something different from the programme. However, recent reports suggest that the latest episodes of the sixth series have come under criticism for being too scary and too complex for the children in the audience. A recent blog post on The Guardian website has one contributor suggesting that “the writers seem too intent on proving how clever they are through too much complexity and too many cheap shocks”. Despite this, a second contributor argues that “if it’s too scary, a child can leave the room, or turn off the TV, or hide behind the sofa, like an older generation did when the Daleks rolled on to the screen.” This suggests that Doctor Who has always been about installing fear into its audience. It could be argued that perhaps the latest episodes are deemed more frightening as minor shocks are not enough to scare modern day children.

The Impossible Astronaut (2011) - Too scary for children?

It is through the recent advances in technology which, since its revival in 2005, allows fans of the show to now share their experiences of the programme together all across the world. We can argue that the show may not be simply watched today, it is instead lived. Today avid fans and audience members eat, sleep and breathe Doctor Who and will spend endless hours discussing recent plotlines and theories on dedicated website forums and message boards. It is this kind of interaction that allows the show to grow in popularity, giving fans to opportunity to marvel in the shows stories, giving their opinions and hopes on what will happen next.

The series, since it was brought back in 2005, has become more than just a television programme and has spawned two spin-off series, Torchwood (2006) and The Sarah Jane Adventures (2007) as well as the behind the scenes documentary, Doctor Who Confidential (2005). Once again, these spin-off series allow for fans to enjoy the programme on a deeper level, finding out how the episodes are made and seeing their favourite secondary characters on their own adventures. The Sarah Jane Adventures was “designed to appeal exclusively to children” (Perryman, 2008. P36) on the children’s BBC channel CBBC and allowed for children to become even more involved with the series, added to that the endless amount of merchandise available for children such as magazines, stationery and toys. Torchwood, however, was “aimed squarely at adults” and was aired on BBC3 at night. However, Torchwood came under fire as it followed one of the series favourite supporting characters, Captain Jack Harkness but was not appropriate for children to watch. The series is much scarier than Doctor Who and features sex and swearing. The programme has come under criticism due to the fact that the series is “publicised via a Radio Times cover, large-scale advertisements on public transport and, more importantly, pre-watershed trailers.” (Perryman, 2008. P36)

The development in technology has also allowed for an improvement in the special effects in more recent Doctor Who episodes. During its original run the Doctor Who sets, costumes and stunts were extraordinary but in comparison to its later episodes, these factors often look cheap and sometimes humorous. With these technological advances, it could be argued that the programme has been able to go much further in terms of storylines due to the advances in technology. It could also be suggested that the technological advances between the first series’ end in 1989 and the revival in 2005, such as internet and mobile phones,  has led to an advance in what could be used for modern day advances in technology as well as advances in the distant future. For example, in ‘Rose’ the use of mobile phones and the internet is the ‘norm’ much like it is to the audience members watching, but there are also huge advances in the technology used by the Doctor. In comparison we could look at Blade Runner (1982) which takes place in Los Angeles 2019. Not only has technology advanced enough to create human clones known as ‘replicants’ but the film also features flying cars. Today we are eight years away from the year in which Blade Runner is set however we have not seen such a huge wave in technological advances to allow us to create human clones or flying cars.

Spin offs - Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures

By comparing the first episode of Doctor Who, ‘An Unearthly Child’ with numerous post 2005 episodes of the series, it is clear that while several factors may remain the same, for example the regeneration of the Doctor, the theme music and the format of the programme, the revival series is very different from the original. Since 2005 the programme has established itself as a separate television series, gaining new fans and followers thanks to the changes in television viewing and to technological advances. In gaining such mass audience figures the new series of Doctor Who is arguably much more successful that the original series, given to the fact that audiences have a much larger range of choice given to them in the modern day. Having been such a major part of television from 1963 – 1989, the recent series Doctor Who has ensured that this is still the case in modern day Britain.

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Top 5 Disney Pixar Movie Moments

A huge Disney fan, I absolutely adore the Disney Pixar movies. Over the past 25 years the company has been creating CGI short and feature films, including Toy Story, Monsters Inc., CarsWALL-E and Up.

Following BBC3’s recent documentary discussing Pixar’s ’25 Magic Moments’, I thought I’d let you know my Top 5 favourite moments from the Pixar movies.

1. Carl & Ellie’s Married Life.

Although completely heartbreaking, this is one of my favourite moments as it’s like a mini movie. It could have easily been one of Pixar’s famous short films and it easily stands alone from the rest of the film. It is a completely beautiful montage of Carl & Ellie’s life together, which I think is made by the music.

2. Buzz switches to Spanish mode.
Taken from Toy Story 3, Buzz has had his memory reset so he doesn’t remember any of the toys. Woody and the gang try to get him back to his normal self… but end up switching him to Spanish mode instead. The whole scene had me crying with laughter, it’s a really funny moment which stands out as one of the funniest scenes for me in Pixar history.

3.  Outtakes
The outtakes of any Pixar movie are always brilliant but I particularly like the Monsters Inc. outtakes. I think each one is hilarious & I absolutely love the mini-musical.

4. Meet Dug
Another Up moment. I love the entire film, it’s definitely one of my favourite Pixar films. I love moment that we first meet Dug in the film. Carl and Russell believe that they have found a normal dog wondering around when suddenly the dog starts talking, immediately Russell wants to keep him.

5. Crush from Finding Nemo
Having just met a lot of jellyfish, Marlin wakes up to discover that he is riding the East Australian Current. I think Crush (along with Dory and Dug) are Pixar’s best characters & I just love this scene as Crush provides real humour for Marlin & Dory’s journey and comes up with some brilliant one-liners.

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Vampires Suck?

It would appear that we are living in a world that has become obsessed with vampires.

Vampire literature has been around for over 100 years, however in recent years vampire stories have seen an increase in popularity due to several successful television series and movies.

Dracula, an 1897 novel by Bram Stoker tells the story of Jonathan Harker, a man who visits the Transylvanian Count Dracula for business but who soon becomes Dracula’s prisoner. Dracula is probably one of the most famous and most influencial stories in vampire fiction, however the lead character which Stoker described in his book is extremely different to those portrayed today.

The vampire phenomenon has particularly taken off in the last three years thanks to The Twilight Saga, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries. The two television series and the movie franchise depict their vampires as young, sexy and often brooding outsiders who live amongst humans.

Suddenly, vampires have gone from being the feared mystical, gothic creature to sexy, more human-like beings that are depicted and wanted as love interests. The female lead characters in the adaptations I’m going to discuss are all human but willingly pursue relationships with male vampires. Vampire fiction is no longer associated with death, but is now associated with sex and often love.

The Twilight Saga is a series of novels which are currently being adapted in to a series of films, with the first installment of the fourth book being released this year (Breaking Dawn: Part 1) The four novels were written by Stephanie Meyer, and tells the story of Bella Swan, a young high school girl who moves to the small town of Forks, where she meets the mysterious Edward Cullen. Bella and Edward fall in love and she soon discovers that he is a vampire. The series tells of Edward and Bella’s love story, the love triangle between them and werewolf Jacob Black, the evil vampire coven who are after Bella and her desire for Edward to turn her into a vampire.

The films have been hugely successful, starring Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Launter as the three leads and has grossed over $1.7 billion worldwide. Fans have been dubbed “Twihards” and there are numerous pieces of merchandise on sale all over the high street.

Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson

 

True Blood is an American series shown on HBO, which is based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries series written by Charlaine Harris. The television series is set in Bon Temps, a small ficitonal town in which vampires and humans co-exist and mostly tells the story of Sookie Stackhouse, a bar waitress who is telepathic and her relationship with Bill Compton, a vampire. The humans and vampires have been able to live alongside each other due to the creation of a synthetic blood which replaces a vampires need to drink human blood.

The series stars Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer as Sookie and Bill, amongst a large, strong ensemble cast and has won a Golden Globe and an Emmy.

Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer

 

The Vampire Diaries is based on the novels of the same name by L.J Smith, telling the mysterious events of the small fictional town, Mystic Falls. The series sees Elena Gilbert torn between two vampire brothers, Stefan and Damon Salvatore. After 145 years, Stefan Salvatore has returned to Mystic Falls and instantly falls in love with Elena, a young human girl who resembles his old vampire love Katherine Pierce. Stefan’s brother, Damon, who was also in love with Katherine, soon returns to the town in order to stir up trouble for Stefan and the quiet life that he is trying to lead. Throughout the series, the love triangle is explored, other mysteries of the town are uncovered and the history of the Salvatore brothers and their lover Katherine Pierce is explored.

The series stars Nina Dobrev playing both Elena Gilbert and Katherine Pierce, Paul Wesley as the “good” vampire Stefan and Ian Somerhalder as the “bad” vampire Damon. The first episode saw the highest season opener ever on The CW, the network which airs the series.

Ian Somerhalder, Nina Dobrev and Paul Wesley

Whilst there are certainly similarities between the three popular stories, each appeals to a different demographic although some audience members may be a fan of all three. Each has a different take on the vampire legend and features different vampire “rules”; where in The Twilight Saga, the vampires sparkle in bright sunlight, it can kill the vampires in The Vampire Diaries unless they possess a magic ring that allows them to walk in daylight.

Last year also saw the release of Vampires Suck, a spoof of vampire based movies, perhaps suggesting that the creators were already bored of the vampire craze?

So why has the world become so obsessed with vampires? Certainly these adaptations have made vampire fiction popular in the last few years, but it has always been around and has seen surges in popularity before. Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran for six years from 1997 and saw an increase in popularity for the genre.

But has it all gone too far this time around? Fans have been reported asking the actors to bite them at premieres and conventions, surely this is taking it all a little too far?

If I’m honest, I’ve not completely ignored the vampire phenomemon, my love for The Vampire Diaries is admittedly boarderline obsession- I just love the ongoing twists and turns of the series… you never quite know what is going to happen next. However, I don’t understand the craze over The Twilight Saga; I did enjoy the novels, but find the films poorly cast and acted. True Blood has quite simply just passed me by; I did watch the pilot but it didn’t grab me enough to want to continue watching, perhaps one day I’ll get hooked.

Whether people like it or not, it seems that the vampire craze is here to stay… at least for a little while longer.

Please comment with your thoughts on vampire fiction, what vampire films or series you enjoy and whether you think the craze has gone too far.

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Favourite Christmas Film?

Elf has recently been voted the number one Christmas film, according to myvouchercodes.co.uk.
In a survery conducted on the website, the 2003 film was voted the favourite with Miracle on 34th Street coming in second and Home Alone coming in third.
So… is Elf really the best Christmas film of all time? It is definitely one of my favourites along with three others.
So here’s a run down of my four favourite Christmas films and why they are my favourite things to watch over the festive period.

Elf
Starring Will Ferrell as Buddy, a human who as a baby crawls in to Santa’s sack and is brought up as an Elf. When he discovers that he is infact human, Buddy goes to New York in search of his father, Walter Hobbs, who is on the naughty list. Walter did not know that Buddy had been born and at first rejects his son. Buddy discovers the wonders of New York City and tries to adapt to human life… with hilarious consequences. Walter and Buddy soon form a relationship but it is put to the test when Buddy inteferes with Walter’s work.
Elf is a fantastic family film, with hilarious one liners and scenes brilliantly played out by Will Ferrell and the supporting cast. My favourite scene is when Buddy first goes exploring in the City and we see him eating chewing gum from the street, jumping across the zebra crossings, spinning around in revolving doors and being knocked over by a yellow taxi.

The Muppet Christmas Carol
The Muppet’s give their own tale of Charles Dickens classic story, with popular Muppet characters potraying different characters. Michael Caine stars in the film as Ebenezer Scrooge, the miserable lead character who is visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.
I really love this adaptation as the Muppet characters provide comedy to the heartwarming tale. With Gonzo the Great acting as Charles Dickens narrating the story as it happens we have comedic relief throughout as he tries to convince Rizzo the Rat that he is the great novelist. My favourite parts of the film are the Ghost of Christmas Present and a number of the songs featured in the film.

Love Actually
The film follows numerous different storylines in the run up to Christmas. We see the new Prime Minister fall for one of his staff, two film stand-ins get to know each other in very close proximity, a married man flirting with his secretary, a young man in love with his best friend’s new wife, a woman in love with her co-worker, a 10-year-old boy in love with a girl in his class and an Englishman fall for his Portugese maid amonst other plotlines.
I love Love Actually. I like that it’s a Christmas film as well as a romantic comedy. It comes from one of my favourite writers, Richard Curtis, the man behind Vicar of Dibley and Notting Hill. I love every story told in Love Actually including the heartwrenching story of Sarah, the American editor who is in love with Karl, the creative director whom she works with, whose relationship is interrupted and consequently ended by Sarah’s mentally ill brother. I also particularly enjoy the story of Mark, Juliet and Peter. Juliet and Peter get married at the start of the film, where we see Peter’s best friend Mark videotaping the celebrations. We believe that Mark does not like Juliet very much, however we soon discover that he is in love with Juliet. A beautiful scene shows Mark tell Juliet through flashcards that he loves her but that he will keep his love a secret for the sake of his best friend.

The Holiday
Amanda is an American film trailer maker who has just broken up with her boyfriend in Los Angeles. Iris is a British editor who has just found out that the man she is seeing has just become engaged. Both wanting to escape from their lives over the Christmas period, they decide to trade homes for two weeks. Amanda moves in to Iris’s home and soon become acquainted with Iris’s older brother, Graham. Thinking that they can have a simple one night stand, the pair sleep together but soon find that a relationship has begun. Whilst Iris is living in Los Angeles in Amanda’s home, she becomes friends with Miles, a composer, and Arthur, an elderly man who used to be a screenwriter in Hollywood during the Golden Age.
Although not necessarily a Christmas film, it is set over the Christmas holiday and although I can watch it at any time of year it, to me, provides the warm, cosy feeling that is associated Christmas. I love this film because I enjoy the twists of Kate Winslet’s storyline. Iris has travelled to LA in order to get over a man that she loves, but instead of instantly meeting and falling in love with another man (like Amanda’s storyline) we see her befriend an elderly man instead, with a love story progressing later with Miles. I really enjoy the scene where Arthur’s work is celebrated as it provides a warm, heartfelt feeling where the audience can feel proud of Arthur’s achievements. Another part I really like is where we discover that Graham has two daughters. The scene is completely heartwrenching and heartwarming at the same time. Throughout the film we believe that Graham might be a bit of a ‘player’ but he is infact a loving single father/widower. Once again, the scene is so warm and loving that, for me, it echoes exactly what Christmas is all about.

So, what is your favourite Christmas film? Is it the same as one of mine? Or something entirely different? Please take the poll to cast your vote and leave comments about your favourite Christmas film!

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Top 10 Friends Episodes

Friends is one of the most popular, most loved and most watched sitcoms of the last 20 years.Created by Marta Kauffman and David Crane, the show revolves around six friends in New York City. The show began in 1994 and ran for 10 years.

Friends is one of my favourite television shows and I am always rewatching all 10 seasons, no matter how many times I have seen them.

During its course, the lives of Monica, Ross, Phoebe, Rachel, Joey and Chandler were portrayed through 236 episodes and I have picked just 10 of my favourite episodes to share with you. (Something that is easier said than done!)

  1. The One Where Ross is Fine
    Having found Rachel and Joey kissing, Ross invites them over for a double date with him and Charlie. The night is extremely uncomfortable as Ross gets drunk and insists that he is “fine” with Joey and Rachel’s new relationship. During the episode we also see Monica and Chandler visit a couple who have adopted a boy. Not knowing that this is a secret, Chandler accidently tells the boy that he is adopted. Phoebe is visited by her younger brother, Frank Jr, with his triplets and confesses that he cannot cope with them.
    This is one of my favourites as I think Ross is at his funniest during this episode. There are several fantastic one liners and a brilliant speech about Love from Ross.

  2. The One with all the Thanksgivings
    The group reminsce over their worst Thanksgivings, with Phoebe’s going back to 1862. We see Joey with a turkey on his head, the reason why Chandler hates Thanksgivings so much and Monica’s worst Thanksgiving. Monica’s memory takes her back to when Ross and Chandler were in college, when Rachel had her real nose and when Monica was fat.
    I love this episode as it provides hilarious viewing of Monica, Rachel, Ross and Chandler as teenagers. Ross talks about his new girlfriend Carol who he says “plays for both teams!”, referencing Ross’s failed marriage to Carol, who later became a lesbian. The flashbacks take place over two years so we see Chandler call Monica “fat” during the first Thanksgiving and becoming attracted to her in the second Thanksgiving when she has become slim. However, Monica is still upset by Chandler calling her “fat” so decides to humiliate him… Resulting in his little toe being cut off!
  3. The One with All the Cheesecakes
    During this episode, Rachel and Chandler steal the deliveries of a tasty cheesecake from their neighbour’s doorstep. Pheobe is also visited by David, her ex-boyfriend who now lives in Russia.
    I love this episode because we  get to see the friendship between Chandler and Rachel, which we don’t usually get the chance to see. It’s really funny as the pair continue to fight over who gets to eat the cheesecake, which soon ends up on the floor. I particularly like when Rachel and Chandler are eating the cheesecake off of the floor when they are caught out by Joey… who pulls out a fork from his pocket and asks what they’re eating.
  4. The One Hundredth
    In this episode, Phoebe gives birth to the triplets. She has been a surrogate for Frank Jr and his wife, Alice. Joey is also hospitalised for kidney stones.
    This episode marks Friends 100th episode, and is a favourite of mine as we see Phoebe go through labour, deciding on which doctor she would like to deliver the babies… either a Fonzie from Happy Days obsessed doctor or a young doctor. The episode is hilarious throughout, but it sees Phoebe slightly struggle to give away the babies having carried them for nine months.

  5. The One Where Everybody Finds Out
    Monica and Chandler have been secretly dating for months, with Joey being the only other Friend to know of their relationship. (That they know of!) Rachel had recently found out, with Pheobe being the next to discover the secret. With so many people knowing, Joey wants to tell Monica and Chandler that they know, however Rachel and Phoebe have other ideas. They decide to let Phoebe flirt with Chandler to see if he cracks under the pressure and confesses that he is seeing Monica.
    I find this episode hilarious with all the secrecy and plotting. Monica and Chandler find out that everyone knows but decide to meddle with Phoebe as she flirts with Chandler. My favourite line comes from Phoebe where she says, “They don’t know that we know they know we know.” It just outlines how complicated the testing of each other has gone.
  6. The One with the Male Nanny
    One the quest for a nanny for baby Emma, Ross and Rachel intereview several prospective nannies who are all unsuccessful. They then interview Sandy… who Ross is surprised to see is actually male. Rachel loves Sandy and decides to hire him. However, Sandy is really sensitive which makes Ross uncomfortable. We also see Phoebe chose between her new boyfriend Mike and her old boyfriend David.
    This episode is one of my favourites because of the amazing guest stars who appear. Sandy is played by Freddie Prinze Jr, Mike by Paul Rudd and David by Hank Azaria. The guest stars almost steal away the limelight from the main cast during the th episode of the series.
  7. The One with the Prom Video
    Ross is still trying to prove to Rachel that he loves her but is failing miserably. It is not until Monica is watching an old home video of her and Rachel’s prom that shows Ross’s true feelings for Rachel and how long they have been held. We see Rachel’s prom date not turn up and Ross getting ready in order to surprise her by being her date instead. However, Rachel’s date eventually turns up and we see Ross looking disappointed and heartbroken. Rachel is touched by what Ross did for her and kisses him, forgiving him for everything he did to her in previous episodes.
    I love this episode as we see the start of Ross and Rachel’s relationship, a key factor in the entire series of Friends. The video is hilarious as we, once again, Ross, Rachel and Monica as teenagers. 

  8. The One Where Paul’s the Man
    Ross has been dating one of his students, Elizabeth, much to her Dad, Paul’s disapprovement. Elizabeth suggests that she and Ross go to her family’s mountain cabin in secret for a weekend away. However, Paul has begun dating Rachel and he has had the same idea. Whilst trying to hide from Paul, Ross witnesses Paul talking to himself in his mirror, telling himself that he is “the man”, going on to do an embarrassing sing and dance. During this episode, the girls visit a museum in which they hear holds weddings but has a two year waiting list. Phoebe and Rachel convince Monica to put her & Chandler’s name down and if in two years they’re not planning on getting married, they can just cancel the reservation. Chandler receives a call from the wedding coordinator at the musuem and tells him that there has been a cancellation and they can hold their wedding their earlier. He freaks out and tells Monica that she should have waited for him to ask, in which she replies by saying that she didn’t mean anything by it. Monica then leaves the room and Phoebe enters, with Chandler telling her that he is going to propose to Monica.
    This is one of my favourite episodes as Paul’s (played by Bruce Willis) embarrasing dance never fails to make me laugh with each viewing. I also love that we get to see Chandler grow up slightly and become less afraid of committment to Monica. It makes me really exicted about the lead up to the proposal in the season finale.
  9. The One Where No One’s Ready
    This episode is set in real time which sees the gang getting ready for Ross’s museum fundraiser event where he is giving a speech. However, Ross is annoyed at the group for not being ready on time. We see Joey steal Chandler’s chair and put on all of his clothes, Phoebe have hummus spilt on her dress, Monica hack in to her ex-boyfriend’s voicemail machine and Rachel unable to pick an outift.
    The fact that this episode is set in real time makes it a stand out episode for me. There’s some really funny moments, particularly involving Joey and Chandler’s war over the chair they both want to sit in.

  10. The One With the Rumour
    It’s Thanksgiving and Monica invites over an old school friend, Will, who also used to be really overweight like Monica. It turns out that Will did not get along with Rachel during high school, however Rachel cannot remember him and finds him attractive. Will is unkind to Rachel during the episode and we later discover that he and Ross were members of the “I hate Rachel Green club” and that they spread a rumour about Rachel. We find out that they told the rest of the school that Rachel was a hermaphrodite, which she is upset about and claims that she cannot believe that Ross did that as she was nothing but nice to him during high school. Monica then reminds her that that is not true and informs her of the rumour that Rachel spread about Ross; telling everyone that he made out with the school’s 50 year old librarian. Ross reveals that this is true and he and Rachel begin to argue. During the argument they reveal to Will that they are having a baby together which he cannot believe.
    Brad Pitt guest stars in this episode as Will, who at the time was married to Jennifer Aniston, providing great comedy as someone who hated Rachel.

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John Hughes

“Whatever happened to chivalry? Does it only exist in 80’s movies? I want John Cusack holding a boombox outside my window. I wanna ride off on a lawnmower with Patrick Dempsey. I want Jake from Sixteen Candles waiting outside the church for me. I want Judd Nelson thrusting his fist into the air because he knows he got me. Just once I want my life to be like an 80’s movie, preferably one with a really awesome musical number for no apparent reason. But no, no, John Hughes did not direct my life.”
– Olive Penderghast, Easy A (2010)

The above is taken from the recent teen film, Easy A.  This is just one of several films who have made reference to the late, great John Hughes.  In recent years, many films (and some television shows) have paid tribute to the writer, director and producer; either referencing his work or echoing the themes and characters portrayed. It could be argued that the teen/high school films of today would not be the way that they are if it was not for the films from John Hughes, for example, the popular ‘nerd’ character, seen in films such as Superbad, are clear reflections of the Anthony Michael Hall characters from the Hughes films.

Since his untimely death in 2009, Hughes’s work has been used as a theme for a recent episode of One Tree Hill, dedicating the episode to the director. The episode saw the characters face various situations that featured in Sixteen Candles, Home Alone and Pretty in Pink.

Molly Ringwald & Michael Schoeffling as Sam Baker & Jake Ryan in Sixteen Candles and Bethany Joy Galeotti & James Lafferty as Haley James Scott & Nathan Scott in One Tree Hill.

His films are were a huge success in the mid 1980s and still remain popular today. His films were so relatable to teenagers, creating likeable, true characters and creating storylines that echo the thoughts and feelings of teenagers. After all, it’s every girl’s nightmare to have her parents forget her 16th birthday!

The Breakfast Club is a particular stand out amongst the John Hughes collection. Telling the story of five students in detention, who have nothing in common and who simply see each other as the stereotypes in which they have been labelled; “The Criminal”, “The Princess”, “The Athlete”, “The Brain” and “The Basket Case”. The group were assigned an essay by the school’s principle detailing “who you think you are”. Forced to spend time together, they end up discussing their deepest secrets; realising that they all have poor relationships with their parents and how they worry that, having become friends, after the detention they will all continue to ignore each other and return to their own individual cliques.

“Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did *was* wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us… In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…and an athlete… and a basket case… a princess… and a criminal… Does that answer your question?… Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.”

Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy & Judd Nelson as Claire Standish, Brian Johnson, Andrew Clark, Allison Reynolds & John Bender in The Breakfast Club.

Also known as the “Brat Pack”, the cast of the popular 1980s films, including many of Hughes’ films; Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Demi Moore, Andrew McCarthy, Rob Lowe and Judd Nelson became household names during the decade. However, not all went on to outstanding Hollywood careers, but will be remembered for bringing to life some of the most inspiring and true characters featured in movies aimed at teenagers.

Andrew McCarthy, Molly Ringwald & Jon Cryer as Blane McDonnagh, Andie Walsh & Duckie in Pretty in Pink

 

John Hughes died on Auguest 6 2009, following a heart attack whilst he was out walking and was the subject of a tribute at the 2010 Academy Awards where the stars of several of his films came together to celebrate his work. I think John Hughes’s work will remain hugely successful and popular with his characters and plotlines continuing to inspire and influence future high school films. Hopefully generations to come will still enjoy the classic 80s teen movies and recognise the influence John Hughes has had upon teen films and popular culture since their release.

Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller in Ferris Bueller's Day Off

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
– Ferris Bueller, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

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