Archive for the ‘bizarroFILM’ Category

bizarroFILM: Neill Blomkamp’s Chappie

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

the Chappie trailer

has arrived…

Chappie-Poster-SDCC

…one day when I rule the world with my nuclear-powered Jack Russells, mandatory sandwich-making classes and 24-hour funk rock soundtrack, I will ban movie trailers.

Trailers ruin everything and cause fanboys the world over to make a mess all over the floor that someone else has to clean up.

that all said, here is the trailer for Chappie, the new Neill Blomkamp movie with a robot.

onesheet

I enjoy Blomkamp’s style and vision – District 9 has the hallmarks, to me, of a real classic film that you can enjoy multiple times

  • sometimes even without drugs…

D9 has some great ambitious ideas, well executed with visual flair, reasonable acting and some good action…all the while doing things a little differently from the usual Hollywood cliché playbook.

I believe the original movie said what it wanted to say and that, contrary to what many have demanded, it does not need a sequel.

Chappie, judging by the general atmosphere and story in the trailer, is the movie Blomkamp has decided to make as a companion film that could be considered a D9 sequel…it might not be of the same universe , but it revolves around the same bizarre sun.

220px-Elysium_Poster

Blomkamp’s first post-D9 film, Elysium , was okay…needed a bit more focus and better casting. It is a typical sophomoric film from a rising new director wined, dined and having his pants charmed off by gushing (with wetness and money) Hollywood. The film has its moments – largely once again down to Sharlto Copley, who now embodies Chappie.

From the Chappie trailer there is not much to gather how Copley comes through as the motion-captured Chappie, but knowing his acting style – which while not award-winning, is unique and memorable (his Murdock is still the best part of the much unloved A-Team movie a couple of years back…) the Chappie character may get some flesh and bone in the main feature…as much as one can playing a robot.

Ninja-and-Yoland-Visser

I am not a fan of Die Antwoord…I am too old for that subversive, reactionary visual bullshit attached to bad music. But live and let live to Ninja and Yolandi, best of luck to them, it is still amazing they have managed to ride this wave of theirs for so long. Hipster Hollywood is notorious for its short attention span – so continuing endorsements by Depp, Marilyn Manson and others, have helped a lot in keeping them in the public eye even when the music has gotten more formulaic and their visual elements more outlandish but more redundant.

I am however a big Waddy Jones fan – I appreciate him as an artist, lyricist and his long list of ADD-riddled world domination schemes (of which Die Antwoord is the most successful “you finally did it Waddy,, and to think, all you had to go all whitetrash-gangsta to finally get your voice heard”)– everything he has done, from Original Evergreen to Max Normal, and all his various musical experiments and toy marketing escapades, and yes, even Ninja for the first five minutes when the whole Antwoord thing blow up in 2010/11 (? I stand corrected on this…) are all the hallmarks of a great artist and even a better -though slightly deluded – marketing genius.

Chappie_612x380

And so to: Chappie – where the universes and visions of Blomkamp and Die Antwoord collide…with Hugh Jackman and that guy out of Slumdog Millionaire along for the ride. All I can say really, is ‘wow…. and …uh?’ – what the heck?

Not going to pass judgement just yet on this, I think we owe it to Blomkamp, that he knows what he’s doing here…but, wow. If I was some Hollywood money-guy and you came to me with the idea of casting two relatively unknown and untested South African weirdo pop culture instigators in a multimillion-dollar movie, I would have shown you the door…to an insane asylum. But luckily, someone bought into Blomkamp’s idea and vision, and it may yet prove to be a gamechanging move…what’s next Jack Parow in the next Scorsese film? Until Chappie, I would have laughed…now that I think about it – that would be a great idea- someone hook up Jack with Marty.

Chappie, though, for now, promises interesting things – it looks good – that same steampunkish-Blade Runner in broad daylight vibe that made D9 so unique…obviously, as a South African, the almost-too-real near-dystopian Joburg setting is very cool – it is nice to see your own surroundings represented in such vivid Hollywoodness – another defining trademark of D9 .

That said, the fanboys around the world are already throwing around snarky “hey, it’s a Short Circuit reboot” and “Wall-E in Mzansi” comments about like a tortured hacky-sack…

http://uproxx.com/gammasquad/2014/11/chappie-hugh-jackman-neill-blomkamp-first-trailer/

Perhaps it all might turn out like that, there’s enough in the trailer to tell us that the plot revolves around Chappie the robot’s voyage of discovery in a hard cruel postmodern world, where he meets Ninja and Yolandi, stuff explodes, Hugh Jackson has a mullet, and Chappie ultimately finds his humanity,…or some such bullshit. Trailers just give away too much of the movie, it’s amazing we bother to see the damn flick at all.

Anyhoo…I’m excited to see it anyway, even if Ninja and Yolandi give me a bit of the groanies and the cringies…don’t stay by the phone, expecting a call from the Academy, Waddy.

In some weird sense of patriotism – in that it is hard to be proud of being South African these days (but that’s a story for another day) – I am glad someone as competent and talented as Blomkamp is choosing to tell the world his unique stories using an interesting (familiar but maybe not so familiar) South African context…

If we take anything away from this first evidence of Chappie, the film – in setting, cast and general aesthetic – will be one of the most bizarre films Hollywood ever put money on.

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bizarroFILM: BOONDOCK SAINTS

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

…mid-morning matinee at the Murciélargo Theatre…

Former bartender turned writer-director Troy Duffy, and his self-inflicted gunshot of a career is an interesting cautionary tale of how not to do business in Hollywood.

In 1997, Duffy, a rough and tough native of Boston’s notorious Southie neighbourhood, wrote and sold his first script, an ultra-violent fable of two Irish-American brothers pledging to wipe out Boston’s gangland  armed with unhealthy arsenals of guns and a heavy dose of Catholic guilt. Miramax studios and its head, the self-styled “most powerful man in Hollywood” Harvey Weinstein, whose instinct helped launch the careers of not only Quentin Tarentino, but also other important proponents of the 1990s new wave of original independent filmmakers including Robert Rodriguez and Kevin Smith, had hoped Duffy’s Boondock Saints would lead a second wave of this modern auteur trend into the 21st century for Miramax, a film company that at the time was on the crest of widespread commercial and critical success and progressively changing how Hollywood did business.

With good reason. The Saints script was hip and cool, full of quotable dialogue, strong characters and original stylistic ideas. Weinstein offered Duffy a $15 million budget to make Saints, with full creative control and a hefty piece of the profits. Weinstein even wooed Duffy by helping him buy the Hollywood bar where, up until then, Duffy had worked as a barman struggling to forge a career in Hollywood.

Troy Duffy was the toast of Tinseltown, a town that did not easily offer praise and recognition for a first time director from the wrong side of the tracks. The Saints project, fuelled by Miramax’s fervently streamlined and influential marketing machinery, was the hottest ticket in Hollywood, eliciting interest from some of Hollywood’s top players, including Mark Wahlberg, Keanu Reeves and Kenneth Branaugh. Duffy and his Boston entourage of blood brothers and boyhood friends, including aspiring documentary-makers Tony Montana and Mark Brian Smith whom Duffy allowed no-holds-barred access to the whole process of the film’s production, swore, drank, and fucked their way around Hollywood like lauded princes.

Within a few short weeks, even before production started on the film, and witnessed in painstaking detail through the lens of Montana and Smith  – later released to high-acclaim as possibly the first revenge-documentary ever (“Overnight”) – Duffy arrogantly overplayed his hand.

He managed, through a series of nasty Mussolini-worthy altercations with actors, agents and Miramax staff, to piss Weinstein off to the point that Miramax put the Saints into ‘turnaround’, effectively burying the project and influencing the Hollywood community so conclusively that no one in their right mind would defy the Weinstein/Miramax snub and offer to get the film made.

With advance money running out fast, a shunned, yet not shamed, Duffy continued to crash friendships and burn bridges. This defiant egotistical meltdown saw Duffy become both a Hollywood joke and cautionary tale. Unlike Tarentino or Rodriquez, who could still play the moviemaking game by their own rules, while confidently negotiating the Hollywood ground game of studios, talent agencies and the egos of actors by learning early on when to fold and when to raise, Troy Duffy, with a typical blue-collar Irish-American fight-mentality and blind belligerence, just didn’t know how to pick his opponents, and ultimately, when to shut the hell up.

Eventually, by 1999, after much hand-wringing, shouting and egg-shelled guidance from those who remained in his personal and professional circles, Duffy got the chance to finally make the Saints with a smaller independent production company, albeit at a grossly reduced budget, with a third-rung cast, and without the omnipotence of Harvey Weinstein and Miramax in his corner. The final product opened small in US theatres and some lesser independent film festivals, but gained a second life as a cult classic in the video/DVD market, largely overseas, thanks to some great, unexpected performances by Billy Connolly and Willem Defoe, as well as some elements of the film’s original vision that had made Hollywood sit up and notice the project in the first place. Troy Duffy, though, would not set foot on another film set nor get a chair in any Hollywood production meeting for the next eight years.

TRAILER FOR “OVERNIGHT” – the story behind the making of Boondock Saints

Despite its legendary cult status, the original Boondock Saints movie is a truly awful affair. A ugly, clunky film that gets by on a succession of increasingly violent and cartoonish set pieces, that largely involve the McManus brothers – as played by Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flannery – killing every motherfucker in the room, but not before saying a quiet Latin prayer to quell their conscience. A sort of Matrix for the junior NRA league, without the philosophy to distract from the gunplay.

While the vigilantism plot resonates with some good visual ideas and clever dialogue, these are few and far between in a movie that really looks like it chose style over substance, a badly executed style that captures the production’s whole uneasy and unpleasant incubation.

Inevitably, thanks to an almost Star Wars-like mythology built around the film and its characters by a small band of fans, Duffy wanted to capitalise on a return to the Saints story. In 2008, finally making parole from his cinematic naughty corner, Duffy was given the opportunity to flesh out, if not complete, the McManus brothers’ journey in Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day (BDS2).

As a filmmaker, at least, it seems Duffy hasn’t learnt his lesson, and, in BDS2, has made what essentially is the same film. While the movie industry, particularly independent film, has moved on and evolved in the eight to ten years that Troy had been in exile, he is left re-living and re-hashing a fantasy gangland of guns, God and giddy remorselessness with limited sandbox resources, which, in the end product, looks all rather childish and quaint in a post-9/11, Dark Knight movie universe.

That said, the sequel does have a few redeeming qualities. In and amongst one gunplay set piece after the next that falls short of being a full-blown symphony of unapologetic viciousness, and plotlines that recall the original’s more interesting characters and stylistic quirks, no new ground is covered. While a new element of the Boondock mythology – the origin story of the McManus patriarch, played again with surprising gravitas by Billy Connelly – is introduced, the concept seems to be tacked on as an afterthought and ultimately makes the movie feel a lot longer than it is.

While it’s nice to know that Billy Connelly is at least still around, he is but one small part of a larger uneasy ensemble, headed by Reedus and Flannery who bring nothing new to the lead roles that have some strong narrative and character potential but are not considered. Instead, Saints sidekick Romeo, as played by Clifton Collins Jr., gets all the best lines and people’s choice for most lovable character in a movie with very few lovable characters.

Remarkably, and almost unrecognisably, it is Julie Benz who snacks on the scenery in the role as the quirky and strange G-Man (G-Woman? G-Person?) on the Saints’ trail, a character that is a throwback feminine cover version of the original film’s drawling lawman played there by Willem Dafoe. Benz, whose most memorable breakout role – for me, anyway – was as the unsuspecting wallflower wife of an existential serial killer in the Dexter series, plays all out against type in BDS2. Sexy and sarcastic, she also plays it cool and sultry, and while she doesn’t hit all the bases in this consciously hammy homerun of a role, she is by far the best thing about the film.

Ironically, the two Boondock Saints films play less as documents of Troy Duffy’s film writing and making abilities, and more as footnotes to the real story to his tempestuous and volatile relationship with the Hollywood system. That weary tale, as detailed in the Overnight documentary and a handful of more recent recollections of his misadventures available on Youtube, supply the real action and drama, creating a legend worthy to be mutedly murmured about in studio boardrooms and at restaurant tables across Hollywoodland, alongside the great anti-establishment antics of other arrogant auteurs like Michael Cimino, Werner Herzog and the various Alan Smithee folklores.

*Post-script:  Despite a cool reception by critics and the public alike of BDS2, both films’ continuing cult status amongst a small audience has prompted Duffy, as of 2011, to begin work on a third Saints movie that would expand the MacManus universe further.  

bizarroFILM: Raising Batman PART 1

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

*spoiler alert*

Raising Batman:

exploring the Nolan Batman universe

PART 1

There is a great gag towards the end of Wayne’s World 2, where Mike Myers’ slacker hero walks into a quintessential American-movie gas station looking for directions. The elderly owner awkwardly begins to deliver a stunted, stuttering soliquay on whether to turn right or left on Gordon Street. Myers looks into the camera, breaking the fourth wall with one of his trademark Proto-Austin Powers lameduckfaces: “Seriously,” he asks, “is this the best we can get? I know it’s a small part, but surely we could get someone better.” On cue, the rest of the scene breaks character, and the old man is almost literally wheeled out and replaced with an actor of more biblical proportion. Charlton Heston articulates, with a ton of gravitas: “ah yes, Gordon street. I knew a girl who lived on Gordon Street, a beautiful girl. She broke my heart, that girl on Gordon street.” So filled with emotion and acting craft, it even brings Mike Myers to tears.  There are no small parts, just big actors, to alter an old Hollywood nugget.

(*okay, I didn’t get it all verbatim, but you get the idea. Sue me, I haven’t seen the WW2 movie in years…) 

This is a roundabout way of explaining how I have considered the pure genius of the Christopher Nolan Batman films since Year One: from the origin-story of Batman Begins (BB), through The Dark Knight (TDK) and now, finally, in more ways than one, The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR), his final swansong to the Batman universe. Nolan’s entire philosophy in approaching the series, and the comic book movie, as a whole, that of injecting a strong platform of realism, believability and the creation of solid, assuring link between audience and film in story, character and special effects, can be summed up in one word: casting.

These films would be nothing without the acting talent used to create this world.  This performance-centric approach is the number one building block in assuring us as filmgoers buy into this world, even though it is a comic book / super hero universe that can sometimes stretch plausibility and test our strongest resolve in flights of fantasy. The films work because the actors live and breathe characters, they are the story. Every part is a masterpiece, be it the leading man, supporting cast or bit-player – the great menacing character actor like William Fichter as a shotgun wielding bank manager in TDK, Eric Roberts’ star turn as mob boss Maroni (“Friends? Have you seen this guy”), a whatever-happened-to Matthew Modine and Tom Conti in TDKR spring to mind.

None of this applies more so than to Michael Caine as Alfred J. Pennyworth, manservant and foster father to billionaire Bruce Wayne, and all-round moral conscience of the Nolan Batman Universe. Taking nothing away from the other popular film performance of Alfred by Michael Gough (the only constant across the four previous Batman films of the 90s that included serving three Batmans, Chris O’Donnell in an earring and Alicia Silverstone in pouty lip-gloss. Brave, brave man, indeed.) But even Gough, an esteemed theatre actor but more famous for roles with schlocky British horror stable Hammer Films admitted that he approached the role, especially during the dayglo Joel Schumacher years as ‘hammy as a piece of cardboard’. For the most part, it worked well. Alfred served sandwiches and provided some highbrow comic relief. In the Nolan universe, Alfred needed to be much more than a jovial corner-man, he was required, as the character had been prone to be in over 70 years of stories in the comic books, an emotional center for not only Batman, but also Bruce Wayne, orphaned man-child with too much money, time on his hands and revenge on the mind. As played by Caine, Alfred is still the mister-fix-it, the clean-up guy and, yes, always ready with a humorous quip, but at heart, he is the soul of the Batman myth. No more so than in the TDKR, when things get seriously emotional, so much so that Nolan has to pull him out of the game for a while so the film can blow up a few things, (more about that shortly).  Granted, Michael Caine has not always been the stoic acting powerhouse we know and love today. He has made some god-awful choices in a long illustrious career (The Swarm, The Hand, to name two), but his Alfred is a hard earned bookend to a career that began with Alfie. And that’s just the butler.

Let’s not forget there’s Gary Oldman bringing a Methodical quietness to the bravery of a good cop in a bad world, Jim Gordon, another iconic Gotham player that has had many interpretations, the worst of which was Pat Hingle’s bungling magoo in the Burton/Schumacher years.

Many things can be forgiven, Tim Burton, but underutilising the all importance of Commissioner Gordon, yet another father figure in the Bruce Wayne/Batman psyche, cannot go unpunished.

Luckily, Nolan, with screenwriter brother Jonathan and David Goyer realised this from the beginning and over the three films, have patiently built the Gordon role into a very important one, with much dedication from Oldman in his portrayal of a relatively marginal character.

Lucius Fox is a modern addition to Batman legend, having only begun popping up in comics from 1979, when he was essentially a Q foil to Batman’s Bond, a position neatly filled in film by Morgan Freeman, who, like many of the parts he plays, God, Nelson Mandela, Alex Cross, completely owns in such a way that no one else would ever be able to do justice to it (‘was this your card, Tyler Perry?’). Freeman is a great actor, but he essentially plays himself, even when broad historical parts like Mandela require to him move slightly outside the Morgan enigma and range. Nearly impossible, but we love him for trying anyway. Fox is a small part, important yes, especially in BB and TDK, but by TDKR, he is simply along for the ride, offering complex technical information introduced in easily digestible sound bites delivered in his unique reassuring hip grandfatherly manner – no one says “it is highly volatile nuclear bomb, Mr Wayne” quite like God himself.

Naturally, the biggest casting slam-dunk and most universally associated element of the entire film series is Heath Ledger as The Joker in TDK. Anyone who has watched him eat scenery in films such as Monster’s Ball and Brokeback Mountain, and even in his breakout teen idol role in Ten Things I Hate About You, a run-of-the-mill teen comedy, can attest to his talent and an eerie dedication to his craft. Controversial as the announcement of his casting as The Joker was, with many thinking he was completely wrong for the part, a role already made iconic by not only  Jack Nicholson in Burton’s original 1989 Batman, but also the cultic reverence of Mark Hamill’s voice performance for the character over various animated versions of Batman, Nolan held true to his vision that the part needed to be re-evaluated and rebooted by a competent serious actor, as opposed to a movie star, in order to make the film series truly unique and a standalone from the rest of the Batman cinematic mythology. It worked, we were all blown away by it, and the role earned instant cult status – named by many serious film analysis media as Greatest. Villain. EVER. –  An accolade more vital and relevant than his much earned, though much placated posthumous Oscar win.  Ledger’s death, months before the film released in 2008, added to the mystique of the role and his performance, but even if he had not died, many still feel he would have and could have sustained and expanded the role substantially if needed. Luckily the performance survives.

His presence is still felt in TDKR, even if Nolan himself as gone on record saying that the new third film will not reference the character, as respect to the memory of Heath Ledger who died after completing the role. Naturally, the comparisons with Tom Hardy’s Bane are inevitable.

Bane, as created by Chuck Dixon for the comic book in 1993, is a formidable foe to Batman. Originally imagined as a vague South American freak of nature, whose strength and blindly evil manipulation techniques challenged Batman on both a physical and intellectual level, quite different from the usual rogues’ gallery of villains, such as The Joker and The Riddler, who were determined to oppose and undermine the Batman psychologically? Quite literally, in the comic series Knightfall, Bane broke Batman, both his back and his invulnerability. In his only past film appearance, the Bane character has not being treated well. In Batman & Robin, Joel Schumacher’s ice-cold Vegas-style embarrassment, Bane is a monosyllabic battering ram in the service of Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy – the film’s only saving grace, at a stretch – he is pure comic book, Archie on steroids kind of comic book.

The power of Bane as envisioned by his creator and in the original graphic novels is pure jarring powerhouse strength combined with the mind of a terrorist. And that is how we are introduced to him in the TDKR prologue, an ambitious Bond-bombastic aerial showpiece, involving, inexplicably, the CIA and a Russian nuclear scientist. Thanks to the opening scene of the precursing TDK, which unwrapped Ledger’s Joker in all his IMAX glory, this Bane introduction is a poor cover version with little or no pure awesomeness. We do however get a good look at the Bane as envisioned by Nolan. At face value Bane is indeed very scary. A masked concrete wall, looking like a cross between a pro-wrestler and Predator, it is his voice that is the most chilling aspect of his character. Sounding like Darth Vader after a few whiskies, the voice is a jarring disembodiment from the visual body. Tom Hardy is brave enough to allow the mask to fill out his character. Doubts are that any other ordinary Hollywood star in the same role would have the patience or the suspended vanity to keep it on for the entire film – Chris Evans’ Captain America is the most recent example. Having looked at a few of Hardy’s previous star turns in a wide variety of films in anticipation for his Bane, more notably his lovable closeted gangster in Guy Ritchie’s Rock N Rolla and suave surefooted scene-stealing role in Nolan’s own Inception, the realisation is he is versatile and courageous. He has to hide behind Bane, he is unrecognisable, and if the Oscars had Best Supporting Crazy Eyes category, he would win it single-handedly.

Much has been said about the sound quality of the Bane voice in the film, and like the similar scandal around the bass overkill on the Batman voice in TDK, it is something you have to just live with. Here, while sometimes inconsistent and unintelligible, the Bane voice is distracting, but not enough to get the plot moving along. Together with the mask, the bulging eyes alternating between dead and bulging furious and the voice, Hardy’s Bane is pure steampunk Hitler. Frightening. There is no comparison with Ledger’s Joker, they are two separate animals. TDK’s Joker was a little more rock n roll bad boy, his deceit lying in that if you got him on good day you might still want to share a needle and chuckle with him on good terms. Bane is pure business, and no mercy, and once entered into crushing mano-on-mano knuckled down fist fight, The Dark Knight himself struggles to Rise against him (at first). As anyone who has struggled, like me for three months against Bane in the first level Boss Battle of the Arkham Asylum game will tell you, there is no escape.

So what of Christian Bale’s Batman? It is after all his movie, his story that needs to be completed here. When Bale was firstly introduced in the first Batman Begins, I was confident he could carry the role, in both Batman and Bruce Wayne guises. Though he did take Wayne into Patrick Bateman –the role Bale made infamous and indelible in the filmed version of Brett Easton Ellis’ American Psycho – territory once in a while, making it difficult to buy the tortured hero element at times, Bale is at his the best in the Batsuit, and by far he is the best film Batman, compared to Keaton, Kilmer and Clooney. The knack is he brings a much needed anonymity to the Batman legend in order for us to buy the character, which the other Batmans have struggled to shake. Thanks to some fresh, innovative and very organic costume design – no bat nipples in this trilogy – Bale can move and hide in the suit, bringing the Batman to life, making this yang to Wayne’s ying spark with life and breath and awarding the Batman a separate iconic status that is sorely needed to transfer from the original comic stories to the big screen.

(to be continued)

bizarroFILM – The Fan Film Strikes Back

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

The Fan Film Strikes Back

(article originally contributed to the CELL C blog April 2012)

Trekkies, Potter-Heads, Twi-Hards. Fans. Every generation has them, and the relationship between pop culture trends of film, television, comics and books, and their fans is a passionate and often ardently obsessive one. At comic book conventions, midnight screenings and online, these fans gather to share this passion, and none more so than through the creation of fanfiction, and in particular, the fan film.

The fan film is one of the more definitive pop culture artefacts of the technological age, by virtue of consciously blurring the distinction between the mere consumption of the products of pop culture, and being an active and creative participant in not only the expansion of these narrative universes, but also, on a philosophical level, de-constructing and re-interpreting the ideas of the original authors. Simply, the fan film, and its precursor, fanfiction, is the most extreme form of fandom, the act of being personally involved in continuing a legacy.

By no means a completely modern phenomenon (fans of Cervantes’ Don Quixote were adding to the canon when the author had long abandoned it in the 17th century, while Warhol, during the 1960s, crossed the legends of Batman and Dracula in a film that many consider the first modern example of the fan film), the art of the fan film has been greatly aided by advances in video and internet technology over the last ten to fifteen years. While originally conceived within the realm of science fiction, largely the Star Trek and Star Wars canons, today fan films can appropriate any genre, from the fantasy of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, teen dramas like Twilight and The Hunger Games and even, more popularly, the DC and Marvel comic book universes.

A random search of Youtube brings up thousands of examples of fan films, from the direly amateurish to the slickly professional, in all shapes, lengths and forms, from full length recreations such as Star Wars: Uncut (see below), original short films like Apocalypse Oz, a blend of Apocalypse Now and Wizard Of Oz narratives skewed through a distinctively Lynchian lens,re-cut and re-imagined trailers such as the legendary Shining As Romantic Comedy re-edit that turned Kubrick’s icy psychological horror into a light-hearted family romp, thanks to some cleverly edited voice-overs and Peter Gabriel’s uplifting Solsbury Hill as a soundtrack.

The most ambitious, and possibly the most participatory project of the fan film genre, is Star Wars: Uncut, the 2010/11 fan film remake of Star Wars: A New Hope (the original 1977 film), a shot-for-shot recreation made from 473 fifteen-second segments created and submitted by fans from across the world.

Star Wars creator George Lucas has throughout the years had a love-hate relationship with fanfiction. With a firm foundation for the Star Wars universe already created through the six official films, a shrewd Lucas has only signed off on various limited legitimate offshoots and explorations of his creation through books, games and TV series, but has been known to criticise and vehemently embargo most unofficial fan-made films and fictions, particular those that use his most famous character, Darth Vader. However, in recent years and due to the sheer volume of interest and fans’ willingness to add to the canon, Lucas has cooled to and even embraced fans’ contribution, not only offering a set of official rules and guidelines (most notably, the strict no-pornography rule) for fanfiction, but amazingly, even creating the Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards in recognition of some of the more worthy and original efforts. While other film studios and publishers continue to cry foul over copyright infringement and the legality of fanfiction and film, this high profile endorsement by Lucas has gone a long way to legitimise the genre as a whole.

Star Wars: Uncut was conceived by developer Casey Pugh, recruiting fans to submit recreations of specific 15-second scenes from the Star Wars film. Rules were simple: maintain the original dialogue and script direction, but everything else was fair game and free range. The response was overwhelming, and each segment a gem. While some contributions seem more professionally produced, using either computer or stop motion animation, or faithful live action recreations, the most enduring parts of the film are the everyday fans’ idea of how a Star Wars should look like. Every conceivable concept was used, from kids using moms painted gold to play C-3PO and the family vacuum cleaner as R2D2, grown men and women dressed in tin foil and swinging cardboard tubes around as light sabres, to more high-brow homages to and parodies of other recognisable pop culture iconography, like Tarentino films, the Beatles and American Idol. Whether deliberately crude and low-budget, or unintentionally Humourous and fun, the film is a joyous affair for not only the makers, but for the viewer, particularly Star Wars fans.

The film won a creative arts Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Interactive Media in 2010, and has enjoyed over three million views on Youtube; not bad considering the film is a lengthy two hours. While George Lucas has yet to comment on the film, many consider it the Citizen Kane of fan film art, going a long way to bring the concept to the general public. Versions of Empire Strike Back and Return of the Jedi are currently in production and awaiting contributions at: http://www.starwarsuncut.com/

Inside the Murciélago Theatre: NAKED LUNCH

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

OVERHEARD at The Murciélago Theatre of Late Night Bizarreness :

Caffeinated verbal riffage and mangled metaphors from that weirdo in the back row at the midnight show.

NAKED LUNCH

I first saw Naked Lunch when I was 15 years old. I had never read the original book, hadn’t even touched a cigarette in my short and uneventful life. And much like Nelson Muntz mused after watching the film in an episode of The Simpsons,

I, too, thought, rather flippantly, “there are two things very wrong with that title.”

Years later, through the many empty bottles of scotch raucously smashed on my street of youthful rebellion, many thousands of philosophically smoked cigarettes and a joint rolling talent prodigiously practiced yet scandalously under-developed, I finally felt adequately qualified to revisit the musings of Old Bill Lee again.

Being of the belief that, while millions may have bought Naked Lunch, the book, only two people in the entire world have actually finished reading it. (If you believe the urban legend, even William Burroughs didn’t read it.)

We can all agree, that while the book looks cool on the shelf, between Steppenwolf and a half eaten bar of oily Moroccan Mars Bar, the text itself is in dire need of good rogering by a sub-editor, perhaps more than a smidge of plot and maybe a couple of fun musical numbers.

Carnivorous Canuck and video-nasty auteur David Cronenberg, in tackling Naked Lunch, the film, has tried to at least solve half the problem, using the guy who played Robocop.

Frakensteining a somewhat linear narrative using details from Burroughs’ early life, including veiled, but healthy cameos from Kerouac and Ginsberg, as well as the infamous William Tell-like killing of wife Joan, Cronenberg jury-rigs the film’s aesthetic with some of the pharmaceutical phantasmagoria that defined Burroughs and his literary alter-ego, exterminator-at-large Bill Lee’s unrequited search, through the haze of drug addiction and sexual uncertainty for a foothold to his writing talent.

Infused with the book’s most iconic devices, Dr Benway, Interzone, Mugwup and its Jism, Cronenberg regurgitates up a half masticated metaphysical spy story plot with a needle in its arm into the grimy bowl of a North African public convenience. Its dirty, its paranoid, its got freaky dry humping sex and typewriters with talking assholes, whose dodgy animatronics look more humourous than horrific in this CGI day and age. It’s all a lot of fun, until someone gets a bullet in the head (again) and the entire North African seaboard are all terribly offended by cheap stereotypes.  The sign on the elegantly crafted door says “Go to Ibiza, you depraved infidels”.

Peter Weller, Robocop to you and I, excels in the itchy skin of Burroughs/Lee, getting the voice and mannerisms down pat, without going too far off the edge of caricature canyon. As for the supporting cast, watching their performances, you could half imagine them off duty around the craft service table, late in the day, slapping each other on the back, saying things like “can you believe this shit?” and “can you believe we’re getting paid for this stuff?” and “I hear Cronenberg’s buying after work”.

Roy Schneider, however, filling out the all too brief appearances as the infamous Dr Benway, is under-utilised and unsure of himself, as he retreats back to his trailer, quietly muttering to himself: I’m going to need a better agent.

If you’re looking for answers here, probably best you move along swiftly, but if you like typewriters, noisy Ornette Coleman music and stuff that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, then Naked Lunch is on you.

 

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