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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Goodbye, Phantom, Goodbye

Years and years ago, one of my best friends became obsessed with the film Shock Treatment, the sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show that only featured two of the original characters not played by their original actors, and a bunch of new characters played by the same actors from Rocky Horror.

This is not a post about Shock Treatment, which I admittedly still have not seen. This is a post about another musical film that Jessica Harper, Shock Treatment’s Janet Weiss, was in years before.

Y’see, as my friend trolled the Rocky Music archive for all she could find about Miss Harper, she found the page about Phantom of the Paradisea 1974 retelling of Phantom of the Opera directed by Brian De Palma and starring Harper and ‘Rainbow Connection’ songwriter Paul Williams.

She then found the film on YouTube and after a few watches, forced me to watch it. I remember being reluctant because it seemed like it was going to be cheesy and stupid. And yeah, it can be, but there’s a story in there about the dangers of the music industry and the pratfalls of fame. If you only judge it by the surface, you don’t see the wonderfully dark film that it is. Not to mention Paul Williams can write a damn good song.

Somewhere along the way of all those Saturday nights watching the film online and running a chat commentary alongside of it, Phantom of the Paradise became one of my favorite movies and Paul Williams became one of my favorite songwriters. I eventually purchased the DVD from Criminal Records, who might love the movie more than me, and was so excited to see how much it influenced Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. The clear influence of Phantom of the Paradise on Wright and how the character of Gideon Graves was essentially Swan made me feel finally justified as a fan of this quirky Phantom of the Opera adaptation.

Sometime this weekend, while I was working S.T.E.A.M.Fest, I found out the horrible news that William Finley had passed away. For those unfamiliar with Phantom of the Paradise, Finley played the protagonist Winslow Leach, who later becomes the Phantom after an unfortunate accident caused by a record press machine owned by Swan disfigures his face. And this is after he’s had his music stolen by Swan. And is accused of possessing cocaine and sent to Sing Sing by Swan, where all his teeth are removed.

I pretty much stayed in denial of this fact until Edgar Wright posted an email from Finley’s wife on his own blog. Then my heart just completely shattered.

I haven’t talked much about Finley here, but his performance as Winslow and the Phantom is just heart-aching. There are moments where Winslow is a bit of a creep towards Phoenix, but you can see that he doesn’t want the same fate that befell him to happen to her. He was a man with big plans who wanted to share his art with the world who gets completely screwed over and meets a tragic end because of it. It’s a Faustian fable about the music industry that’s still fairly relevant today, and I doubt that anyone but Finley could have carried the story of Winslow Leach across the way that he did.

If you’ve never seen Phantom of the Paradise, I suggest that you do so soon. It really is a wonderful film with great performances from Finley and Williams. There might be 70s cheese, but it doesn’t completely bog down the film.

To Susan and Dashiell Finley, I extend my deepest sympathies to you during this time. I’m only a fan, but William’s performance has offered many happy times and memories to me over the past few years. He was the only Phantom for me.

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Posted by on April 17, 2012 in Film

 

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Ending Hunger Games Month with thoughts on the score, the future and other various things…

Happy belated Easter, Passover and Ostara, my readers. I hope that whatever holiday you celebrate was safe and joyous, and if you didn’t celebrate, that you at least had a good weekend!

If you’re wondering why I didn’t update for the past two weeks to close out Hunger Games month… Well… Never underestimate the power of getting sick and busy all at once. If it wasn’t a thing for finishing my degree, it was something for the Contraptions, or hacking up my lungs due to the extremely high pollen count we were hit with back in late March.

In the meantime though, I saw the movie two more times and might be going for a possible fourth soon, I continued my re-read of the first book, bought the score to the film and had several sessions of discussion over the series with many people, including my own father. I was also featured on Welcome to District 12, where I rambled about my midnight experience. Thanks for the shoutout, ladies!

So without any further ado, I bring you my final blog post for Hunger Games month, which are thoughts about the score, the franchise’s future and other random things.

The Score (and Rue’s Lullaby)

 One of the main complaints that I’ve seen about the release of the score is that it is incomplete. I hate to say it, but I sort of agree. While the score does include all of James Newton Howard’s music, neither the score release or the companion album feature any of the outside music that was used in the film (like the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble’s ‘War’, which was Cesar Flickerman’s entrance music), or the version of ‘Rue’s Lullaby’ that’s sung by Jennifer Lawrence.

However, these songs not being included should not take away from the fact that James Newton Howard created a score that goes perfectly with Gary Ross’ adaptation of the books. Like the film, it’s very subtle and atmospheric. It doesn’t depend too much on grand music cues and it doesn’t overpower what’s going on in the film. However, it is powerful enough to be associated with their original scenes when listening to it on it’s own. ‘Katniss Afoot’ brought back chills of the scene where Katniss is stalking the deer through the woods and ‘Rue’s Farewell’ makes me cry just as much as the actual scene does. Plus, like the companion album, it mixes the folk tones of District 12 with the creepy futuristic atmosphere of the Capitol in an extremely effective way, but that might come from the help of The Low Anthem. (Also, how excellent an anthem was ‘Horn of Plenty’? Win Butler and Regine Cassagne should do more scores.) Either way, it did remind me of David Newman’s score for Serenity. Both scores blend well with the film, but are powerful enough to stand on their own.

But what to do with the problem of ‘Rue’s Lullaby’…

As I mentioned before, Jennifer Lawrence’s version of ‘Rue’s Lullaby’ was not made available on either the score or the soundtrack. Instead, as a bonus track, fans were offered a version of the song sung and composed by… Sting?!

Yes, because when I think a folk lullaby sung to a dying 12-year-old in the middle of an arena, I think the guy who wrote ‘Roxanne’ and ‘Every Breath You Take’.

Okay, I’m probably being a bit harsh. It’s not a bad version. The arrangement is quite nice and Sting’s voice, while it can be a bit weird and mismatched in some places, compliments it okay. I just don’t know if it fits the context of the film. If we weren’t going to get Jennifer Lawrence singing it, why not have a version sung by a woman? ‘Rue’s Lullaby’ sung by Rhiannon Giddens or Joy Williams would have been wonderful. Hell, I wouldn’t have minded Taylor Swift singing it that much. And if it had to be a guy, maybe Glen Hansard or Ben Knox Miller. In my wildest dreams, Adam Turla or Butch Walker could have done a great version of it as well. The point I’m trying to make here is that the artists that I mentioned have ties to what ‘Rue’s Lullaby’ was supposed to be, and Sting is… Sting.

If we get ‘The Hanging Tree’ for Mockingjay, I hope that we’ll get Jennifer Lawrence’s recording.

Speaking of Mockingjay, let’s talk about…

Gary Ross, Finnick Odair, and the future of Catching Fire

Oh lord, this past week has been stressful for fans of the film. Director Gary Ross has been locked in negotiations for a bigger paycheck for a while now, and it’s been a whole back and forth with no actual resolution yet to if he’s back or not.

It’s really a shame that most movie studios see directors as disposable when it comes to big name franchises. Both the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises lack a visual coherency due to the fact the direction switched hands so many times. While The Hunger Games trilogy does advance in themes and events from a simple battle to the death to a full blown rebellion, there’s still a coherency to the events and themes of the books. It’s a Greek Tragedy Cycle, and Gary Ross GETS THAT. He’s a fan of the books and knows what needs to be done for it to be effective. If the direction for Catching Fire and Mockingjay change hands, we lose the coherency and the chance of having a director who understands what the series is about.

At least we have him and Suzanne looking over the script. Meanwhile, check out Ross Is Boss and show your support for Gary coming back to the franchise!

Of course, this isn’t the only thing Catching Fire is banking on. Right now, there’s been a lot of speculation and whispering over who will be cast as the new characters who appear in this novel, and the kind of schedule the film will have due to Jennifer Lawrence having to go right into the sequel for X-Men: First Class as soon as Catching Fire is done

Oh, who am I kidding? We’re all wondering about Finnick Odair.

For those who don’t know, Finnick is a victor from District 4 who is the ONLY character in the entire franchise that everyone loves. He’s handsome and charming, but he’s also so tragic. Casting Finnick will be what makes or breaks fan confidence in the next movie, and will inevitably cause the most debate. Most of fandom seems to be behind Armie Hammer and Garrett Hedlund, but the speculation seems to be going the opposite of that and I don’t understand why. Hopefully, the casting director will understand that Finnick can’t be just a pretty face. He has to be young enough (Finnick is only 24 and most people on dreamcasts are in their 30s) and he has to be good enough to carry the emotional weight that Finnick does.

While most people are hung up on Finnick, there is so much hype and timing riding on Catching Fire. What happens over the next year might make or break the rest of this franchise and I sincerely hope that this isn’t the beginning of a terrible downfall that starts with Gary Ross and ends with Thor.

Miscellaneous Hunger Games tidbits

  • Three weeks in a row at number one spot in the box office! I am excited. We’ll see how it does next week compared to The Cabin In The Woods (which I am just as excited for).
  • Reading the books while seeing the movie so many times makes me notice all the things that were changed, but I still stand by my belief that it’s the best book-to-movie adaptation I’ve seen. What was taken out, changed and/or put in made the movie flow better, but it still stayed true to what The Hunger Games actually is.
  • The attention to detail in the movie is impressive, especially the third time around.
  • The racists douche canoes who hate Amandla Stenberg, though, are not. Seriously, people? Between the racism and the lack of reading comprehension, it makes me sad that these people call themselves fans.
  • The Katniss Everdeen Barbie has been revealed. I have to admit, I kind of like her! She’s not too far off the mark costume-wise, and they actually kept Jennifer Lawrence’s facial structure. Would it be weird of me to want it? Probably. I haven’t decided yet.

Aaaand that’s it for Hunger Games Month! Thank you all so much for reading! I’m looking forward to doing this again for Catching Fire in the future. This month, though, I’ll finally be reviewing Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Cabin in The Woods. Maybe even revisit Sailor Moon. We’ll see!

For now, may the odds be ever in your favor.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2012 in Books, Film, Music

 

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