Monday, 17 August 2009

KEVIN SMITH: Why I never tire of the man's work

Kevin Smith is bad and wrong. He must be. Someone who has unashamedly made a career out of 'dick and fart jokes' must be the absolute antithesis of a true artist, yes? No. The man is little short of a genius to many people, and I am proud to be one of them. I don't always get along with his films, with Zack and Miri Make a Porno and Dogma being lower on my list of favourites than other films in his catalogue, but a number of his flicks are very, very dear to me.

The two that are most precious to me personally are Clerks 2 and Chasing Amy. These two films captured something that I hadn't seen since the Breakfast Club, in that despite the comedy, they did have something to say to the viewer, and had some pretty raw emotion in them. I think that is why I'm such a Smith nerd, and never get tired of listening to the man talk on commentaries or SMODcast shows, or watching his films. There are sublime moments in every single one of them. Yeah, even jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. I think.

I even loved Jersey Girl, which was almost universally panned by everyone that laid eyes on it. I watched it for what it was- a bitter-sweet film made by a guy that felt he was growing up a bit. The cast were great, especially the late George Carlin, who you really want for your own while watching it.

Aside from the serious bits of his films, the feeling that they have been made by someone who very much gets where his audience is coming from is another aspect of why he remains a favourite with so many people. That's why the original Clerks was such a hit. It took a very mundane setting and showed audiences the comedy of everyday life, from the viewpoint of a hitherto unheard demographic.

Hell, I've been a Clerk most of my working life, and I still relate to Dante Hicks more than I should do. It's those characters and situations that stick with fans so much because, even taking the mad bits into consideration, many of us have lived those situations ourselves. That may not include donkey shows or dead guys in toilets, but you get what I mean.

Sit and watch any of the live DVDs he's put out and you get the same thing from them- he's like us, the people who sit and argue about what's going on in the background in A New Hope over pizza, then have a few beers and unload your deepest fears to your best friend in a slightly drunken haze. You get through the misery and laughter, you fight back a tear, and you agree on sticking a movie on. For me, in that frame of mind, it'd be one of Smith's. They feel like home.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

John Hughes: On the passing of a hero

I'm still in some shock from the death of John Hughes. As some of you will know, I've been in the middle off writing a series of pieces on his much loved brat pack fims of the 1980s, and news of his passing came through just as I was going to do the Weird Science article.

Everything has changed now- references to Hughes will have to be in the past tense, and now we know he'll never revisiot Shermer, Illinois. I wrote an article on his passing for another outlet, which was then published on Ezinearticles. That piece is reproduced here.


John Hughes - A Tribute to the Late Director of the Breakfast Club
By Andrew Hawnt

The death of John Hughes has hit me hard. While most celebrity deaths don't really hit home that much with me, the news of John Hughes dying from a heart attack while out walking in New York has had a profound effect on me. This man was the force behind the films that helped shape me as a person.

The pathos and integrity behind the laughs of films such as The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful and all of the others of his main active period remains as powerful as it ever was, and with his passing we have lost a true great of the cinema.

The reclusive genius had also created other things such as the massively popular Home Alone movies, but it is that spate of brat pack classics that he will probably be most remembered for, and those films are a legacy that anyone would be proud of.

A generation of film fans and filmmakers were created by those films, each of them containing a magic that teen movies have never been able to recapture since then, no matter how hard they try.

Look at Ferris Bueller's Day Off for example. Yes, it was anarchic in the extreme, but the characters of Ferris, Cameron and Sloane rang true as teenagers of the time, struggling to find their place in a changing world.

Thinking that the man that brought us those five misfits The Breakfast Club, Duckie from Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller and all of those other classic characters from Sixteen Candles, Weird Science and so on is gone is heartbreaking.

Many fans were hoping that he would return to his roots and create something meaningful and beautiful, like those early films, instead of the string of Beethoven sequels and the like. Sadly this wasn't to be. There have long since been rumours of a Breakfast Club sequel, but nothing emerged.

Even the less successful films of that amazing period in his career, such as Some Kind of Wonderful, which starred Eric Stoltz, Lea Thompson and Mary Stuart Masterson back in 1987, have a hell of an impact on the viewer. This is thanks to their accurate portrayal of the difficulties people face when trying to find out who they are as people during the latter years of teenage life.

While the Home Alone movies, Baby's Day Out, Beethoven and others in his later work don't have the critical acclaim of his early films, they still go to show the influence and success of his career.

Here was a director and writer who remembered what it was like to be a teenager right down to the most minute of details, and he brought that understanding to every character. Even in the madcap chaos of Sixteen Candles, the first of his brat pack sequence, the characters come across as people in their own right, with real concerns.

There is often talk of directors who define a generation of cinema, and with the films of John Hughes it is an apt description. He captured a certain period, a certain mindset and generation with perfect clarity, and the stories have proven to be timeless enough to be appreciated again and again, no matter the trends.

It is always sad when someone dies, but when their body of work was so respected and adored, it breaks the heart. Here was a man who had little controversy in his life, and after his massive 80s fame drew back from the limelight and became something of an urban legend.

He continued to work, but he never returned to what he did best, which was making people think and making people realize that life wasn't quite as clean-cut as your parents may have you believe.

Here's to you, John. You were, and remain, my hero. You got me through my troubled teenage years with those films and those characters, as you did for millions of other people. I would imagine a lot of other people are feeling the same right now. Rest in peace.


Andrew is a widely read pop culture blogger and nationally published music journalist with a passion for bringing you the latest news and opinions on, movies, TV, collectibles and popular culture in all its forms.

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Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Remakes - Hollywood Gets Lazy

By Andrew Hawnt

Checking my various feeds each day, along with the biggest movie related websites, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain interest in the product of Hollywood. Where once there was a sense of excitement and anticipation when a new project was announced or leaked, be it via internal spies or intentional viral marketing, now there is a sense of dread. I head to the feeds wondering which classic film is next up for the shabby remake treatment.

Of late, there literally is not a day goes by without another much loved film being remade, and it really is a worrying trend. Instead of coming up with new ideas, or optioning the thousands of books, comics, stories, spec scripts and more that they have at their disposal, studios big and small are languishing in a creative limbo and just rehashing old material in order to cash in on brand familiarity.

This is a terrible trend, as it breeds apathy towards the medium and suppresses creativity. If people are content to pick up DVDs of films they already have (just with a different, lesser cast and better effects), then there will be less chance of truly original films being made by big studios.

Smaller studios may well be producing derivative work in all genres, but they are still managing some originality in there too. It is understandable if the films that are being remade really weren't that convincing the first time around, or if a series really needs a reboot (Batman, for example), but remaking everything in sight is only going to annoy your audience in the long run.

Good examples of remakes working are films such as the 1986 version of The Fly, or John Carpenter's version of The Thing, both of which took the premise and did something new and interesting with it- those films carry the same stories but told in such a manner that they feel fresh and compelling in their own right.

The current upsurge in 'That was popular, lets do a cheapo remake quick' attitudes in la-la land seems to bypass the notion of originality altogether.

The stores (both physical and digital) are absolutely bursting at the seams with content as it is- nobody needs or wants most of these remakes/reboots/reimaginings, and the audiences are starting to get a little fed up with the same old things being offered time and again. We didn't need an Omen remake.

We never asked for A Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th to be remade, and we certainly never entertained the thought of remaking Hellraiser or Highlander, and yet they're all being produced. All that happens is the films end up as bargain bin DVDs and the reputation and appreciation of the original films is tarnished by the new incarnations, which are rarely a patch on the real thing. Hell, even Poltergeist and The Creature From The Black Lagoon are being regurgitated into substandard popcorn fodder as we speak.

Put down that stack of films you want to cash in on and go and read some of your slush piles. In those piles you'll find more originality that we have seen onscreen in a decade. If you must, simply MUST make something that already exists, then adapt a book or a graphic novel or even an anime series. Don't keep plundering the vaults for classics to ruin.

What happened to you Hollywood? You've never had the best ideas in the world, but at least you had ideas at all.
Andrew writes for the pop culture/memorabilia site and its popular blogs, covering the latest and greatest in film, TV, music and comics merchandise and collectibles.

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