Friday, March 28, 2008

Condor, You Shall Fly Again!

So now you can have your ashes launched to the moon. I don't feel the need to say much about this, but am instead using it as an excuse to plug one of my favortie (and one of the least talked-about) films of all time: Tony Richardson's The Loved One.
This is the picture Richardson decided to make after winning two of Tom Jones's four Oscars (Best Picture and Director both went to him). Haven't seen Jones? Go see it. The chicken scene is still as sexy and funny as ever. So Richardson comes off of a huge double whammy and has something close to carte blanche. He decides to adapt Evelyn Waugh's black comedy about the undertaking business in Hollywood. He does this with the help of screenwriter Terry Southern (who had just co-written Dr. Strangelove), and a cast that includes Robert Morse, Jonathan Winters (my favorite madman and Robin Williams's mentor), Milton Berle, James Coburn, Sir John Gielgud, Roddy McDowall, Rod Steiger, a young Paul Williams, and yes, Liberace. Some phrases I'll throw out to entice you: "Mama's little Joy-Boy want lobster," "last one in the box is a bad boy," "they told me you were hung with red protruding eyeballs and black protruding tongue." And Mr. Joyboy's mother... omg... one of the most amazing screen concoctions ever.
As if you need to know any more than that, the film bombed because it was a bit too grotesquely grim (even by today's standards, it makes Six Feet Under look like the bastion of good taste). It's hysterical, sad, twisted, and gorgeous (Haskell Wexler shot some amazing black and white). As much a meditation on the death of the golden age of Hollywood as it is about the commodification of mortality (and immortality), I think it still holds up, despite some moments that seem forever trapped in the 60's. Go see it, and you'll get the connection to the moon ashes article.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Boycott Bates

It might be fun to devote an entire blog to Neil Marshall's latest, Doomsday. The man loves his John Carpenter and his George Miller. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and let him call his film "homage" rather than "theft." But it might as well have been called Neil Marshall's John's Carpenter's Escape From Thunderdome. Of course, as butt-kicking as his hotties may be, I'll go with Snake Plissken or Max Rockatansky any day. Of course, we might as well throw 28 Days Later into the cinematic mix here, and this brings me to the most pressing issue.

A while back, I blogged about composer Tyler Bates' blatant theft of Elliot Goldenthal's score to Titus (Bates ripped off several tracks and inserted them into his score for 300). Turns out I didn't make it up. There was a lawsuit and Elliot won. When caught, Bates (pictured above) said in an interview I read online somewhere that Elliot's music was used as a temp track, and everyone fell so in love with it that they just reorchestrated and rerecorded that music, rather than write something new, or -- hey geniuses -- pay to borrow a track. Now the man is at it again. Go to iTunes and listen to "In the House - In a Heartbeat" by John Murphy, from the 28 Days Later score (the sample section is a bit before the better example... the heavy guitar riffs toward the end of the track). Done? Good, now listen to Bates' "Sinclair Slips Free" from Doomsday. It is mind-boggling to me that a man once caught so red-handed with musical plagiarism (a very grey area, I might add) would do it again. Is this pathological? What pieces have I not even noticed? I've never been a big 28 Days fan (that's another blog), but Murphy doesn't deserve this theft.

Producers, executives, filmmakers -- lend me your ears. Stop giving this man work. Sound the alarm. Tyler, if people insist on using rearranged temp tracks that aren't yours, do the right thing and take your name off those tracks. I'm tired of your wanting artistic ethics soiling movies I might otherwise like. I'm sure you'll say, "No, the music is homage to 28 Days, just as the film pays visual homage to Road Warrior and Escape From New York." Bull. You've copied a track, not just borrowed a theme. And if such tribute is really necessary, producers, just pay for the damn original track. I know it's expensive. But it's not as expensive as a lost lawsuit.

And for the record, the image above, which I vandalized in the style of Perez Hilton (hey Tyler, that's called citing your sources), was taken from Tyler Bates' website. I dare you, Mr. Bates, to send me a cease and desist letter for electronically manipulating and disseminating an image for which I hold no copyright. Coming from you, that would be really rich.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hate the Sin, Love the Mutant

It was announced yesterday that the Vatican has released "new sins for the modern age." The Holy See's new list includes these chestnuts (my paraphrasing):

Thou shalt not pollute the earth.

Thou shalt not indulge in excessive wealth.

Thou shalt not manipulate genetics.

Power to Big Daddy Benedict for doing his part to get things green. As for #2, I'll stay away from the inherent pitfalls of trying to define what constitutes "excessive." But the genetics line has me as bummed as a Nexus 6, but for different reasons.

Let's forget for a moment that the father of genetics, Gregor Mendel -- a man who crossbred flowers to create new species (thereby manipulating their genetic structure, gang) -- was an Augustinian Catholic Priest. That inconvenient truth aside, what the heck does the Pope -- or God, for that matter -- have against the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Godzilla, and Rutger Hauer? I mean, two-out-of-three of those parties have been known to save the world at least once.

Oh, right, I forgot: sanctity of life only applies to humans. Apparently, chickens and carnations don't have God in 'em. That's why we're allowed to eat meat and 'taters. You know, I like a nice lamb chop now and then. But does this edict mean that cloned Dolly chops are out-of-bounds? Should young ladies beware boyfriends bearing bouquets of Mendel hybrids? More importantly, what happens to test tube babies and future human specimens? I do believe that stem stell development and human cloning are as inevitable as colonizing space... so what will be the church's attitude to someone born of science, rather than of woman? Will those who've been cured of terminal illness by genetic therapy be deemed sinners? How about children whose parents chose their sex in utero? This seems to me a dangerous, vague line that Monsieur Pape has drawn in the Catholic sand.

By the way, I seem to write about Godzilla a lot.