Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Halloween franchise

If there's only one thing I have learned over the years, the Halloween franchise is and has always been, as one person said, "on fumes."  The original John Carpenter film's intent has alway been 'less is more', and so everything after is an uphill battle.  If you continue to show less you fall into the category of copycat and are redundant.  If you show more backstory, you become redundant also because Michael Myers' archetype is built on not knowing his motivation.  He just is.  There is a track record of 30 years of sequels that do not come even remotely close to the original to back that up.  I believe fandom is the worst.  It's all about new (and old) fans alike with a neverending appetite for The Shape based on some vein hope that their needs will be met.  It's really just childhoold nostalgia.  The horror genre, particularly "slashers", are limiting to begin with.  How much can a director/writer do with a knife-wielding maniac going around slaying innocent victims?  Not much, except make the kills more "cool," which is limiting in itself sense the kills become more important than story.  It's an endless loophole.  I'm saying this from the perspective from someone who has seen ALL the Halloweens, and as an older (though not "old" haha) person, it's time to just let em go.  My support for the series is to the extent of buying the blurays of the original and the 1981 sequel.  He died.  I accept it.  But it doesn't mean I need more of the godawfulness of them.  It took some maturity to come to that point.  Carpenter knew that nothing else could be done and left, only having a mild hand in II and doing the score in III.  His mild hand in those two extra films had a great deal of impact because they felt like they were his films even though he didn't direct them.  The other crucial piece was photographer Dean Cundey who still maintained Myers as an unstoppable force of nature, something the entire Myers catalog after never achieved.  The killer's penultimate moment ironically came in the sequel during the hospital room scene, being called by his name, tilting his head briefly as if to remember his "human" form for a moment before withstand two shots to the eyes and still unstoppable as ever.  The film itself is nothing special, but Cundey's shadowed photography is forever etched in my memory.  Now all Myers is is some lump in a mask without any of the mythological context.

My real crux with fandom, even hatred sadly, lies in part III.  I personally find the film to be rather hollow, but at least they TRIED to do something different with the franchise.  Yet fandom presumably insisted on 1988s Return Of Michael Myers.  25+ years later what is there to show for it?  Not much.  It gets back to what a person said:

Because making something up from scratch that's crappy is 'like totally last year'. Hooray for rehashed crap!

I would rather fail going down a path with the loosest sketches of Halloween's origins at this point than to fail doing the same old thing.  It's a good motto for life I think.

Then there's this jacka--.....

People aren't tired of Halloween movies. They're tired of Rob Zombie destroying them.

Maybe the premise is backwards?  People should be tired of the franchise.  Zombie didn't exactly do the series a world of good.  He may have even nailed the coffin on it for a long time to come, but the franchise has always been a broken record.

...but it’s not like anyone seems to be shooting for high art with this series anymore.

Jeez, that came from a columnist.  It never was "high art," except for the original.  See John Carpenter gets a dual benefit from having the franchise continue.  He receives a nice check in the mail because presumably he has proprietary rights, and he also benefits from not having his name attached to the most recent installment that will eventually be forgotten.  If you ask me it's a good gig!

Part 6's The Curse of Michael Myers is another great illustration of fandom.  The original script writer wanted to sew the "thorn" ideas together, but what went in the final edit was not his vision.  There were some bare sketches still intact, and the alternate ending, even if a little cooky, at least again it TRIED to explain some sh-t.  The "cut" ending to these eyes, while lacking kills, felt refreshing, had a great deal of suspense, and was even scary.  But the producers knew better than the fans themselves.  Why?  Do you really believe fans wanted all that backstory over body count?  Gimme a f--king break! 

2007 remake
Given all of this, is there a silver lining to this production? One compliment that's been thrown out there is that at least it's Zombie's vision all the way -- or is it? When rumors of the reshoots popped up promising more deaths and an extended ending, the filmmaker scoffed at the idea, sizing it up to Internet lunacy. The official response was that Bob Weinstein offered more money to help juice up the production any way that Rob wanted, so the timeline of the film was played with, opening things up for a few more cameos along the way (including key members of the Rejects alumni -- Sid Haig and Bill Moseley). Additionally, the director has said that the ending was reworked to give Laurie a more satisfying arc, but if that's true, then he missed the point even more the second time around, studio interference or not. Either way, one thing no one counted on was a workprint copy leaking onto the Internet the week of release, not only raising the piracy flag in Tinseltown, but allowing an interesting peek at what the picture looked like before the notorious Weinstein Company waved more money around. Reportedly gone is the Texas Chainsaw-tinged ending, as well as the absurd chain-breaking escape from the hospital. In their place, grounded character work that allows for a richer Halloween experience than the cut-and-paste one that made its way onto the big screen. Sadly, it seems that audiences lost out again, making this yet another Halloween sequel that's been tampered with before its theatrical release. What's even worse is that this looks to be a monumental step back creatively for Rob Zombie, who for whatever reason, has delivered what many outside his loyal following would consider to be a colossal waste of time." -Jeremy Wheeler

In addition, Dr Wolfula's review highlights how the 2007 remake actually clones sequences and dialogue word-for-word in the second act from the original. (I believe there is only two acts in the remake.)  There isn't a whole lot of incentive on the producers part to do any more when the film grosses nearly $80 million worldwide and another $39 million in DVD sales.  The numbers don't lie.  Two of the franchises safest entries, H20 and the 2007 "remake" (or redo, get it?), also made the biggest profits.  The former was largely based on Jamie Lee Curtis' star power.  Because all Michael really does is follow her to her teaching grounds, kills a bunch of dumb students, and gets his head chopped off.  Nothing real groundbreaking there. And knowing Myers' entire motivation in the remake is based on his trash family upbringings is hardly what I have been waiting for all these years.  So if you haven't already figured it out, the moral of the story is fandom really doesn't want anything fresh to come from it.  We complain about it being rehashed, but then we go right back to it.  It doesn't say a lot about us.

As another once said bluntly, "No, just end the franchise."  Until the next one that is.....

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Simple Minds "Don't You (Forget About Me)" video

The video to the much-heralded "Don't You (Forget About Me)" won't win many awards (nor should it), but it is an admirable attempt at 'creating more with less' on a shoestring budget.  The #1 charter by the Simple Minds has been described as "The" New Wave song, as well as being the "anthem" and "centerpiece" of the '80s soundtrack.  Thus the video itself is viewed as more a mechanism to its nostalgia I suppose.

On the creative inspiration, video director Daniel Kleinman noted:

In the ’80s I was doing a lot of music videos, and I’d also done a couple of music videos that incorporated movies. So I didn’t actively pursue “Don’t You (Forget About Me).” I got sent the track and wrote an idea for it. But weirdly what got made wasn’t actually my first idea. I was going to do something like a Northern English realist film about a man coming home to his roots after being away for a long time. I was going to make it shot like a documentary style and very emotive and whatever. I think a couple of the problems, one was originally, they weren’t very interested in having any footage of The Breakfast Club in the video. Then subsequently, I found out that it was really important that there was quite a lot of the film in the video.

So that didn’t really fit with my original idea, and it was a timing issue, so I had to come up with another idea very quickly which is what ended up getting made. It’s a kind of surreal idea but originally, my thought was based on a photo I saw, of someone standing in front of every single thing they’d ever bought in their entire life. So starting out with stuff with your parents buy for you when you’re a kid and then stuff you buy when you’re a young school kid and then a teenager and then as you get older, and what you buy to put in a house. I thought what happens if you’re in a room and this room starts filling up with all the stuff that you buy over your entire life?

The video "takes place on a dancing floor in a dark room with a chandelier, a rocking horse and television sets, displaying scenes from The Breakfast Club."  And John Leland from Spin accurately pointed out, "'Don't You Forget About Me,' a romantic and melancholy dance track, therefore cuts ice both in the living room and on the dance floor."

However, the irony is the film clips from the movie are included far less than Daniel Kleinman suggested at the time.  Some of it most memorable moments are interspersed on random tv sets, but what attributes the video has is in its direction.  The video is plotless and nonsensical, but technically band members are in the background while frontman Jim Kerr is in the foreground to a panoramic lens.  There are cuts & fades, high-low shots, and long shots followed by zoom-ins.  Junk items (antiques?) are thrown everywhere.  I imagine it to be one of the most tedious videos ever to make in the studio, but its artistic merit is with the camera and editing.  Just about every trick in the book is employed here.  It is creative in its minimalism, and its attention to space is phenomenal.  It won't ever rise on the level of the movie's soundtrack, nor should it, but given the context of what the director is working with, it is a prime example again of how shoestring budgeted projects produce some of the best results because they force you to be more creative. 

So 'Don't You (Forget About Me).'  Grade: B


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

three '60s songs

While there are many, I feel these three songs capture the essence of the '60s the best...

Youngbloods' "Get Together"

Scott McKenzie's "San Francisco"

And the Zombies' "Time of the Season"

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Halloween II (1981)

At the heart of what continues to make Halloween II appealing to fans is The Shape, as "the embodiment of evil", came to its fruition.  The sequel was a continuation of the original and therefore was shot strictly at night during the remaining hours of Halloween, giving Myers an even more distinctive legend.  The killer, as animal, lurked in the shadows before attacking his victims.  With expert photography from Dean Cundey, Myers was solid in body yet silhouette in night's shade.  The photographer had even more film time to capture this vision.

It has been repeated that Dick Warlock had nowhere near the grace of the original Myers played by Nick Castle.  Myers is more robotic in his movements, and while agreeing with that, I think his portrayal works.  By being a methodological killer in pace, it brings out a single-minded determination in Myers that displays how the killer's only purpose in life is to kill his sister Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis).  It creates even more menace to see this killer crash through a glass hospital entrance than to rip open the door.  There are no human characteristics left in him except to move from Point A to Point B.

Director John Carpenter had to "re-shoot" some of newcomer Rick Rosenthal's scenes as presumably the kills were not gorrific enough for its viewer base.  There's a nurse laying on an operating table being drained of her blood intravenously, or another nurse being scalded to death with her face in a hot tub. (I think the sickest has to be of a mother rushing her boy to the hospital after he bit into a piece of candy with a hook in it.)  Some of these kills add decoration but provide little consistency with who Myers is.

Another criticism is the lack of film time Laurie Strode has.  Producer/co-writer Deborah Hill even said as much.  However, Halloween II, as a continuation, makes sense.  Wouldn't Laurie have been treated at a hospital for injury and trauma?  What minimal time Curtis has is affective.  Why ME?!, regarding her lack of understanding as to why Myers is hunting her.  Or Don't let them put me to sleep!, when the last thing she needs from the doctor is to be put to sleep.  Her terrified expression says it all.  She's helpless in stopping Michael Myers.  Even worse, she's helpless from the people around her as they cannot see it (or refuse to).

Two of the penultimate moments that capture Myers as mythological legend are ironically in the sequel.  As a nurse enters the doctor's office she discovers to her horror he has a needle in his eye.  Taken aback with the glow of an aquarium in the background, the light dials up to show the featureless mask of Myers and her demise.

The other is the conclusion; after warning Myers by name, the killer tilts his head and drops his knife, as if just for a brief moment to remember who he was.  Then resume to proceed towards Laurie before being shot twice in the eyes.  Myer's is blinded yet still flailing with the knife with single-minded determination.  He is the ultimate unstoppable force, something that was never truly captured with Jason or Freddie Kruger.  Myers could be wounded by stabbing or slugs, but he didn't feel them.  He was stunned but didn't display the human characteristic of pain since there was nothing human left.  He just suddenly dropped.  During the conclusion when Myers was lit ablaze by the release of gases, he didn't drop from pain or a lack of will, but his internal organs couldn't withstand the damage the fires caused.  He was still pushing determinedly towards Laurie.  This, more than anything else, is why Michael Myers will always live on in the horror cannon.  John Carpenter understood this minimalism and took it to the ultimate level as a human only by form with powers beyond comprehension.


Sunday, July 07, 2013

The Verve notes

When the band was still together, I wish they'd ditched all those strings, especially live.  There are exceptions, like "Bitter Sweet Symphony," which was absolutely necessary to the song's impact, but McCabe was the creative focal point and smacked a little bit of predictability.  By this time on "Urban Hymns" Nick was a background presence.  The band arguably became too much about Richard.  No diss.  He should get all the credit in the world for The Drugs Don't Work, So Sister, etc, but the band had veered too far into the realm of traditional songwriting composition.  I don't have the details, but I imagine one of the frictions between the two was Richard wanted to embrace what fame had to offer, and that included an identity with the people via traditional songwriting.  McCabe is quoted as saying he doesn't like ballads, or I assume he doesn't favor traditional ballads.  "Where the Geese Go" and "6 O'Clock" at best are loosely categorized as 'ballads' but really are not, especially the former.  There is no escaping tradional songwriting structure (verse-chorus-verse, etc), but without those unmoving principles by McCabe those songs would never have been possible. (When producer Owen Morris said, 'You can ask Noel Gallagher to play the same guitar line a hundred times and, as long as there's a good reason, he'll do it. With Nick, you've got no chance. He just doesn't want to.')

In the end, I suppose the road The Verve chose was a happy medium.  McCabe, by choice, had to move on from ASIH-era, and at the same time I imagine he could never recapture that period.  They were never the same, and it depends upon your perspective of if the glass is half-full or half-empty.  Each album after is inferior to the one before (ASIH>ANS>UH>F), and we Verve fans should just be grateful for 1993-94.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pearl Jam's "Oceans" video

Where a video like Guns N' Roses' Patience is mired by its pretense and rock cliche (due to its back story), Pearl Jam's "Oceans" takes footage from a natural environment.  The band had apparently vacationed somewhere in Hawaii in 1992, after their debut album "Ten" had taken off the previous year.  You can see planes flying, a man cliff jumping, surfing, and other natural footage.  The band are photographed at their leisurely, and given the timing it feels like a subtle yet powerful reminder of the explosion that took place in 1991.

"Patience" does nothing to enhance GNR's reputation as rock gods.  They already were.  But "Oceans" does add a dramatic layer of rock iconography.  The editing is effortless and seamless; and maybe the most memorable image ingrained is Vedder stage diving into the crowd while the picture bleeds into ocean waves flowing onto shore.  The music's buildup gives the feeling of immediacy.

Despite being overshadowed by "Jeremy," this is one of the finest examples of video editing ever.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Verve: essential albums

I will update these recs with more detail later.  I'm just trying to get them down for now for the beginner.  I go with their early years exclusively as they are the more ethereal sounding...

1. A Storm In Heaven (1993)
2. She's A Superstar single (1992)
3. No Come Down (b-sides, 1993-94)
4. The Verve EP (1992)

After that it becomes difficult to pinpoint if it should be Gravity Grave, All In the Mind, or Slide Away singles.  I would not add Blue because they contain acoustic versions which are inferior to the original versions.