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by Bill Gibron

17 Jun 2008

In an arena where many do their job without much exposure to the limelight, Stan Winston was a God. It’s a term tossed around regularly by the geek community, but in referencing this F/X mastermind, the label definitely fit. He brought the Terminator to life, helped cement the sci-fi legacies of both Aliens and the Predator, gave Jurassic Park its non-CGI giants, and provided Edward with his scissor-hands. On the Mount Rushmore of movie magicians, he’s right up there with Smith, Harryhausen, Baker, and Bottin. And now his name is added to another, less celebrated list - those who died too young, and far too vital.

Having suffered from multiple myeloma for years, he finally succumbed to the disease on 15 June. For many, it was a total shock. Winston was not open about his health, though many in the industry did know he was battling the incurable illness. He continued to work, contributing important elements to this Summer’s Iron Man, while planning for several other projects. The best way to describe Winston’s work is ‘bio-mechanical’. While other make-up wizards found ways to imitate life, his creations took on the elements of existence, found their core of truth, and then turned them epic.

Born in Virginia, the young Winston loved anything artistic. He excelled at drawing, and enjoyed creating puppet shows for his friends. After graduating from the University of Virginia in 1968 (where he studied painting and sculpture), he headed to Hollywood, looking for work as an actor. When jobs became sparse, he signed up to apprentice in Disney’s make-up department. Three years later, he opened his own company, Stan Winston Studios, and in rapid fire succession, won an Emmy for his work on Gargoyles (1973) and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (which he shared with future icon Rick Baker).

Throughout the ‘70s, Winston built a substantial resume, high profile gigs as part of the production team on Roots, The Wiz, and Dead and Buried shoring up his already hefty credits. But it was the Andy Kaufman comedy Heartbeeps which brought the wizard his first Oscar buzz. Nominated for the uneven robot romp, he gained the notice of newcomer James Cameron. The directing novice was hoping Winston could create the metal machine man-assassin at the center of his radical time travel action film. The results were The Terminator, the movie that would make myths out of Winston, Cameron, and leading man (and former bodybuilder) Arnold Schwarzenegger.

After his work on the 1984 sleeper, the sky literally became the limit. Winston worked on Cameron’s update of the Aliens franchise, earned another Oscar nod for Predator, reinvented the classic Universal creatures for the cult favorite The Monster Squad, and added his touch to such marginal efforts as Leviathan, Congo, and The Relic. But it was his work on Edward Scissorhands and Terminator 2 that gained the most favor. He was acknowledged by the Academy for both (winning two statues for the latter) and it soon seemed like every horror, science fiction, or fantasy film was using Winston (or one of his many protégés) as part of their production.

Like all successful artists, he tried to branch out. He directed two feature films (the minor masterwork Pumpkinhead, and the fair family film A Gnome named Gnorm) and as a producer, he guided Wrong Turn and The Deaths of Ian Stone (among others) to the big screen. But his main passion remained make-up and special effects. Even when Jurassic Park threatened to wipe out the practical side of things with its computer generated progress, Winston found a way to make his kind of input invaluable. It was a methodology that would carry him across the next two decades.

Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgment Day are arguably his main masterpieces, films that could no exist without what Winston brought to them. It may seem hard to believe now, but everything in Cameron’s sequel to Ridley Scott’s haunted house in space was done practically. Puppets, rod animation, animatronics, costumes, and miniatures were utilized to bring this ultimate battle between man and extraterrestrial to life. More impressively, when CGI started to show promise, Winston proved it could be seamlessly integrated into the standard F/X catalog. It’s a lesson that few in the current realm of film false reality understand. 

In addition, Winston was a great teacher, and loved to interact with fans. He was always personable and generous at conventions, and contributed all he could when DVD gave technicians a chance to champion their craft. His loss is monumental for many reasons, and not just for the work we genre fanatics lose in the process. As science sweeps all the old school trades toward the trash bin, Winston reminded us of why the classical approach was, oft times, the best. He made changes work for him, never giving up or into the prevailing cultural conclusion. He was never one to quit, which helps explain how he battled cancer for so long. It also makes his passing that much sadder.

Indeed, what we lose when we lose someone like Stan Winston is an artform benchmark, something professionals envy while simultaneously striving for. With each master that passes away, a little less reality remains and another chapter in history is written. Winston’s death means that, maybe, one less excited teen decides to take up make-up instead of majoring in business, or one less filmmaker hires a practical artist and, instead, drops his dreams into someone’s overpriced laptop. While cinema has to go on without one of its giants, there is a larger issue involved.

Stan Winston was one of the few F/X regents in a realm where vitality meant viability. Now that he’s gone, it’s up to those he inspired to carry his spirit forward. It would be the best tribute of all to a man who reveled in realizing dreams. Thanks to him, our heroes are a little more gallant, our villains far more vile…and our movies a lot more magical.

by Bill Gibron

16 Jun 2008

‘Death Race’ Remake Gets a Trailer
Ever since it was announced, fans have been anxiously awaiting any word on what noted genre journeyman (read ‘hack’) Paul W. S. Anderson would do to the beloved ‘70s road rage classic. Well, here’s your chance to see the brand new trailer - and oddly enough, it doesn’t look too bad. Much better than Alien vs. Predator or Soldier, anyway. [Yahoo]

New ‘Punisher’ is Teased as Well
While we aren’t sure who mandated a sequel, Lionsgate is unleashing another take on the mob-fighting vigilante this December. This time around, Thomas Jane is out, and Ray Stevenson (HBO’s Rome) steps in as the title character. Green Street Hooligan‘s Lexi Alexander is behind the lens. [IGN]

Bill Maher’s ‘Religulous’ Also Gets the Preview Treatment
Anyone who has watched the recent season of Real Time knows that host Maher has been carefully touting his anti-God documentary. Lionsgate finally gives us a taste of what we can look forward to come October. With Borat‘s Larry Charles in charge, we could be in for a brilliantly blasphemous romp. Check out Apple and the official website for more.

‘StepBrothers’ Gets Red Banded After the drubbing they took this past year - Will Ferrell with the underappreciated Semi-Pro, John C. Reilly with the overlooked biopic spoof Dewey Cox - both actors could sure use a quasi comeback. This sibling rivalry comedy from Andy McKay may help, especially after viewing the more “adult” oriented preview. [Trailer Addict]

Herzog’s ‘Lieutenant’ Still Going Strong - from Variety
Even with Abel Ferrara wishing him a speedy journey into the mouth of Hell (literally) Werner Herzog still seems intent on remaking (or in his own words, ‘reimagining”) the controversial 1992 drama. Nicholas Cage is already slated to stand in for Harvey Keitel, and now it seems Eva Mendez may be cozying up to her Ghost Rider costar as well. [Variety]

Krofft’s Bringing More Saturday Morning Classics to the Big Screen - from
With Land of the Lost already set for the big screen treatment, it seems those purveyors of classic ‘60s/‘70s psychedelic kid vid, Sid and Marty Krofft are bringing more of their oddball offerings to a Cineplex near you. Apparently, H.R. Pufnstuf and Sigmund (of ‘the Sea Monsters’ fame) are next up. []

‘Robotech’ Relaunch Gets Unusual Scripter - from the Hollywood Reporter
Last seen dealing (badly) with Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher, famed filmmaker/writer Lawrence Kasdan is rumored to be scribbling the celluloid version of the popular ‘80s anime staple. With his work on the new Clash of the Titan‘s remake, it marks the icon’s return to his roots (he did pen Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back, after all). [Hollywood Reporter]

DVD releases of Note for 17 June

Be Kind Rewind
The Carmen Miranda Collection
Classe Tous Risques - Criterion Collection
Fool’s Gold
Joy Division - Read the SE&L Review HERE
The Nude Bomb
Super High Me
Under the Same Moon
Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins - Read the SE&L Review HERE

Box Office Figures for Weekend of 13 June

#1 - The Incredible Hulk: $54.9 million
#2 - Kung Fun Panda: $33.8 million
#3-  The Happening: $30.8 million
#4 - You Don’t Mess with the Zohan: $16.8 million
#5 - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: $13.2 million
#6 - Sex and the City: $10.3 million
#7 - Iron Man: $5.1 million
#8 - The Strangers: $4.1 million
#9 - The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian: $3.1 million
#10 - What Happens in Vegas: $1.7 million

Films Opening This Week:

General Release:
Get Smart - the classic Mel Brooks/Buck Henry sitcom from the ‘60s get the big screen treatment, this time featuring Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart and Anne Hathaway as 99. Rated PG-13
The Love Guru - Mike Myers returns to live action comedy with this story of an American born shaman raised by Hindus. He is called in to save a hockey star’s failing marriage/career. Rated PG-13

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl - it’s the Depression, and our title heroine struggles mightily to save her family, and her friends, from financial ruin. Based on the popular doll line, with Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin in the lead. Rated G
Brick Lane - while it may seem like the standard story of an arranged marriage in free fall, Monica Ali’s novel provides a provocative backdrop for this take on the material. Rated PG-13

by Bill Gibron

15 Jun 2008

Dear Marvel Comics:

Get ready. If rumors are true, and you are indeed lowballing Jon Favreau out of participation in Iron Man 2 (a story now supported by both Ain’t It Cool News and, you’re signing your company’s industry death warrant. Now, you might think that statement is a little harsh, but let’s look at the facts, shall we. Driven by a desire to see your characters treated with respect and reverence, you branched out into production to secure said status. After deciding on Iron Man as your first project, you hired Favreau, let him push the unproven Robert Downey, Jr. into the starring role, and held your breath for the results.

And what did you get in return? Well, the film is headed toward $600 million worldwide, is destined to be the must-own Christmas DVD extravaganza of 2008, and the film has an astonishing 93% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes (by comparison, last year’s There Will Be Blood sits at 91%, while Oscar winner No Country for Old Men is at 95%). To get 192 critics to love anything, let alone yet another comic book superhero adaptation speaks volumes for the talent involved. Granted, you had the foresight to think outside the cinematic standard, to avoid the typical names that went with the genre. And NOW you want to play cash games? You’ve got to be joking.

Let’s look at things realistically. If you screw this up, if you fail to put Favreau back in the director’s seat, you risk quite a bit. Now, you could argue that you’re taking an Alien approach to the franchise, letting a new vision come in each time and replace the previous one. Unfortunately, it’s hard to believe that there’s another James Cameron or David Fincher waiting around the next corner for your call. And for the sake of argument, you could dump Favreau, hire some heretofore unknown filmmaker, and create the next artform sensation. But in a commercial dynamic where “what have you done for me lately” is typically answered in dollars and sense, you’re about to kill the fatted calf - and, apparently, for no other reason than penny-pinching.

As the song and sentiment suggests, money does indeed change EVERYTHING. As Harry Knowles pointed out in his view of the situation, had Iron Man been a bomb (or to give you some credit, a marginal hit), this conversation would be moot. In pure Ang Lee style, you’d sit back, lick your angry stockholder wounds, hope you can survive another few years, and mandate a franchise reboot at some point in the future. Of course, now that it’s a big fat hit, everyone thinks the coffers are congested. Paydays become massive where once they were minimal, and expectations run higher than your rehabilitated star in his ‘80s glory days. So we can assume that you are smart businessmen and recognize a rip-off when you see it. Opportunism follows any formidable achievement. It would be foolish to suggest otherwise.

Naturally, Downey must get his money. Of all the brilliant strokes of cinematic genius within Iron Man - and there are many - hiring the troubled celeb as your Tony Stark reeks of pure creative karma. He needed a chance to prove his always undervalued mantle, and you wanted a face to carry the franchise. At a recent screening of your next offering, The Incredible Hulk (more on this in a moment), a cameo by the billionaire weapons manufacturer got the loudest applause of the evening. Apparently, audiences love Downey, so he’s truly a priority. One assumes he’s locked in for the long haul.

The situation with Favreau is the same, and yet different. No one would argue that he was an A-list Hollywood director. Made was well received, Elf was a Will Ferrell inspired hit, and Zathura remains an unfairly marginalized future family film classic. And while he appears to be a genuine nice guy, devoted to his craft and eager to work with the fans and insiders to forge an artistic and commercial triumph, he could be a bastard to be around. There’s no doubt he wants to get paid - that’s why he does what he does. Clearly, to undercut him so, you must think his participation is unimportant.

Frankly, that’s just failed logic. Again, you could find someone else to make your next Iron Man movie (and guide an eventual Avengers epic), and this new voice may be just as valid or even more viable than Favreau. But let’s remember where you came from for a moment, shall we. Tony Stark was not the best known of your Marvel membership, nor were fans clamoring for his adventures. Many in the mainstream marketplace were already sick of comic book films when Iron Man was announced, and Favreau truly worked his butt off to raise the profile of this potential underachiever. You took a risk and opened the film well before Summer actually started, with school still in and your mandatory teen boy demo fretting over more than what movie to see. And now you’re sitting on a multi-BILLION dollar franchise.

Like the Oscars when they nominate a movie and not its director, you clearly believe Favreau had a minimal role in Iron Man‘s eventual success. Either that, or you’re just cheap. The current buzz supports the latter position. Okay, so you like to watch your money. That’s cool. Well, let’s review box office revenue in the post-millennial marketplace, shall we? Spider-man was a massive hit. Its sequel did similar business. Sure, Part 3 suffered, but then again it also sucked. Something similar happened with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. The initial movie was a massive hit, the second film secured those returns, as did number three. And in both cases, the same director (Sam Raimi and Gore Verbinski, respectively) helmed the sequels. So clearly you will make money with Favreau handling Iron Man 2‘s duties…and remember, Downey is your wild card.

Let’s talk about the actor for a moment. Clearly, he will be loyal to the director who went to bat for him. And if you can Favreau in favor of someone else, there will be no outward protest, “hold out”, or non-contractual production snafus. Downey will do his job, collect his paychecks (both upfront and back end), and eventually retire happy and very well paid. But this doesn’t guarantee his pleasant participation in any future projects. The minute his term runs, any feelings he has for Favreau will come out in the new negotiations. And let’s not forget the still unproven nature of Iron Man as a continuing character. He is still a quasi-unknown icon, unlike Batman or Superman with a wealth of myth and numerous high profile supervillians waiting in the wings.

But perhaps the biggest factor you’re failing to calculate into this mix is the fans. They don’t call them ‘geeks’ for nothing. Indeed, they will fret over the smallest detail and use the updated bully pulpit of the Internet to air their numerous fetish-like grievances. Get on their bad side - and one senses you already have - and they will make you pay. Not necessarily at the box office, as viewership tends to remain sheep to the aesthetic slaughter, but where it really counts: perception and pre-release publicity. If the fanboys fail to support your decisions, you can guarantee at least two years of vitriol (Iron Man 2 is slated for 2010). They will build consensus, draw up outside strategies, gain the support of their like minded webmasters, and take you to task over everything. And if one recalls correctly, they were the reason you branched out into production in the first place, right?

The Incredible Hulk won’t save you - not this time. While it may be a more satisfying version of the material than what Ang Lee offered five years ago, it will not be an Iron Man sized success. Clearly, Louis Leterrier is a lot of things - capable action director, someone the difficult Edward Norton can work with - but he’s no Favreau. His version of the Marvel Universe still seems unfocused, not quite in sync with what you and your company have in mind. In fact, it would be safe to say that The Incredible Hulk feels more like the outside looking in adaptations that Iron Man gallantly avoided. In the end, you’ve probably got another hit on your hands, but don’t be looking to Rotten Tomatoes to verify its creative merit.

A word to the wise: open up the pocket books and pay the man. Avoid the months of hate that will be harvested on your behalf. Prove to those who still sit on the fence over supporting your talent takeover that you’re not the heartless misers the media is making you out to be. Unless you are clued into something we sideliners fail to grasp, taking Jon Favreau out of the franchise’s future seems absolutely insane. Remember - you need him much more than he needs you. He can ride his Iron Man cred directly into any high profile project he wants (even more so if the film becomes the #1 hit of the Summer, which appears more than likely). Do the right thing and all will be well. And here’s hoping you’re prepared if you don’t. Seriously.

by Bill Gibron

15 Jun 2008

There is a fine line between realism and the ridiculous. Put another way, when dealing with ethnic archetypes, it is easy to confuse truth with a tendency toward cultural insensitivity. Comedy is frequently guilty of such random racial profiling. Tyler Perry, for example, paints his portraits of African Americans in the broadest, most brazen strokes possible. On the one hand, his leads are usually troubled professionals plowing through personal problems direct from a soap opera’s story session. On the other, he relies on crass, sometimes crude social stereotypes to get that all important laugh - no matter how cheap or overbroad.

It’s the same tiring tightrope act that a movie like Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins (new to DVD from Universal) must maintain. Initially, audiences need to be engaged beyond a borderline black face burlesque, actors standing in for the senseless slander of the past. Yet there is no denying that, within said pigeonholes, some small amounts of truth exist. After all, fact is the reason that most farce works. It’s all about recognizeability. Luckily, writer/director Malcolm D. Lee understands this all too well. He takes his simple story about a family reunion (already a tired cinematic setup) and finds a way to work both truth and a BET comedy club mentality into a marginally successful, frequently funny outing.

When we first meet the title character, he’s a successful self-help guru, a media-made Dr. Phil type with a supermodel girlfriend and a lonely, disconnected son. Returning to the family home for the first time in years, Roscoe will have to face a few daunting demons from his past. His brother Otis and sister Betty still enjoy picking on him, and a long standing rivalry with adopted cousin Clyde remains bitter (if slightly unbelievable). Of course, once he steps onto the familiar Georgian soil, all the old issues reappear. His father remains aloof, his mother loving but unable to forge a lasting bond between the two. Similarly, Clyde’s conceited nature manages to transcend Roscoe’s La-La Land fame. And then there’s the high school sweetheart who still seems smitten with the man she once loved.

It has to be said that, for all its over the top tendencies, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins remains grounded in a way that saves it from outright racial disparagement. White audiences may wonder why Lee is allowed to flaunt seeming insensitivity the way he does, and at least two of the characters here - Betty, and the casually criminal relative Reggie - apparently push the boundaries of African American truisms. But as a director, the man behind Undercover Brother recognizes two things: one, casting will save you from even the most questionable artistic approach, and; two, wit mixed with even the wildest premise, if handled properly, always succeeds. Though he occasionally loses his funny business focus, Lee remains right on both accounts.

Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins has one of the best casts in a recent comedy, everyone from name star Martin Lawrence to supporting players Mo’Nique and Cedric the Entertainer proving their movie star mantle, while reliable names such as Michael Clarke Duncan, James Earl Jones, and Margaret Avery smooth over the rougher, racially charged edges. The story does skate around some quasi-controversial questions, however. Betty is viewed as a horny prison whore, using the Bible as a means to get “busy” with the local jail population. Reggie regularly steals, swindles, and smokes his way to pseudo-shiftless Southern comfort. While Duncan’s Otis invests the movie with a solid sense of responsibility and honor, Cedric’s Clyde continues the corrupt closet con artist elements the narrative claims to avoid.

Yet Lee keeps things concrete and likeable - at least most of the time. There are physical comedy elements that go way overboard in both their shtick and sensibility, like the time when Roscoe and Clyde literally destroy the family home while fighting. There is also an extended foot race sequence where the concept of sportsmanship is tossed out the window for bigger and bigger slapstick set pieces. If it weren’t for the actors involved, this would all grow tiresome and trite. But since the director establishes character early on, and finds a way to avoid most of the clichés inherent in his otherwise clockwork plotting, we forgive these indulgences. In fact, Lee is so skilled behind the camera that he paints purveyors of such purposeless pratfalls - like Perry - as the pretenders they are.

As part of the DVD, we see how carefully Lee constructed his comedy. Many of the deleted and extended scenes show where editing was required, while the outtakes argue for the ample improvisation skills of the entire cast. In the Making-of material, everyone seems really proud of being involved in such a stellar company, and we get the distinct impression that no one involved feels their race is being marginalized or attacked. Indeed, one gets the feeling that a good way to judge the inherent insensitivity in a film is to gauge how intentional the portrait really is/was. In this case, Lee looked to his past and the people he knows as a means of managing what some might consider an otherwise quasi-offensive screed.

Of course, this is all a matter of perspective. To the audience to whom this movie speaks loudest, claims of racism would be rejected outright. Similarly, anyone familiar with the burgeoning genre of urban comedy realizes that exaggeration and caricature are occasionally needed to help foster a sense of shared experience that many in America’s minority class openly embrace. In fact, while Judd Apatow walks away with all the cinematic humor saving accolades, Lee clearly deserves a place with the category’s rebirth. While no one is claiming that Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins is a masterpiece, it does prove that humor doesn’t have to de-evolve into hate to be witty and pointed. Indeed, as long as you have clear characters, and actors who can handle the necessary nuances, you should have something solid on your hands - and that’s exactly what this winning effort is.

by Bill Gibron

14 Jun 2008

We often forget how much actual art there is in the art of animation. Not so much skill or filmmaking acumen, but genuine, painstaking personal craft. After all, the genre is built on the drawing, the pen and ink providence that, through motion, constructs an aesthetically pleasing perception of the world. It’s what the Great Masters strived for when they put oil to canvas, or chisel to stone. It’s also what directors and illustrators focus on when they put cells to celluloid for that all important imitation of life. Yet sometimes, concept transcends creativity, leading to something both revolutionary and retrograde.

Such is the case with Lawrence Jordan. Having been involved in making his “cartoon collages” since the ‘50s, the bay area maverick has seen both his Victorian styled stop motion cut outs and meditative live action tone poems celebrated as intense, inspired, and most importantly, artistic. Now, Facets Video has compiled a four disc DVD box set celebrating the man’s career. Entitled The Lawrence Jordan Album, we get two sets of animation, and two additional collections of standard cinematic statements. Yet once viewed, it is clear that there is nothing “typical” about what this inventive, sometimes irritating auteur has to offer.

Disc one takes us through the most typical of Jordan’s work, with pieces ranging from 1961 (“Duo Concertantes”) to 2004 (“Enid’s Idyll”). Following themes typically built around particular classical compositions, the 10 presentations illustrate the main muse that the filmmaker follows. The second DVD delves into the other side of Jordan’s passion. Known as “The H.D. Trilogy” (based on the poet Hilda Doolittle and her long form elegy “Hermetic Definitions”) this trip through Italy, Greece and Britain serves as a statement about aging gracefully, and vitally, through a world seemingly ignorant of its history. Disc three returns to the careful collage style, the trio of films following similar pattern. The final DVD delivers seven more live action efforts, including the stellar “Sacred Art of Tibet”.

Together, these films tell a compelling story, the implied narrative centering on an idealist locked in a battle between the suggested and the sensible. The first few films argue for a man exploring the very limits of a certain set agenda. As the gorgeous tones of the “Gymnopedies” or “Moonlight Sonata” play, Jordan juxtaposes images from ancient tapestries and etchings, old world wonders manipulated in such a way as to suggest Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam without a sense of humor. Certain constants resonate throughout - the crying, all seeing eyes; the escape implied in the hot air balloon; the grace of the human body; the undeniable beauty in nature. When combined with Jordan’s seemingly random approach (objects fly in and out of frame with minimal reference to anything storied or purposefully plotted), one gets the impression of an effervescent vision inspired by too many dreams and not enough drama.

Yet Lawrence Jordan’s scattershot stratagem can be very effective. “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, Samuel Taylor’s lyrical ballad about the seemingly supernatural events that occur to a sailor as he heads home, benefits from this wide open imagination approach. It’s a masterstroke to take the arc poetics the material provides and provide some manner of visual association. The other animations of Disc three follow a similar pattern. “Sophie’s Place” does try to intimate a centeral location and person, but the boundaries of such an idea are pushed, and then broken, time and again. Similarly, “Blue Skies Beyond the Looking Glass” gives us man (in the form of old Hollywood stars) vs. nature, the ephemeral and the exacting in close quarters combat.

Yet it’s his live action work which resonates deeper. The “HD Trilogy”, for example, explores elements that, even today, many filmmakers fail to bother with. Acting as a stand-in for both Doolittle and the poem’s complex protagonist, actress Joanna McClure depicts aging sensuality with frank openness and abject honesty. There are times when she appears frail and fragile. In other sepia toned lights, she sizzles beyond what her beauty pageant betters could ever accomplish. As the material turns contemplative and more insular, Jordan investigates the intimate. McClure bravely responds with nude scenes, self-reflection, and a last act sequence where all we see is her philosophical face, mind lost in deep thought. Some may see this trip through Italy and Greece (with a side trek through the cemeteries of London) as an extended travelogue. Sadly, they are missing the major point of this material.

The last disc is not so deceptive. Here, Jordan provides what some might consider straight forward documentaries. Of course, his clash of images style remains real and intact. Some of his subjects are fairly obvious. “Views of a City” looks at a burgeoning metropolis through the various reflective surfaces within, while “In a Summer Garden” and “Winter Light” are vistas captured in a self explanatory form. Perhaps the best example of what Jordan can accomplish with both his fact and fiction conceit is the vibrant “Sacred Art of Tibet”. Using a voice over that explains the various deities in the country’s religion, the filmmaker manipulates the material, double exposures and camera tricks creating an epiphany like look at the psychedelic dimension of faith. It stands as a fascinating piece.

In fact, all ‘facets’ of The Lawrence Jordan Album stand the test of time and post-modern temperament. As with any overview, the sudden sandwiching of movies that were never meant to ‘play’ together can be off putting. One sees patterns purposely avoided thanks to the displacement of years, and it causes a kind of fault the artist is far from guilty of. In fact, if one takes this box set as a gallery exhibit, a chance to view Jordan as a whole and not just a singular selection of one or two works, a prescience evolves. There is humor of the grotesque here, anatomical models dancing like chorus girls in a cheap vaudeville revue. Similar, Jordan applies a dream logic even more specious than David Lynch’s psyche scarred scenarios. Yet there is no denying that what he forges is, as Ed Blank of the Pittsburgh Press referred to it as “pure film”.

Indeed, The Lawrence Jordan Album could be subtitled “A Primer on the Language of the Artform”. Like a grammar guide required of school children to understand the fundamentals, and the tenet bending nuances, of writing and the resulting literature, this complicated creator reveres the rules, only to then break them with radical regularity. It’s the perfect amalgamation of what many in creativity already know - you’ve got to perfect the basics before venturing out into the unknown. With their spinning orbs, buried pagan symbols, understated purpose, and overdone calculations, Jordan’s work joins the ranks of other fringe finery. He may not deserve a place among the mainstream, but to understand the normative, one needs to know his formidable flights of fancy. They help put animation, and its internal element of art, into proper perspective.

//Mixed media

Indie Horror Month 2016: Executing 'The Deed'

// Moving Pixels

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