Failure is what we’re told to avoid. However, few things can teach us more than falling flat on our faces. Failure can be a beautiful thing; the story of Icarus comes to mind. Of course, Daedalus is the one who gets out of that tale successfully, ostensibly the one we should emulate. But he doesn’t demonstrate the striving and failing that most of us are familiar with. Try, but you’ll likely fail. People will learn. And, eventually, you’ll learn.
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Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He’s a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he’s the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.
From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he’s a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).
It’s a concept as old as the films themselves. A lone man, fighting against insurmountable odds, lets his guard down for the moment and becomes vulnerable to those out to destroy him. Before long, there’s a group of rogues out to ruin our last honorable hero. In between, there’s a damsel in distress, or a widow with a outdated mortgage, or a kid in trouble, and our lead lends a hand, which only increases his other risks.
It’s a narrative formula that’s been used in everything from sword and sorcery to Westerns, crime stories to sci-fi and fantasy. But in 1981, Australian auteur George Miller found a way to make this otherwise arcane plot come to life—motorized life. His Road Warrior remains an action epic staple, an post-apocalyptic nightmare fueled by gallons of “guzzoline” and thousands of RPMs.
In case you haven’t noticed, the summer movie season is upon us. In fact, many would argue that, with its stranglehold on the box office over the last four weeks, Furious 7 began what traditionally occurred between May and August of every year. Of course, when money talks, no one connected to the studio system walks; they run to the nearest script doctor and demand their piece of the plentiful pot.
This makes the months between spring and fall a free for all of repeats, remakes, sequels, serializations, copycats, and crap. The times both before and after those periods are dumping grounds, places for pictures that don’t have an easy selling point, an obvious (or appreciative) demographic, or enjoy a contractual obligation regarding a release, and/or any old write-off sitting up on the shelf.
It is the rare film that comes out fully formed. One vision, manipulated by one person, is so unusual that many of the most famous movies are considered collaborations before anything else. Actors want to add and/or modify their roles. Suits who provided the necessary greenlight (and funds) want their notes and suggestions. Members of the various crafts—art design, costumers, F/X artists—all hope for a chance to offer up their creative choices, and then the entire package is collected, collated, edited, and focus grouped, allowing even those without a single clue about the art form to determine what stays and what goes. Someone like David Lynch may have “final cut” over his efforts, but more times than not, a movie is not a finished product until it opens at your local Cineplex.