Sunday, 30 October 2011
Tuesday, 18 October 2011
The Hero, Papa
Sixteen-year-old Papa was believed to be orphaned in Louisiana, found at a crossroads in New Orleans in the French Quarter. Papa has exhibited supernatural abilities, which are unexplained, but has lived a carefree life and was always attuned with his surroundings. Papa like any other teen attended High School, and was of medium height with a physically strong build owing to his athletic pursuits. However, school life was more than just part-time, it consumed all his life, adopted by the school’s headmaster, Samuel Edi, many years ago. Papa was forced by his stepfather to excel at all his endeavors, and he loved athletics and gave it all his attention, and he was the best. However, his talents on the field failed to ensure him popularity, as he was still the head-masters son, and everyone despised the head. Papa was always at odds with his stepfather, never wanting to partake in the father’s occult activities, shunning it for sports and other so-called petty activities. He believes his hair is sacred, not permitting Samuel to touch it, while personally maintaining an almost round mini-afro. When Papa was adopted he had few personal belongings, and cared not for material things. He attired himself donning an unsuitable match of clothes: a long white hooded mac with schoolboy shorts and a plain T-shirt; shoes he found uncomfortable, saying the earth beneath his feet made him run faster. The only item that Papa could call his own was a pendant of an axe, which hung in a chain clasped around his neck. The axe is enchanted and it along with his many supernatural abilities (none so prominent than the gift of sight, which gives him the power to see ghosts and into the world of spirit) allowed him many adventures only a few could share with him.
Legba, Papa’s axe and Sidekick
Papa’s axe, Legba was a mystery to him, but he was told that it was a gift bestowed to him by his real parents. Legba, although miniature in size and able to be worn around his neck, would grow to a formidable size when Papa whistled a special tune. Once enlarged Legba could communicate with Papa, able to answer any question put to him, usually after he had been fed. Legba also appeared as a very plump schoolboy wearing only shorts and a vest. Although humanoid in shape and features, one half of his body was black and the other white. Legba had a huge appetite and loved sweat things, but what he loved the most was to eat lost souls and one day he promised to eat Papa himself. Legba, when wielded could discharge incalculable levels of lightening; however, only Papa could command him and he would shrink back to his normal size when handled by any other.
Known only as, Samedi, this tall slender man commands authority in his school with his sharp features and lifeless eyes. Born, raised and taught the mysteries of voodoo in the Louisiana Bayou, Samedi is very proud of his roots, and will not tolerate any break from his tradition. As you have gathered Samedi, although Papa’s stepfather, hates him. Nevertheless, in the Samedi puts up with him wanting more than anything else to possess the axe Legba. His hypocrisy has taken a toll on Samedi, who is no longer able to constrain his hatred, overwhelming him and poisoning the other staff and pupils against Papa. His hatred has permeated far into the spirit world, thus converting innocent spirits to his dark will, pitting them against that which initiated his blind lust and now hate, Papa. Fashioned in an immaculately cut black suite with a tall top hat, Samedi carries, Dambala, a walking stick through which to wield his hidden power. As the darkness overwhelms him, Samedi acquires an uncanny ability to use malevolent powers, and along with Dambala, which also can see ghosts, he poses a dire threat to benevolent beings and people.
Dambala, Samedi’s walking stick
Dambala was the ancestral staff of power, which was handed down from one Occult master to another. The head of the staff resembled a hooded cobra with gems for eyes that could bewitch the strongest of wills. The Fire of Dambala was the essence of the staff’s power and along with its ability to control any flame, it was also able to project fire from the cobra’s open mouth. Much like Papa’s, Legba, Dambala could talk, but could not take any other form, and always reminded Samedi of his proud and distinguished lineage, carefully caressing his fragile pride.
Monday, 17 October 2011
Best Worst Movie is a documentary following the subsequent making and release of Troll 2. Written and directed by Michael Stephenson, the documentary catches up with the director, crew and cast, including one of the stars, George Hardy. Troll 2, is a B-movie made in 1990 by Italian director Claudio Fragasso and written by Rossella Drudi, Fragasso’s wife.
David Cornelius from efilmcritic describes Troll 2, “’Troll 2’ also features some of the worst acting you’ll ever have the pleasure of seeing, combined with a screenplay that gives new meaning to the word inept and special effects that skyrocketed the budget into the dozens of dollars” (Cornelius, 2011). Nevertheless, Best Worst Movie has uncovered a hidden gem within Troll 2 that defies critic’s conventional good or bad ratings. This documentary with George Hardy explores the undefined enjoyment it has brought to audiences across the United States. There are no immediate ingredients in a film that gives it cult infamy; it is usually a dedicated group of movie fans that usually has elevated a film to cult status. Whether good or bad acting, great or terrible special effects, those devoted and specific groups of fans usually bond over some obscure element of the film from which they derive pleasure. For Troll 2, fortunately all that usually makes a film bad made this one good. The actors of Troll 2, many of them amateurs, agreed that everything about the film was bad. Allowing them to participate openly and transparently in the documentary, the cast was given the opportunity to aid in the development of Troll 2’s cult status. Audiences though in small groups, travelled across the United States to see this film in selected cinemas, and they along with the cast openly mocked the film, laughing where there should have been no laughter. Laughter continued throughout the film's entirety, usually at the distress of Troll 2’s director, Claudio Fragasso. Fragasso was unable to grasp the concept of the film’s infamy, the fact that people loved it because it was so bad. He constantly berated the cast and audiences at special viewings whose views did not coincide with his opinion that he had made a good film, a film he claimed told the story of every day people. With the cast's views in constant opposition to his, the documentary itself played out an unforeseen drama between the director and practically everybody else. Best Worst Movie has allowed people to explore what makes a good movie, or a bad one. Although the ability to laugh out loud at the film is positive, a major 'yes', as an ingredient in a limited budget production, there is no certainty it will reach cult status. That 'accolade' is left usually to film fanatics who have seen it all and need something 'different' in their lives to somewhat break the monotony of traditionally made films.
Lost in La Mancha is a documentary by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe of Terry Gilliam’s attempt to create his long-time obsession of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, featuring Terry Gilliam as himself, Johnny Depp as himself, Jean Rochefort as himself, and narrated by Jeff Bridges.
Terry Gilliam has directed many great films, and in creating those films he has been allowed to express himself with the aid of a vivid imagination, and in some cases, a vast Hollywood budget. Gilliam’s ambitions have been his saving grace, by allowing the viewer to envisage the thoughts of his characters and the fantastical worlds of his movie sets - all to bring fantasy to reality and give the audience an experience of cinematic magic.
However, Terry’s ambition has not always steered him right, as in the case of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, with such adventures including great sultans and knights in castles, and a man in the moon. Such extravagant scenes saw the film go over-budget, estimating approximately $46million. This, with the lack of box office sales saw Gilliam’s reputation plummet. The stain cast by the “Baron” has now affected future works of Gilliam’s, in particular the production of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Ten years in the making, Gilliam could not get the film financed in America which led him to European shores and investors who were eager to entertain the highly acclaimed filmmaker. Wanting to bring a touch of Hollywood to Europe, and with a budget of £32million (an amount much less than Gilliam would need to produce his vision on screen) Gilliam, with his new European partners on board, embarked on his endeavour. Gilliam’s obsession to make this film meant that he has had to compromise his budget. Nevertheless, his vision remained ambitious. He began over-seeing the creation of the props, of which he was not completely satisfied. Gilliam has secured also what he believes to be the perfect location for shooting - a NATO military base in the Spanish desert. Johnny Depp, Vanessa Paradis and Jean Rochefort had all agreed to do the film, and receive a pay reduction; however their salaries would take up a large portion of the overall budget. Gilliam no doubt wanted great things for this film, and put his full energy into drawing out the best from crew and cast. However, with the best of intentions, mere mortals could not have prevented some of the unexpected catastrophes. For instance, no one could have foreseen the heavens opening up and unleashing a torrential storm that engulfed the set along with crew and cast. Also, no one could have foreseen the back injury Jean Rochefort endured while horse riding, removing him indefinitely from the film. Nevertheless, some of the calamities could have been prevented: the studio sought by his production team, which was in effect an ordinary warehouse; the un-prepped extras on the first day of shooting. Possibly, the location of the first shoot which ran overtime while jet planes interrupted shooting might have been prevented. Although these calamites were not a direct result of Gilliam’s vision, it was his ambition that permitted and sanctioned his desensitisation to the build-up of concurring disasters. Gilliam was there in flesh but appeared to be ignorant of the magnitude of each problem as it occurred, never believing that any of the disasters would shut down his production. Not until one did - Jean Rochefort’s inability to return to work, which inevitably drove the final nail in the coffin of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.
Lost in La Mancha is a painfully real film about a director lost in a fantasy he wanted to create at any cost, and for the most part of Gilliam’s career that particular mode of thinking was successful. Unfortunately, the production closest to his heart came face-to-face with the stark reality of film making, notwithstanding a few unpredicted disasters, and was the one that got away.
Peter Travers concludes his review of the documentary: “it's a cautionary fable of the impossible dream of holding to a vision on film (Gilliam is a visionary who always thinks outside the box) while Hollywood holds the bottom line” (Travers, 2003).
Tuesday, 11 October 2011
Tuesday, 4 October 2011
Tim Burton’s Ed Wood is a film biography of Edward D Wood Jr, a Hollywood screenwriter, director, producer and actor. Starring Johnny Depp as Ed Wood, Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi and Sarah Jessica Parker as Dolores Fuller.
Edward D Wood was famous for making cheap films, bordering on the ridiculous; these films were notable for their bad acting, questionable stock shots, flimsy set designs and doubtful special effects, especially for that time. However, Wood was able to gain popularity and attract a cult as a result of his so-called artistic shortcomings, accomplished however after his death. Burton, on the other hand, worked meticulously to re-create Wood's films and his film Ed Wood was no exception. It was a production that brought the late 1940s to life and was comically portrayed in the same B-movie style that Edward D Wood created in his own films. J.D Lafrance talks briefly on Burton’s passion: “No one understands and appreciates this devotion to cinema more than Burton. From Beetlejuice (1988) to Mars Attacks! (1996), his films are lovingly crafted homages to the horror and science fiction B-movies that the director enjoyed in his childhood” (Lafrance, 2004). It is the same devotion and love of film making that Edward D Wood injected into his own films that makes Burton the perfect candidate to make this movie. In wanting to recreate a film based in the late '40s, Burton felt it had to be shot in black and white, and he was adamant in his decision. The film was turned down by Warner Bros and 20th Century Fox until Disney welcomed the project. Tim Burton held fast to his vision in true Edward D Wood Jr fashion. From places, studios, houses in the same architectural style, to furnishings within them, Burton adopted them all to bring the atmosphere of that Hollywood decade to the screen. Burton told the story of Ed as a surprisingly happy soul despite constant failures to make popular films. What he might have lacked in talent, he made up in determination, and would sacrifice all to fulfill his visionary projects. Ed Wood is portrayed as an enthusiastic young screenwriter/director working as a prop man in a Hollywood studio trying to get his work screened. Dolores Fuller is his then girlfriend and an aspiring actress. Although very dark in places, particularly when portraying Bela Lugosi’s addiction and subsequent death, the film is generally light and comical. Following Ed Wood from his debut Glen or Glenda? to Plan 9 from Outer Space, Burton lightheartedly interpreted Ed Wood’s one-take scenario as a comical parody insisting after the first take “that’s real”, regardless of the take being riddled with errors. Wood’s perception of Hollywood and life had a slightly different twist than his contemporaries. This allowed Burton to add colour and lightness to what could have been a darker, heavier black and white film owing to its biographical nature, focusing on his cross-dressing fetish, a dedication to film making, and what would seem to be his one-take ineptitude. Burton used those instances as his glue to build an otherwise depressing story of one director’s need to tell his own story regardless of others' opinions to his struggle with unpopularity.
With the infusion into our daily lives of the colour of television and film, we sometimes take for granted the freeing of emotional inhibitions that today’s story telling gives us. The bombardment of colour allows us to feel imposed upon when a Black and white film is shown, as the story telling may appear difficult to interpret or even to watch. Burton’s method of story telling allows for such films to be more palatable although black and white. He focused on making his character, Wood, more understanding by utilising his so-called defects humorously, thereby introducing a broader spectrum in the film. As a result, Wood becomes approachable, easy to sympathise with and to love. Although intuitive and revealing, Buton's biography seems to be more about filmmaking, imparting useful pointers, in regard to Ed Wood, on what not to do to make a successful film until you can wield the power of Tim Burton, whose meticulous hard work almost always assures him a hit.
The Hero, Papa
Sixteen-year-old Papa was believed to be orphaned in the Haitian earthquake, although found at a crossroads in a dense wood far from the devastation. Papa has lived a carefree life, and was always attuned with his surroundings. He was of medium height with a physically strong build owing to his athletic pursuits. However, his new life in Belmont Abbey, England, has forced him to adapt to unfamiliar surroundings, though not successfully, making no friends, human that is, and alienating himself further from his tutors with talk of ghost spotting and supernatural activity. He believes his hair is sacred, not permitting the Abbey’s barber to touch it, while personally maintaining an almost round mini-afro. When Papa was found he had few personal belongings, so he has had to rummage through the lost and found property at Belmont in order to clothe himself. He attired himself donning an unsuitable match of clothes: a long white cloak with schoolboy shorts and a plain T-shirt; shoes were an elusive luxury. The only item that Papa could call his own was a pendant of an axe, which hung in a chain clasped around his neck. The axe is enchanted and it along with his many supernatural abilities (none so prominent than the gift of sight, which gives him the power to see ghosts and into the world of spirit) allowed him to become a ghost-hunter.
(Figure based on Disney’s lead character in Tarzan)
Papa’s axe, Legba was a mystery to him, but he was told that it was a gift bestowed to him by his parents. Legba, although miniature in size and able to be worn around his neck, would grow to a formidable size when Papa whistled a special tune. Once enlarged Legba could communicate with Papa, able to answer any question put to him, usually after he had been fed. Legba had a huge appetite and loved sweat things, but what he loved the most was to eat lost souls and one day he promised to eat Fatso Friar. Legba, when wielded could discharge incalculable levels of lightening; however, only Papa could command him and he would shrink back to his normal size when handled by any other.
The Sidekick, Fatso Friar
Fatso was a ghost living in Belmont Abbey, who, during his life in the then Catholic stronghold of the Tudors, was a Friar. A novice in training, Fatso lived to the age of sixteen until a falling wall crushed him during his prayers, trapping him within the confines of the Abbey while the other friars made their way on to the afterlife. Fatso, although a competent Friar was still only a novice whose unfinished training hindered him from completing his journey to the afterlife. Fatso was his nickname; his real name he had forgotten as no one used it when he was alive, and now that he was dead and still in the world of the living, no one would use it ever again. Short and round best describes him, his attire a brown robe held together with a rope, with brown Birkenstock-like sandals on his feet and round spectacles covering his eyes. Although sixteen and able to grow a full head of hair, Fatso always wore it shaven and this appearance continued after his death. Fatso’s ghostly existence is a reflection of his existence in the living world - oppressed. Constantly bullied by other ghosts and phantoms bigger and more powerful than he, his only saving grace is his ability to play the fool and wriggle his way out of difficult circumstances. As a loner he yearns for friendship, whether of the living or dead.
(Figure based on Disney’s Friar in Robin Hood)
The Bishop Richelieu
Known only as, The Bishop Richelieu, this tall slender man commands authority with his sharp features in a pale complexion but with lifeless eyes. Born, raised and educated at Belmont Abbey, The Bishop is very proud of his roots, and will not tolerate any break from tradition. As you have gathered The Bishop hates change, especially when change comes in the form of a new face, Papa. Nevertheless, in the spirit of charity the Bishop tries to maintain a facade of acceptance towards the young Haitian. His hypocrisy has taken a toll on the Bishop, who is no longer able to constrain his hatred, overwhelming him and poisoning the other staff and pupils against Papa. His hatred has permeated far into the spirit world, thus converting innocent spirits to his dark will, pitting them against that which initiated his blind hate, Papa. Draped in robes of black and red with a high pointed traditional ceremonial hat that hides a third eye, he carries a staff through which to wield his power. As the darkness overwhelms him, The Bishop acquires an uncanny ability to use malevolent powers, and along with his third eye, which also can see ghosts, he poses a dire threat to benevolent beings and people.
(Figure based on Cardinal Richelieu)
Gorgamel was the ancestral staff of power, which was handed down from one Richelieu to another. The head of the staff resembled a hooded cobra with gems for eyes that could bewitch the strongest of wills. The Fire of Gorgamel was the essence of the staff’s power and along with its ability to control any flame, it was also able to project fire from the cobra’s open mouth. Much like Papa’s, Legba, Gorgamel could talk, and always reminded Richelieu of his proud and distinguished lineage, carefully caressing his fragile pride.