Ray Harryhausen passed away last week. This has been noted by people more qualified than I to discuss the master of stop-motion magic—Rick Baker, Adam Savage, Todd Masters, George Lucas, Peter Jackson, and more. The superhuman talent and perseverance evident in a Harryhausen effects sequence can easily be seen in countless visual effects artists since he first brought his creations to frame-by-frame life on the big screen. That makes sense. So how can I really say anything of worth when I say that I was also profoundly influenced by the artistry of Ray Harryhausen? With modesty, and a story about Clash of the Titans. Continue reading…
Posted March 11, 2010
Ext. THE CITY – When you Least expect it
You’re walking. The sidewalk is new, still burning moisture out of the concrete in a slow chemical reaction. You’re aimless. Nothing to do.
You turn a corner, and hear the opening strains of ‘Maybe Tomorrow’, the theme from The Littlest Hobo. The music seems to be coming from above and the lift your head to look. Just as you do so, you hear a new sound: the scream of high-test cables stretched to its limits.
You flinch and DRISCOLL drops from above, landing squarely in your
path. With a deft flick of the wrist, he unlatches the carabiners attaching him
to his rappelling gear and extends his hand to you.
Hey! Great to see you! Listen, I can’t stay long, but I really wanted to tell you how I feel about bad movies.
He waggles his hand, which you realize is still extended toward you. You take it. His grip is firm, reassuring.
There was this French television series in the late 80s, early 90s – I’m not sure if it’s still on – called “Cinema, de notre temps”. I looked for it on YouTube and no joy, but it’s probably out there somewhere. This -
He gestures up toward the helicopter’s loudspeaker system, which is still playing “Maybe Tomorrow.”
This was not its theme song. But that’s not really important, is it? Point is, they did an episode in ’91, entitled “The Scorsese Machine,” in which Martin Scorsese talks about, among other things, his omnivorous film-viewing habits. His philosophy is that there’s something to learn from every movie, good or bad. In even the worst film, there will be a line of dialogue, a shot, a performance, an idea – something that he hasn’t seen before. Um -
He tugs gently, and you realize you’re still holding his hand. You release it, and jam your hand in your pocket. There’s an ancient hard candy in there and you run your finger along its brittle cellophane wrapper, imagining its gummy surface.
It struck me at the time: if Martin Scorsese feels that way, why wouldn’t I? He’s undoubtedly seen more movies than I have, and knows more about the art and craft of filmmaking than I ever will. I can hardly argue with him. (Except perhaps over the last 45 minutes of New York, New York. Call me a philistine if you will, but I was kind of ready for it to end after the first two hours).
As he makes this parenthetical remark, he forms parentheses with his hands, cupping them on either side of his head. God, you think, weren’t air quotes bad enough?
He drops his hands and steps in close.
That’s why the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis mean as much to me as the films of Orson Welles. Why I’d just as soon watch Night of the Wehrmacht Zombies as Songs from the Second Floor (which, incidentally, supports being read as a zombie film). Why I like Shivers just as much as Eastern Promises. B-grade films, z-grade films. Grindhouse filler, second-feature flicks, also-rans and direct-to-videos. Filmmakers who make rookie mistakes, and ones who never learn from those mistakes. I love ‘em. I learn from ‘em.
He gestures broadly, at nothing in particular.
I especially like the ones who blatantly disregard the rules of filmmaking and storytelling. Like Doris Wishman. You know her? Nude on the Moon? Double Agent 73? In dialogue scenes, she would shoot the person listening, rather than the person talking, or just cut away to items in the room, like lamps or curtains. It was easier and cheaper to dub in dialogue after than try to get it right while footage was burning. Is that a good idea? Probably not. But there’s also something undeniably great about it, to my mind.
He crouches and places his hand flat on the curb, then runs it down toward the surface of the street itself.
Here. The gutter. It’s a good place to be. Things that start low live here. Things that start high end up here. You should stay as long as you can.
You nod numbly.
But me, I gotta go.
Driscoll stands and straps himself back into his rappelling gear. He tugs on the rope tethering him to the helicopter hovering above.
As he lifts from the ground, he voice rises above the roiling white noise of the helicopter’s wash.
Remember: bad is good!
Ian Driscoll is all done for now.