I have been summoned by Scott at Front Room Cinema to attend to the latest Meme working its way across the blogosphere. And because I’m a good, dutiful zombie, I’m going to oblige my friend.

The rules to the 7 x 7 Link Award are simple:

1: Tell everyone something about yourself that nobody else knows.

2: Link to a post I think fits the following categories: The Most Beautiful Piece, Most Helpful Piece, Most Popular Piece, Most Controversial Piece, Most Surprisingly Successful Piece, Most Underrated Piece, Most Pride-worthy Piece.

3: Pass this on to 7 fellow bloggers.

 

Okay, so here we go then.

Tell everyone something about yourself that nobody else knows.

Jeez, let’s start with something easy, huh? I mean, if there’s something that no one else knows, then it’s probably for a reason, right? Let’s be honest, I’m not about to confess to the bodies under the floorboard on my blog. Oh…

I guess I can confess that I am something of a sci-fi geek and used to watch a lot of shows. I always loved Doctor Who, Quantum Leap, Firefly, Sliders, X-Files, etc, but for many years I was a huge Trekkie. It’s not really something I mention in the pages of Celluloid Zombie, but I used to watch Star Trek religiously. All of the shows. At least one episode a day. I confess I know the Star Trek universe inside out.

However, I don’t have a Starfleet uniform, I can’t speak Klingon (beyond a few phrases from the shows) and I’ve never been to a convention. Mine was a private love affair. Until now, anyway. Live long and prosper. Don’t judge me.

1. The Most Beautiful Piece

A little something I wrote a few years back, entitled Two Hours in Another World. No pictures, just words, and a testament to my enduring love of cinema.

2. The Most Helpful Piece

Helpful? I write a movie blog. What the hell is going to be helpful about that? Okay, I guess it would have to be The Gremlins Gag Reel, for all of you out there who wanted a complete run down of the many in-jokes littering Joe Dante’s absolute classic. Helpful, right?

3. The Most Popular Piece

There must be a lot of people who share my love for Asian horror out there because the post that consistently gets the most hits at Celluloid Zombie is my Top Ten: Asian Horror Movies.

4. The Most Controversial Piece

I’d like to think everything I write is controversial, but since that’s patently untrue I’ll have to pick something. I was going to go for my review of Drive, which I thought was boring while everyone else raved about it, but instead I’m going to pick the recently published The Celluloid Zombie Guide to Becoming a Movie Snob – Part Two for which I received a complaint for suggesting tall people should be banned from cinemas. Apparently, I was quite convincing.

5. The Most Surprisingly Successful Piece

If two people and my mum read one of my posts it’s surprisingly successful, but rather than feel sorry for myself I’ll plump for The Thief of Bagdad and Simpler Times, which was actually picked up by another movie site. Surprisingly successful, I’d say.

6. The Most Underrated Piece

Ooh, two opportunities for self-pity in one meme. You’re spoiling me. It probably says a lot that this is the toughest one to call, doesn’t it? But after due consideration I’m going to hark back to Christmas 2010, when I tried to get into the spirit by listing Cinema’s Most Disastrous Santas. It was like the Christmas party that no one came to. Awwww, poor me. Sob.

7. The Most Pride Worthy Piece

It was between two, but finally I decided to go with my tribute to the Alien franchise, Life Cycle: The Birth and Death of the Alien Saga. Don’t ask me why, but I’m really proud of this one. It was a real labour of love, but I enjoyed writing it more than any other. And it’s the one I go back and read the most, too. Go figure.

Okay, that was relatively painless. And for my 7 nominees I have chosen:

Margaret @ Conjuring My Muse
Ruth @ Flixchatter
Colin @ Pick ‘n’ Mix Flix
Deborah @ The Intuitive Edge
Nadja @ 50 Reasons Why These Movies Suck
Claire @ Cinematic Delights
Cantankerous Panda @ Back in the Day

A visual list of the many in-jokes in Joe Dante’s Gremlins! Now showing on Celluloid Zombie!

Who says Top Ten lists have run out of ideas? Check out Top Ten: Movie Characters With Fur on Celluloid Zombie!

The Hole

Starring: Chris Massoglia, Haley Bennett, Nathan Gamble, Teri Polo, Bruce Dern

Director: Joe Dante

Newly arrived in the small town of Bensonville, brothers Dane and Lucas discover a seemingly bottomless hole in the basement of their new house. Shortly after opening the trapdoor which covers the hole, strange things begin to creep out, playing on the fears of whoever stares down into the darkness.

Welcome back, Mr Dante. Where on earth have you been? It’s been seven years since the cinema last saw a Joe Dante movie, and twelve years since it saw a Joe Dante movie that was any good (we’ll just pretend Looney Tunes: Back in Action never happened, okay). Now, at last, one of the 1980s most anarchic filmmakers, who brought us Gremlins, The Howling and Innerspace, has finally returned with something a little more like the Dante of old. The Hole marks a tentative return to form for the director. Sadly, it is only a tentative return.

Dante’s movies were almost always family fare, but with a trademark touch of darkness and insanity. Gremlins is the perfect example. With The Hole, the director returns to this template, fashioning another tale where the kids have all the fun and the adults are largely clueless as to what is going on around them. This set-up and Dante’s recognisable flourishes leave The Hole looking and feeling like a movie from the 80s. No bad thing for those of us who grew up on a diet of films from Dante and his contemporaries, like Spielberg, Landis and Carpenter. The first hour of The Hole is by far the strongest but it is ultimately let down by a weak and sentimental third act which undermines the creepy atmosphere and chills it built up along the way. Also letting the side down is lead actor Chris Massoglia, who delivers a performance worthy of the great Master of Wood, Keanu Reeves. Still there are reliable, if brief, turns from Dante regulars Bruce Dern and Dick Miller to lend class to proceedings.

You can come out now, Joe. We've forgiven you for Looney Tunes: Back in Action.

The modern teenage audience, fed on a stable diet of torture porn and dreary slasher movies, will probably find little to engage them in Joe Dante’s welcome return. This is a film that harkens back to a time when horror movies were more fairy tale than fetish. Dante fans, however, will relish in his trademark, if slightly restrained, mischievousness. Look out for the psychotic clown doll for old school laughs. Flawed but fun, The Hole is like welcoming back an old, childhood friend you haven’t seen in too long. Too bad it falls so completely at the final hurdle.

Rating - 3 Stars

I was born in the year 1970, which means I was an active human presence on this planet through that entire decade. However, other than Star Wars, the better episodes of Doctor Who and a few fashion traumas, there isn’t a great deal I remember about the Seventies. So, when nostalgia comes calling for me, it comes bearing the stamp of the 1980s. And when my nostalgia turns to movies, one year stands out above the other nine: 1984.

What a year for the summer movie that was. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Gremlins, Beverly Hills Cop, Star Trek III, The Terminator. Oh boy, oh boy, it was a feast of flavoursome seasonal celluloid. And the icing on the summer cake turned out to be a tasty confection called Ghostbusters. It was one of those mysterious and elusive creatures, the Sleeper Hit™, coming out of nowhere and stealing the summer.

I seem to remember spending the best part of the summer of ’84 standing outside the local 3-screen cinema. I was 14 years old, and beginning to gain more traction in that tug of war for more freedom with my parents, and going to the cinema was the activity of choice for a lot of us. Sure, you could hang out at the park, but the cinema was better. Well, it was to me, anyway. Come on, the cinema had movies. The park had grass and a fountain. It was a no-brainer. Yes, I was one of those peculiar teenage guys that sat in the darkened cinema, girlfriend at my side, with every intention of actually watching the movie. I did not go there to snog and cop a feel. That’s what the park was for. Okay, I may have made an exception with Out of Africa, but it was long and boring as a dog’s ass.

Spengler, Stantz, Venkman and Zeddemore - love those surnames.

So, yeah, Ghostbusters. Sorry, may have drifted from the point there. Nostalgia will do that to you. I remember the summer of ’84 was the summer of Ray Parker Jr. asking you who you were gonna call. And then telling you. Incessantly. I confess to you here and now and with no sense of shame…well, maybe a little, that I bought that damn record. Oh, give me a break, it was catchy. A lot of people bought it. And like a lot of people, Ghostbusters blew me away on that first viewing.  It was witty, original, the special effects were fantastic and I think even my girlfriend stopped wondering why I wasn’t trying to put a clumsy arm around her. Maybe we went to the park afterwards, I can’t remember.

With most movies which you saw for the first time all those years ago, you don’t really recall the event. You just know you saw them at the cinema. However, I can remember vividly watching Ghostbusters. We were sitting on the right hand side, near the back (but not right at the back, which was reserved for couples who should have been at the park). I remember the opening scene, the appearance of Slimer, and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man all from that particular angle. Isn’t that strange? I don’t recall what I was wearing but, this being 1984, that’s probably for the best.

So much better than watching a fountain in the park.

One more thing that I will always remember, with absolute fondness, is the Ghostbusters novelisation, by Larry Milne. I read a lot of novelisations back then, but this one was by far the best. It was written in the present tense, which was rare for that kind of book, and somehow this made it even funnier than the movie itself. It had such a dry humour to it. It could have been written by Bill Murray. I must have read that book three times, at least. When my girlfriend wasn’t around, of course.

Some films travel with you through time, always remaining in step with you, never triggering feelings of nostalgia. Ghostbusters will always be like an old song to me; a song that takes you back to your youth, and the summer you spent exploring new freedoms and discovering movies that you would love for life.

George Orwell was right about a lot of things, but for me 1984 was a great year.

Note: Click on all the images to see them full size.

If you love movies as much as I do, there’s a good chance that you love movie posters too. You probably have them on your walls, use one as your desktop wallpaper, and perhaps even collect movie posters like some people collect Picassos. I have a few myself, and why not? Some movie posters truly are works of art. Or at least, they used to be. Perhaps I’m wrong, perhaps I’ve got another case of that rose-tinted nostalgia-vision, but it seems that the hand-crafted movie poster has become an endangered species.

Growing up in the eighties, I spent my childhood in awe of the great movie poster illustrators, the artists whose work embellished the films I worshipped. I was a budding artist as well as a movie fanatic, and the eighties may have been the heyday of the movie poster artisan. It was, I see now, the perfect time for me to grow up in. Part of the excitement of any new movie, particularly those by the likes of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, was that first glimpse of the new artwork by Drew Struzan or Richard Amsel. These were artists who created posters upon which their signature was redundant. You knew who had created it simply by the style of the illustrations. They were in a league of their own, and in my opinion will remain so.

Star Wars reinvigorated the movie poster, accentuating the concept of the one sheet as a collectible piece of artwork. That’s not to say movie posters weren’t collectibles before then but, as it did with so many other things, Star Wars set the bar a little higher. The movie poster was suddenly romantic and energetic again, and the best designs for Star Wars ably captured the film’s wonder, sweep and spectacle. The posters were not just promotional tools, but important artistic creations in their own right. Perhaps, the most famous is the image of heroic Luke Skywalker, complete with accentuated physique, holding his lightsaber aloft, with the giant head of Darth Vader in the stars behind him. Known as Style A, this was a poster design interpreted first by Tom Jung (who would create posters for all three of the original Star Wars trilogy) and then by The Brothers Hildebrandt, with dramatically differing styles.

Drew Struzan’s poster for the film, in collaboration with airbrush artist Charles White III, was a nostalgic piece harkening back to the Saturday morning serials upon which the movie was based. It has a torn poster on plywood effect that only came about because the original design had no room for the movie credits. The romantic design ethic continued with The Empire Strikes Back. Roger Kastel illustrated the classic poster for the Star Wars sequel (see below), having previously created the iconic image for Jaws. Again, it is an evocative illustration encompassing a montage of scenes and characters. The fantasy and romance pours from the poster and the colours beautifully reflect those of the movie. Tom Jung also created his own poster for the movie, featuring a striding Darth Vader holding out his hand, a pose reflecting the movie’s famous and oft-quoted line, ‘I am your father’.

…….………….

Richard Amstel produced two wonderful illustrations for Raiders of the Lost Ark, having earlier worked on the poster for Flash Gordon (above). The Indiana Jones series, a natural successor to the romantic nostalgia of Star Wars, followed suit in utilising great artists to render promotional materials. Amsel’s work on Raiders still ranks among my favourites of all time (see his alternative version at the top of this page). The beautifully realised image of Harrison Ford lifting out of the sandstone (a mix of watercolour, acrylic, airbrush and coloured pencils) is not only iconic, but sets the tone and setting of the film perfectly. Again, Drew Struzan was given the chance to create his own design for the film, for its 10th anniversary re-release. Sadly, Richard Amsel died in 1985, only thirty-eight years old. Struzan then became the go-to guy for the Indiana Jones movies, as well as many others connected with the Spielberg/Lucas machine, such as the Back to the Future trilogy and the Star Wars prequels.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that there were many great artists working during this period. John Alvin created the famous poster for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which portrays the fingers of the alien and Elliot touching. The idea paid homage to Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam (suggested by Spielberg). Alvin was also responsible for the paws emerging from a box for Gremlins and the original poster for Blade Runner. Bob Peak created the art for each Star Trek movie poster, throughout the eighties. They, and many more like them, are the reason why movie memorabilia from that period is among the most sought after.

These days things are different. The ease and speed at which a poster can be knocked together using Photoshop means beautifully hand-rendered movie posters are a far rarer beast. To the men signing the cheques, it’s far cheaper to hire someone to sew together a couple of head shots or do a photo montage on the computer. I understand it, this is a business after all, but there was something about those old posters that fired the imagination and stoked the sense of wonder as you awaited your first screening of the next celluloid dream. They produced the kind of artwork that cannot be achieved with a mouse and keyboard, any more than an Impressionist masterpiece can be. The industry no longer seems to need the artists the way it once did, and it is always sad when an art form becomes surplus to requirements.

Struzan is still working, however rarely, and still producing immaculately hand-drawn posters. Hellboy was graced with his work along with, naturally, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. However, the golden age of he and his peers is long gone. At forty, I may grumble about my age, but I will always be grateful to have spent my formative years during the heyday of these unsung artistic giants. And I will always remember how I was just as influenced and inspired by the artistry they used to promote the movies as I was by the movies themselves. Thank you, guys.

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Drew Struzan’s website

A wonderful site dedicated to the work of Richard Amsel

Tom Jung’s page at IMP Awards

John Alvin’s website