WIGS – Strong Female Characters Ahoy!

Serena WIGS

While searching for something completely unrelated on YouTube last week I stumbled, as I often seem to do, over something a little different. WIGS is an online channel that has been producing high quality scripted drama and releasing it on the internet for free since 2012. I realise that this makes me somewhat late to the game but my research technique mostly involves me clicking through the internet one page at a time so forgive my lateness.

If you are already aware of WIGS then please move along but if not bear with me a second.

What made WIGS stick out to me was firstly the fact that the short films and web series starred actual actors whose names and faces I recognised. Much as I realise this shouldn’t matter to me I have to acknowledge that it does, particularly in the Wild West of YouTube filled with plenty of videos so awful you’d be better off watching the adverts that precede them. I am to blame for some of these videos so I know what I’m talking about.

Faces you might recognise include Julia Stiles, Jennifer Garner, Dakota Fanning, Michael C. Hall, America Ferrera, Stephen Moyer, Jason Isaacs, Jena Malone, Alfred Molina, Allison Janney, Alison Pill, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and plenty others.

The second thing that intrigued me about WIGS may have become evident while reading that artfully copy and pasted list of names; there are women all over the place. It has not been a great time for women on the internet recently/ever and it was refreshing to be offered the opportunity to see female actors take on complex leading roles rather than being offered the opportunity to see female actors take off their shirts without their permission. The phrase “strong female characters” is bandied about a lot and often refers to examples of women in dystopian futures being manipulated and punching authority figures in the throat. A strong female character doesn’t need to possess physical strength just character, real motivations, and to be a protagonists not just a prop or pawn. WIGS provides these in abundance.

I have not been asked to push this particular channel so hard but liked what I saw and wanted to share it with you. To watch their videos I advise visiting their YouTube channel and I have embedded some highlights below:

Jennifer Garner & Alfred Molina star in a short about a woman taking confession.

Allison Janney & Dakota Fanning star in a short about a young woman visiting a doctor who also happens to be a friend of her mother.

Alison Pill & Chris Messina star in a short about an actress being picked up by a man she may have met before.

Jena Malone stars in a series about a young mother relying on poker wins to survive.

“Happy Birthday!” to Mark Kermode… and “Hello!” to Jason Isaacs


Because my original Mark Kermode animation just wasn’t tacky enough…

On Saturday night the Barbican were nice enough to invite me (under duress) to see Mark Kermode celebrate his 50th Birthday by presenting music from his favourite films performed live by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. As Kermode explained it music used to be the only way you could take a film home with you after seeing it in the cinema. In the time before Blu-rays, HD-DVDs, DVDs, betamax, and VHS if you wanted to relive the excitement away from the silver screen you were limited to buying a copy of the soundtrack on vinyl and listening to it on repeat at home.

In the first half we were treated to (amongst others) the haunting soundtracks to both The Exorcist and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. These two eerie and atmospheric pieces succeeded in sending a shiver down my spine – a real feat on such an unbearably hot day. The orchestra also performed the Mary Poppins Overture which provided a shiver of a much nicer variety as the tune moved through all the songs from one of four films I watched on repeat as a child. Kermode admitted to having been reduced to tears while talking about his love for Mary Poppins on a Channel 4 clip show (footage of which I have failed to find) and I have to admit that as the music washed over me a part of my cold dead heart did start to melt.

After a cake-filled interval (maybe that was just us) Mark was joined on-stage by Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy to you and me) who talked about some of the films he had made, films he loved, and generally gushed about how wonderful everyone involved with Harry Potter was. Isaacs was charming, funny, and… erm… charming. Any loyal reader of Mild Concern will be aware of my love for the books and films involving that boy wizard and so while it was wonderful to hear music from Taxi Driver performed in the second half alongside The Godfather (Isaacs favourite film) it was the finale that really made the evening. Starting with a few high-pitched notes we were given a live rendition of Hedwig’s Theme, a piece of music as synonymous with the Potter films as Daniel Radcliffe’s beaming face. The look on the face of my companion when they announced what we were about to hear (eyes and mouth both as wide as they could go) said it all, there was something a little magical about hearing such familiar music played live and with such skill.

Simon Mayo also popped in to discuss his favourite film which happens to be Amadeus which surprisingly enough features rather a lot of Mozart. Anyone who listens to Mayo and Kermode’s radio show can predict the sort of bickering that ensued.

As a fan of both Mark Kermode and film music in general this was a perfect night out for me and I was a little sad to see a fair few empty seats across the room. This micro tour has two more stops, tonight and tomorrow, and I highly recommend you go along. Each show is unique and so this really is a once in a lifetime experience.

The remaining performances are at The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester with David Arnold and Paddy Considine, and Symphony Hall in Birmingham with Jeremy Irons. For further information go to www.Kermodefilmmusic.co.uk

The Harry Potter Retrospective – The Adults

While the younger cast of the Harry Potter series may well have been works in progress, the adult roles were filled with pretty much every working actor in Britain with a familiar face. It was these actors who initially kept us coming back for more, without whom we may never have learnt to love the boy wizard and his chums. Below we run through our top fifteen of the adult performances across the eight films in alphabetical order. We tried to whittle it down with no success.

Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
Alan Rickman as Severus SnapeWe start with an actor whose performance has ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous, and often in the same film. As Harry’s most consistent antagonist Snape offered up an ambiguous character, often seeming to be more evil that he was. What makes Rickman’s performance legendary are his epic pauses and dangerously slow delivery, as if trying to get as much screen time as his brief dialogue will allow. In the final film Rickman delivers both his slowest speech and his most moving performance. There are few better in this list.

David Bradley as Argus Filch
David Bradley as Argus FilchIt’s hard to believe that in the earlier films the major danger was being caught out of bed by Filch, a far cry from the fantastical battles the franchise concludes with. While often a menace to our heroes, Filch was ultimately a fun character bringing two of the biggest laughs in the finale and a warm nostalgic feeling with them.
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The Harry Potter Retrospective – The Films

You may remember that last month we spent two nights at the BFI IMAX watching all seven Harry Potter films over the course of two nights. (Thanks BFI IMAX!) We finished our journey through the franchise on Monday night as we watched and scored Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. What follows is a run down of all eight films, written using the increasingly brief and incoherent notes we made at the time. Spoilers lie ahead.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
philosophers stone

In which Harry Potter learns he is a wizard, goes to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and defeats a teacher harbouring the evil wizard Voldemort at the back of his head.

We start the franchise with an over-long film with terrible acting, odd prosthetics and scenes bordering on pantomime. From the initial scenes with the Dursleys playing out as a knockabout comedy to the final showdown in which a man completely disintegrates, Christopher Columbus produced a completely uneven film which relies mostly on reaction shots for laughs. Horrible acting from the kids is made up for by sheer cuteness and ultimately the film is a bit better than you remember. 6/10

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
chamber of secrets

The series continues with Harry hearing voices and writing in a diary which writes back. Turns out that pesky diary was Voldemort again.

As the kids seem to have experienced a growth spurt since the previous film they are less cute and their acting has improved slightly to compensate. Early scenes at the Burrows with the Weasley parents are great but even Julie Walters can’t make exposition work properly. Jason Isaacs and Kenneth Branagh are pretty awesome but Christopher Columbus again fails to make anything remarkable happen. With students being attacked (but surviving) the series begins its journey into becoming “dark”. 6.5/10
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