Godzilla – World Cinema and American Language Barrier [Film]

godzilla

Chapter 2 – Subtitle Remake

Godzilla is the king of the monsters, but Hollywood is the king of the blockbuster. During the early 90s small screens across America gained access to TBS and TNT via basic cable packages. These two channels routinely aired themed marathons on weekends in one of four ways – the spy weekend centered around James Bond, the war movie weekend centered around Red Dawn (1984) and Kelly’s Heroes (1970), the drama weekend centered around The Outsiders (1983), or the monster weekend centered around Godzilla featuring his more playful films of the 1960s and 70s with their iconic dubbing. Godzilla is definitively Japanese with his destruction left purposefully less realistic as men in suits battle and crush miniature cities. Through basic cable, Godzilla became a woven part of the American lexicon despite our current gritty visually realistic take of storytelling through Hollywood blockbusters.

The largest export of the United States is our pop-culture delivered by Hollywood to nations across the world which reciprocate billion of dollars in ticket returns. In 1954, Godzilla was introduced in Japan with great success spawning 27 squeals over a fifty year period from the Toho Company. Hollywood took notice of this Japanese hit release Godzilla, King of the Monster two years later. With access to all the international markets across the oceans the United States home market remains the most profitable for American Studios. From this notion foreign films will not always work in their original form as financial successes within the United States. This is not a question of the quality of storytelling but the audiences’ ability to relate to the work presented. World cinema’s most revered films international rights are thus acquired by American Studios for the purpose of being  remade as Hollywood blockbusters based on American sensibilities with English dialogue.

Gojira_1954_Japanese_posterHollywood and Japan’s first introduction was not Godzilla but four years prior with Akira Kurosawa’s film Rashomon (1950). The film is a Japanese period drama starring Toshiro Mifune based on two stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. The film’s characters provide alternative, self-serving and contradictory versions a woman’s rape along with the murder of her samurai husband. Kurosawa intended the film to be an exploration of multiple realities rather than an exposition of a particular truth. Rashomon won the Golden Lion of the Venice Film Festival that year and an honorary Academy Award for most outstanding foreign language film at the 25th Academy Awards. R.K.O. acquired Rashomon for American distribution releasing the film in its original Japaneses with English subtitles. By 1952 the film had only grossed 200,000 dollars. Rashomon was a defining influence on a young Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola and other future students of the 1960s USC School of Cinematic Arts but also a financial failure in the United States due to the use of subtitles.

Until the late 1920s film was a silent medium. Warner Brother’s 1927 release of The Jazz Singer  forever changed how film was received. The Jazz Singer tells the story of Jakie Rabinowitz, a young man dealing with his Jewish roots and love for Jazz singing. The film features six musical numbers of synchronized singing to filmed performance. This incorporation of sound added unforeseen language barriers to world cinema. The addition of sound made it difficult for studios to export their films to foreign markets. Silent era Charlie Chaplin films were universally received because the audience was able to project their own culture and language directly onto the Chaplin’s silent Tramp character. With talking films a producing country’s cultural and language isolate the work from easy distribution to international audiences.

Across the Atlantic in 1931 Germany, Director Fritz Lang premiered his first talking picture, a thriller entitled M. The film is about criminals taking the law into their own hands in order to find a child murderer. The film did incredibly well in Germany and was sold to Foremco for international distribution in the United States, Foremco premiered M in its original German language with English subtitles. Following an initial two week run the film was pulled from theaters for poor performance attributed to the usage of those subtitles. M was later dubbed by director Eric Hakim with only actor Peter Lorre reprising his role. This dubbing incorporated partial re-shoots with American actors performing select cut away dialogue scenes. This reworking of M was done without Fritz Lang’s involvement in the hopes of gaining wider American returns.

The same year M was recut with American actors the definitive jungle picture King Kong (1933) premiered in New York City simultaneously at the 6,200 seat Radio City Music Hall and the 3,700 seat R.K.O. Roxy Theater across the street. King Kong is the story of a giant ape who lives on Skull Island and whose death is the result of his attempts to possess a beautiful young woman. The special effects spectacle was from Willis H. O’Brien who blended a claymation ape rampaging through jungle and city with live action actors. King Kong sold out the combined two theater’s 9,900 seats for four days straight with ten showing a day grossing just under 90 thousand dollars in 1933 money. Over the film’s initial run, King Kong would take in just over 2 million dollars and tens of millions over subsequent releases in 38, 42, 46, and 1952 – two years before the original Japanese Godzilla (1954). King Kong became the catalyst for the next generation of special effects film makers such as Eiji Tsuburaya of Japan and Ray Harryhausen of the United Sates (20,000 Fathoms Under the Sea – 1953).

Director Ishiro Honda and special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya took inspiration from King Kong for Godzilla (1954) who had captivated their imagination of wonder and mixed that spectacle with the context of Cold War nuclear annihilation. The conclusion of World War II is marked by the dropping of atomic weapons on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States. War was turned into occupation as the United Sates forces led by General Douglas A. MacArthur implemented military, political, economic and social reforms upon the Japaneses until 1952. As the world rebuilt, lines were drawn between a capitalist west and a communist east linked through a nuclear arms race as the threat of mutually assured destruction provided the only safe guard to avoiding world annihilation. With the ending of the American occupation of Japan, previous censorship restriction were lifted allowing Japaneses post war film to address the atomic age to which no other country was better suited.

rome open city

Post war cinema became a medium for people to express and deal with their nations’ feelings about the war’s devastation. Rome, Open City is an Italian film released in 1945 from director Roberto Rossellini which deals with the Nazi occupation of Rome in 1944. Joseph E. Levine, an American Film Producer involved in the production of over 500 films including the importing of foreign films into the United States, acquired the film’s international rights. Levine initially released Rome, Open City in the States in its original Italian language with English subtitles. Similar to Fritz Lang’s M, with little returns, the film was pulled from screens after two weeks. Levine recognized the fundamental fact American audiences do not like subtitles. Rome, Open City was dubbed over by English voice talent and re-released. The film went on to gross over 1 million dollars being the first foreign film in Hollywood history to do so. Levine followed Rome, Open City with the releases of Paisà (1946) and Bicycle Thieves (1948) each grossing over 1 million dollars themselves.

Director Ishiro Honda opens Godzilla with a sequence depicting a Japaneses fishing boat being obliteration through radiation breath. A slimier real life event became a key inspiration for the film. The United States tested their first Hydrogen Bomb on Bikini Atoll in the Marshal Island six months after the Soviet Union had tested their own Hydrogen Bomb. The real Japanese fishing trawler (Lucky Dragon 5) was fishing for tuna in a predefined safe zone until the area was overwhelmed by the Castle Bravo nuclear test which had yielded a 15 megaton blast rather than its planned six megaton. The crew of Lucky Dragon 5 faced radiation sickness and six months after the event the radio operator succumbed to the Castle Bravo radiation asking the world in his final breaths that he be the last casualty of the Hydrogen Bomb.

Immediately following a showing of Godzilla entrepreneur Edmund Goldman purchased the international rights to the film for 25,000 dollars. At that time 3,000 dollars was considered an average price for film rights. Richard Kay and Harold Ross later became involved with Goldman helping to finance the promotion budget for the American release. The three would show the film to Levine who immediately contributed 100,000 dollars of his own money into the production. Godzilla would not just be another dubbing, Levine would remake the film for American audiences.

godzilla_1956Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956) from TransWorld Releasing Corp was the adaptation of Godzilla (1954). This new recut version consisted of numerous new scene centered on the character Steve Marin portrayed by actor Raymond Burr. Director Terry O. Morse with his background in low-budget crime dramas and who was also known in Hollywood as a film doctor was brought in to direct the new scenes. Morse took the Japanese footage and created something new for American audiences. Through clever editing and set imitation Journalist Steve Marin appears to actually interact with the original Japanese cast who had been dubbed over by American voice actors with newly written dialogue.

Today dubbing is consider an insult to film. From the early 1940s through the late 1950s dubbing was considered the highest level of respect one could pay a film because having a film dubbed meant a producer and distributor believed enough in the film they were willing to invest their own money into the picture. Subtitles were cheap, but dubbing cost enormous sums of money. Hollywood took Godzilla and morphed it into an American monster attacking Tokyo. Godzilla, King of the Monsters would break Levine’s previous records of success. Toho also loved the recut version as it gave Godzilla a larger audience. Hollywood in more recent years has taken a different approach to successful foreign films.

Warner Brother’s release of Godzilla in the summer of 2014 is an American remake of the Japanese idea. The original 1954 and the 2014 remake share some similarities to the  monster genre. Both film take recent tragedies fresh in the audiences’ mind and incorporated them into their films but changed just enough to retain the entertainment aspect and not become to documentary. The 2014 film uses the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster in addition to the 2004 Indonesia Tsunamis as disasters fresh in the audience’s mind to elicits stronger emotional reactions to Godzilla’s devastation while the 1954 film parallels the dropping of atomic bombs on Japaneses cities and the Lucky Dragon 5 incident.

The two films although differ in the context of the genre. It is obvious what Godzilla (1954) is about – nuclear annihilation. Godzilla is the embodiment of that fear, a radioactive behemoth destroying all human society in his path. The people of Japan can do nothing to stop him with the exception of developing a weapon even greater then atomic weapons but at the cost of throwing the world into an even worse arms race. Godzilla (2014) is not really about anything other then being an American summer blockbuster that places Godzilla into the world in the most realistic way CGI can.

In 1954, the special effects pioneered by Eiji Tsuburaya were state of the art and amazed audience in the same way the Lumiere Brothers Train Arriving at Station (1896) caused people to faint. People attend films to see something they have never seen before. People saw Godzilla (1954) to see something they had also never seen before. Film requires elements of the fantastic and wonder. Cinema is the projection of that spectacle. I attend theaters in the pursuit of this awe inspiring wonder and to suspend by disbelief in the never before seen. Godzilla (2014) is a great American blockbuster in this regard. I cheered for the king of the monsters multiple times at my screening and witnessed some amazing visuals. The American blockbuster has in some ways developed into its own genre with specific rules of genres have such as one example – the destruction of a major city. On this new genre Godzilla succeeds. I had a great time watching the film but the fantastic elements or the character moments are not mutually exclusive as new blockbuster would try and claim they are.

Original Nation Title United States Title
Sweden Let The Right One In (2008) Let Me In (2010)
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009) The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Insomnia (1997 Insomnia (2002)
Japan The 47 Ronin (1942) 47 Ronin (2013)
Ring (1998) The Ring (2002)
Ju-on: The Grudge (2002) The Grudge (2004)
Seven Samurai (1954) The Magnificent Seven (1960)
South Korea Oldboy (2003) Oldboy (2013)
A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) The Uninvited (2009)
Hong Kong Internal Affairs (2002) The Departed (2006)
Germany Wings of Desire (1987) City of Angles  (1998)

With languages barrier in world cinema from synchronized sound with movement remakes became the logical solution for American Studios. Over 9.6 million tickets were sold in Japan marking Godzilla (1954) the eighth highest attended film in Japan that year earning over 2.25 million dollars (152 million Yen) for Toho Company. The recut version of Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956) was later premiered in Japan. Raymond Burr’s character was subtitled back into Japanese but the original Japanese dialogue was left untouched. The film was recut based on how visual elements came together and not how dialogue worked as the original Japanese lines had been rewritten to fit the new story. I can only image what sitting in a Japanese theater during the summer of 57 watching  Godzilla, King of the Monster and listening to the complete nonsense of non sequitur after non sequitur dialogue must have been like.

Advertisements

Stephen Hibbert [Interview]

hibbertSome people do some of their finest work behind the scenes.  This can be extremely prevalent in the world of film.  For every Quentin Tarantino, there are hundreds of other brilliant writers and filmmakers doing wonderful things, for the simple joy of being able to do what they love for a living.  Some people hold this embodiment as a sense of pride, others maybe in frustration.  No matter, they are a crucial element to the world of film.

One man who embodies this idealism to the core is the very Stephen Hibbert.  His track record is extremely impressive, writing for shows like MADtv and Boy Meets World and more.  But, the embodiment of being “behind the scenes” can be hidden metaphorically behind the very iconic figure that Stephen will always get to know he was a part of.  The “man behind the mask” if you will.  I’ll just throw it out there: Stephen Hibbert was The Gimp in the legendary film, Pulp Ficiton.  You remember him.  You probably remember that strange sense of confusion when the phrase “Bring out the Gimp” was first muttered, and the strange shocking feeling when you saw man completely covered in leather, face and all, being violently pulled from a box that we can only assume he called home.  Yep, that was him.

But, as we love to do here, we wanted to explore the career of the man behind such an iconic role.  And what a career!  Stephen Hibbert has done some wonderful things, and we are happy to exploit them for our own benefit right here at Trainwreck’d Society!  Just for you fine readers.  That being said, check out a few words we were so fortunate enough to get back from Stephen!  Enjoy!

 

 

How did you become involved with writing the screenplay for Julia Sweeney’s SNL character, Pat, being brought to the big screen? And what are you thoughts of the end result as a film? 

Julia and I were married and writing partners, at the time, and Fox approached us to write a movie for Julia’s very popular (at the time) SNLcharacter, “Pat.” The film ended up at Disney. While the film didn’t turn out as well as any of us would have liked, I still think there are some wonderful performances: Julia’s, Dave Foley’s Charlie Rocket and there are lots of truly funny jokes and scenes. So I’m actually pretty proud of much of the movie, and think it’s fair to say it’s better than you remember it, that is (in the unlikely event ) you’ve actually seen it.

Stephen Hibbert GimpMany folks out there may not recognize your role in Pulp Fiction by your face, as we were not able to see it. Because you were The Gimp! You were the sort of human centerpiece of the infamous scene in any even more infamous film. So please tell us….What was it like to film such a distrubing scene?

It was great to be a part of such an amazing film. And, while being wrapped up in all that uncomfortable leather gig was a bit of drag – the rest of the cast and crew were amazing and we had a blast making it. I’m sure for many people “Pulp Fiction” is a highlight, if not the highlight, of their careers. I know that no matter what else I do in show business, I’ll never have a cooler credit.

You were a regular series writer for MADtv during its inception. What was it like in the early days of the show? Did you ever believe the success the show would later such a hit?

It was a fun gig. I was only there for the first season, but I made some great friendships. You never what will be a hit, and I never think about that sort of thing.

After your stint at MADtv, you moved on over to Boy Meets World, which seems like a pretty drastic change as an outsider looking in. Is this so? What was your experience like overall on this show?

Boy Meets World was a great place to work. And it was just exercising another part of my writing muscle, after MADtv.

What would you say the major differences would be between writing for an animated series such as Darkwing Duck or Animaniacs as compared to shows like Boy Meets World and MADtv?

It’s all about trying to be as funny as possible. And it really dooesn’t matter if it’s character in a one-off sketch, characters we know so well in a sit-com or animated little, bouncy things – stay true to them and everything generally works out.

So, what does the future hold for you? Anything in the works you would like to shout out?

Like nearly everyone else, writing a screenplay, Trying to stay busy with freelance work, acting whenever the opportunities arise.

What was the last thing that made you smile? 

Making my 3 amazing kids laugh, always makes me smile.

Ten: A Novelization of the Film ‘Ten’ by Jade Sylvan [Book]

TENnovelsmallwrapTen women find themselves in a vacant mansion on Spektor Island in December, 1972. Each believes she’s traveled to the house on business, but they all agree that something seems strange. For one thing, the entire house is full of pictures and statues of pigs.

The women all come from drastically different walks of life. None of them would have chosen to spend the night together in such an eerie place, but the last ferry for the mainland has just left, and a terrible storm is rolling in. Trying to make the best of an unpleasant situation, they raid the mansion’s wine cellar and throw a party. As the night creeps on, however, it becomes clear that someone–or something–has lied to get them in the house. It’s not long before someone mentions that Spektor Island is supposed to be haunted.

Of course, no one in the house believes in ghosts. At least, not until the first murder.

What do an actress, a religious zealot, a renegade, a coed, a model, a singer, a medium, a real-estate investor, a historian, and a doctor have in common? None of them is who they seem.

MICHAELJEPSTEIN.COM

Regular Trainwreck’d Society readers probably won’t be surprised to see that we have found yet another way to exploit the excellence the project known as Ten.  The film was spawned by regular TWS attendees Michael J. Epstein and Sophia Cacciola, who we simply can never get enough of around here.  The project also featured the amazingly talented writer/musician/actress/alot of stuff doer Jade Sylvan who helped write the script and starred in the film as well.  And in a with just our luck, she also managed to write the film’s novelization, being that her latest success these days has come in the form of writing.  And what she has created here is a perfect example of what can happen when brilliant and like-minded souls merge together to form a more perfect artistic union.  Between these three amazing artists and the other bright minds around them, they are like the freaking Captain Planet team of the Northeast United States.  But, alas we are talking about a book.  And what a doozy of a book it is.

With this book being a novelization, we can eleviate the whole “book is better than the film” bullshit.  It also helps that the book is written by a co-writer of the original screenplay.  And in the vein of Sylvan’s previous works, she makes a brilliant effort to create an original story out of a previous work.  This book acts as a brilliant personalization of the characters that so many have already come to love and enjoy in the film version.  And Jade does so damn well at just that.  This is a book that doesn’t simply retell a story, it is a brilliant alternate look at what each character had going through their minds during this whole ordeal.

Jade Sylvan 3 (from TEN)The concept of Ten is one that was golden right from the beginning.  If the film acts as a brilliant homage to 70’s slasher and exploration films, the book has similar effects.  It is truly hard to explain how it feels to be read words that come off as classic literature, but are about pigs, death, and a mix bag of eroticism and narcissism that provides brilliant comic relief from a gruesome tale.  I truly enjoyed this little book, although I could arguably be called out as being totally bias on the grounds that I have become such a fan boy of everything that these beautiful team has created.  And with that being said, I might as well use this space to announce that I have my fingers crossed that Jade might return to novelize Epstein and Cacciola’s new project Magnetic.  If it isn’t in the works, I suggest we all rise up and beg the best we can to make this shit happen.  Who’s coming with me?

 

Note: 2014 is the first year for book reviews at Trainwreck’d Society. We will be making a valiant effort to read and review at least 100 books. This is review #15. Be sure to stay in touch and be on the lookout for further reviews throughout 2014. Be sure to let us know if we are falling behind. For a complete list of book reviews, click HERE. Enjoy!

Grynch: Street Lights [Album]

grynch-streetlightsThere isn’t a much better feeling than watching one of your favorite artists move on up, and up, and beyond!  It has been about 5 years since I came across this weird little white dude from Ballard, Washington that wanted to do this rapping thing.  He passed along a few free downloads of some EP’s and I thought I would give it a fair listen.  And as I was not expecting, the motherfucker blew my mind!  And this smooth cat is the very John Overlie, a.k.a. Grynch.  And over the last 5 years, he has flourished as one of the finest hip hop artists in the game today.  And with his latest release, Street Lights, he proves once again that he deserves your respect and adoration with what is definitely his finest work to date.

One of my favorite older tracks from Grynch is the highlight from his Something More EP, ‘Take A Trip”, which is basically a beautiful lyrical blow job to the city of Seattle.  But after listening to “My City’s Filthy” on this new joint, it is clear that some growth was needed, and definitely happened.  With each release, these cat just continues to grow in all the right areas without losing the lyrically inclined positive stigma that has made him a hero in the Northwest.  There is an obvious sense of humbleness in Grynch’s words.  Never before have I heard an artist who genuinely appears to be so damn grateful for the opportunities that have been put in front of him.  Besides being one of the finest releases this year, Street Lights is a beautiful example of what perseverance and determination can create.

It is very hard to not listen to an album like this without feeling a great sense of pride that can be compared to watching a son or daughter grow into a full blown man or woman.  The success that Grynch has built around previous tracks like “My Volvo” or “Mister Rogers” could appear to be the mastering of self deprecation at it’s finest, which could be arguable, but this idea has to be moot when you throw in the fact that this is such a talented man with skills that are absolutely undeniable.  And it says a lot about this day and age when being humble is a positive aspect in the world of hip hop.  And if this is to be the new ways and means of hip hop, Grynch is an obvious contender for king of this rap shit.

Head on over to GetGrynch.com to pick up a copy of Street Lights and much more!

 

Infidelix: Nomadic [Album]

Infidelix - NomadicIt has become a new and strange time for the world of hip hop lately.  Although there has always been a claim that “lyricism” is a major part of the art form, we all know that is bullshit.  If this were truly the case, so much of what we hear on the radio wouldn’t be so god damn terrible.  Thankfully though, I believe that lyricism is actually becoming important, and acting as a main stay in the world of hip hop.  And one of the finest warriors in the fight for lyrical importance is none other than Infidelix.  And he has something truly wonderful to share with you on his latest release, Nomadic.

With that being said, must of us who care to do some research know that there are truly talented folks out there who make hip hop a legitimate art form.  Sure it is vile at times, but isn’t that life?  And an artist like Infidelix exemplifies just how great this whole game can be.  Nomadic is not simply another collection of foul mouthed puns or a shameless collaborations of ironic metaphors.  This is an album that reads like a personal journey through the depths of one man’s soul that has been spread out on paper and later recorded to create a permanent record in history.  “Better Days”, which features a couple of nice cameos from the likes of artists Funzo and Leiko, is a prime example of this theory.  It would be difficult and ridiculous to not love such compassion and commitment to saying something so obviously personal as Infidelix has done with this wonderful record.

We have spent a lot of time here at Trainwreck’d Society showcasing the world of independent and/or alternative hip hop.  So much time that it may come off as pleading.  But, I truly believe it is an at form that deserves and needs to be showcased appropriately.  It is artists like Infidelix that make the struggle worth showcasing.  Here is a guy that truly lives what he says.  For example, this cat is currently on a “nomadic” journey throughout Europe with the intention of spreading the good word of hip hop across the globe, and of course, pulling the stunt of selling CD’s out of the proverbial trunk all over the world.  He has already had quite a journey, and should definitely be commended for his efforts and accomplishments, although he is only getting started.  And with a brilliant album like Nomadic in tow, his future is nothing if it not bright!

To learn more about Infidelix’s journey, check the updates at his blog Infidelix Goes Nomadic, and find out how you can help fund this incredible journey right HERE.

 

 

Oculus – The Twenty First Century Theater Remake with 40 Dollar Tickets [Film]

oculus_2014_horror_movie-wide

Chapter One – The Changing Theater

Every Monday night over eighteen-million televisions turn on with the purpose of watching NBC’s The Blacklist (2013-2014) developed by Sony Pictures. The charismatic wordplay of anti-hero Raymond “Red” Reddington portrayed by James Spader is a shared experience by the audience in general terms although viewer reactions to Reddington remain fundamentally isolated from one another. This isolation is the result of television’s ability to only support single to small viewing groups. Storytelling is bigger than this and exerts very personal reactions from the viewer when left to competent hands. During a theater screening the level of dramatic tension, comedic laughter, or horror filled shock is exponentially amplified through the participation of the audience which collectively feeds off each member’s emotional reactions. The limiting isolation of television is why movie theaters have thrived for the past 120 years. We are social creatures by which our storytelling moments are drastically improved through the sharing of experiences not just in collective terms but rather a required need to experience and share with other people in the same physical space breathing the same tension filled slightly stinking musky muggy recirculated air.

The Longview Theater was a second-run single-screen theater constructed in Longview Washington during the early 1930s of the Classic Hollywood Period. Years later the theater found itself located under a mile from the west coast multiplex chain Regal Theater the linked changing landscape of theaters during the late 80s and early 90s. The Longview Theater is a reminder of Americana romanticized by the old and forgotten by the youth. As so many other theaters across the United States have closed succumbing to the financial forces of those larger big screen chains so eventually did the Longview Theater. But back in November of ‘94 the Longview Theater was still open and I was a ten year old boy excited to see aliens, wormholes, and James Spader (I only appreciated Kurt Russell A.K.A. Colonel Jack O’Neill much later in life) star in the Sci-Fi classic Stargate.

Five steps behind by father and losing ground we rushed inside the Longview Theater’s lobby wet and cold from a torrential winter downpour. My father loved his popcorn served with extra butter along with an equally large Pepsi to counter the food’s lingering salty taste. Slightly burnt popcorn filled the air. Not losing a step from the entryway, we rushed right up to the usher working concession and who was also selling tickets. We shared the largest popcorn available along with two Cokes despite my father’s constant complaints to the young man behind the display case as to why he needed to carry Pepsi instead. My father eventually finished, we took our food and made our way to the balcony.

Longview TheaterHalfway through Stargate the storm knocked the power out leaving us sitting in the pitch black auditorium with twenty other people. After a few moments shouts from down below began. “Start the movie!” and “Where’s the picture?!” echoed off the screen along with the flinging of popcorn or rather off of the back of me. One person would make a joke and everyone would laugh followed by another person making a similar joke and everyone again would laugh. We kept this up for what I remember as being twenty minutes with never a response from the theater staff probably due to that usher, concession worker, ticket seller and projectionist being a single person working that night. Eventually the power returned, the film started up again, and the movie finished.

Twenty years later I saw the low-budget WWE supernatural horror film Oculus at the Vancouver Mall Cinetopia Movie Parlor. Cinetopia’s website describes the experiences as “Ultra luxurious seating, unique suite-level amenities, in-theater restaurant service available, Digital 7.1 Sound, Super HD 30 foot screen with an additional 18 LED screens creating an immersive movie environment.” With a maximum capacity of thirty people the chairs resemble couches furnished with pillows and feature autumns for putting feet up onto. The Movie Parlor is as different from the Longview Theater as Adam West’s batman (1966-68) is to Christian Bale’s batman series (2005, 2008, 2012). In order to understand the difference between Cinetopia and the Longview Theater we must understand what home theater is in the twenty-first century and The Blacklist’s weekly eighteen-million televisions.

A person can walk into an electronics store and purchase a 70 Inch High Definition (HD) television with a 7.2 surround sound system for under five-thousand dollars. A JVC 4K projector can be purchased for eight-thousand dollars while 4K 65 Inch televisions have dropped in price to as low as three-thousand dollars. These improvements in technology coincide with the rise of Video On Demand (VOD) services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. During the same time period as my experience of watching Stargate with my father, he was also building his own home theater system for VHS rentals and the upcoming DVD Players. Surround Sound had also become a practical home option which men purchased in droves.

LG-Cinetopia-Vancouver-Mall-architecture-07In this context the Cinetopia Movie Parlor’s 2K projection and 7.2 Surround Sound no longer imitates the theater experience but rather attempts an imitation of the home theater experience. This is a drastic paradigm shift in the approach of getting people out of their home theaters and into their theaters. With the rise of affordable 4K displays the question of the future of the theater has legitimacy not experienced  since the failure of 20th Century Fox’s Cleopatra (1963). In the beginning of moving images the motion picture was still new, exciting, and wielded awe and wonder which brought audiences together in shared rooms. If the theater is going to continue, that shared experience must remain at its core.

The world experienced its first collective movie experience in Lyon, France. The Lumière brothers, Louis and Auguste, wanted to show movies not to a single person looking through a box as had been the practice for traveling attraction and sideshows, but instead to large groups of people. Film had to be bigger if it was going to succeed. The dream of the big screen was made true on December 28th, 1895 when the Lumière brothers projected their documentary film Employees Leaving the Lumière Factory (1895) out to the world. Arrival at La Ciotat (1896) followed a year later depicting trains arriving at station. It is said this imagery caused a great unsettledness for the audience with some fainting.

Up until the 1930s most people did not move more than twenty miles from where they were born to where they would pass. The United States in its coast to coast vastness was still composed of isolated smaller communities. Nickelodeons became the window out to the rest of the world. The nation’s first theater was opened by Harry Davis and John P. Harris on June 19th, 1906. These theaters seated less than 200 people on wooden chairs with a screen hung on a back wall. A piano was set to the side of the screen for accompanying musical soundtracks. The first of these theaters were store fronts which had be transitioned.

Attendees would slap their nickel onto the ticket booth counter and walk inside to see glimpses of the outside world. Paris, London, Tokyo, the far off mysterious lands were brought back to small-town U.S.A. These films also brought back with them the latest fashions and social trends. The Nickelodeons although became victims of their own success. The new American studios Famous Players (Paramount), Warner Brothers, MGM, etc… were producing over seven hundred films a years for display in over fifteen-thousand theaters across the county. The rise of feature films over shorts and documentaries was also a contributing factor in the Nickelodeons’ decline through the tremendous success of such films as The Birth of a Nation (1915) from D. W. Griffith. Simply growing attendance required larger auditoriums.

In 1914 New York City the first of the million dollar Movie Palaces was built. The  Mark Strand Theater at 47th Street and Broadway opened by Mitchell Mark became the archetype for the Movie Palace featuring a single auditorium with rows of seats, a box office, concessions, balcony and washrooms. Movie Palace boasted luxury, giant screens and lavish architectural designs. Innovations such as seats with pivoting backs that allowed people to remain seated while others could pass in front of the rows was only one example. Talking pictures soon took over the silent era with sound movies out selling silent film by ten million tickets. Movie Palaces were forced to rewire their theaters to support the new sound format such as the monster classic Frankenstein (1931) by Director James Whales. Frankenstein from Universal was an American defining film for the horror genre.

The Elgin Theater in Ottawa Canada was the first theater to offer two screen capable of showing two different movies simultaneously in 1957. In the United States, Stanley Durwood of American Multi-Cinema (AMC Theaters) pioneered multiplexes in the early 1960s. These new designs allowed for a theater to operate several auditoriums with minimum staff through a centralized box office and snack bar area. This new Multiplex was built in Kansas City Missouri. A Multiplex featuring over twenty screens is known as a Megaplex which was first built by AMC for Dallas Texas in 1995. By the late ‘90s a Regal Theater would replace a single-screen Classic Hollywood Period theater in Longview Washington.

The horror genre had existed before sound as one of the first genre most notably and best done from German and Northern Europe films. This genre is about the dread of the unseen and above all others genres gets the closest to an audiences’ nervous system making the viewers sweet in cold rooms. Eighty-three years after FrankensteinOculus (2014) by Mike Flanagan continues this horror genre motif through supernatural sub-genre.

Oculus 2Oculus premiered on September 8th, 2013 at the Toronto International Film Festival based on an earlier short film Oculus: Chapter 3 – The Man with the Plan. The film received a wide theatrical release on April 11th, 2014. Told through linked parallel stories of the present and 11 years ago the film follows Tim (Brenton Thwaites) a young man just discharged from state psychiatric care. Tim had shot and killed his father 11 year prior and now believes he had created an elaborate supernatural story of a mirror’s evil demonic effect on his father in order to protect his psyche from truth of  his father simply being an evil man. Tim’s sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan) has spent her past 11 years researching the mirror’s history becoming obsessed with proving her family’s innocents while also trying to kill the force residing within its glass. The realist and super-naturalist perspectives purpose an interesting question for the audience to ponder.  (Hint – Low-budget WWE supernatural horror film). The results of this answer sets up an interesting progression of illusion built upon deeper illusions which eventually culminating in the overlapping the parallel narratives as to confuse the audience in where reality had gone.

By 2013 the average price for a movie tickets in the United States was eight dollars and thirteen cents. Seeing Oculus for two people at the Vancouver Mall Cinetopia Movie Parlor cost over forty-dollars without buying slightly burnt popcorn. Forty-dollars was spent for the imitation of the home theater experiences. If people can share a great time in the Movie Parlor by all means they should attend the Movie Parlor as often as they can. For me, the Movie Parlor gave me a sense of excitement this first go around but in retrospect I feel the theater misses the context of the previous 120 years of auditoriums. Big Screen, CinemaScope, UltraScope, the road show presentations, 600 people sitting together in the same space sharing the same experiences. To quote my good friend Michael Holmgren during the quiet after moment that followed an immensely tense scene in the third act of Quentin Tarantino’s film Inglorious Bastards (2009) “Holy Fuck!!!” – the whole audience erupted in laughter over Holmgren’s remark serving to lighten the room’s intensity from the previous scene. That was an experience I will always remember having shared with Ron Trembath, Adam Matson, Michael Holmgren, Tyler Averett and the 50 other moviegoers I will never know the name of in that theater.

Violent Psalms: Slow To Speak [Album]

Violent Psalms - Slow To SpeakSurprise, surprise good TWS readers!  I am awe-struck by yet ANOTHER wonderful indie rock band from, you guessed it, the great city of Portland, Oregon.  Seriously, John Oliver can say whatever he wants, but Portland is and will hopefully always be known as the hub of some of the finest indie rock in the planet.  And it simply doesn’t get much better than Violent Psalms.  This new founded act fronted by long time Portland based musician Ezekiel J. Rudick is yet another prime example of the beauty that comes from the city of fugitives and refugees.  And in a perfectly meticulous fashion, these smooth cats (even though their band name sounds metal as fuck, just saying) have released a brilliant 7-track album, Slow To Speak, for their fine listeners to take their brilliant sound into their own homes and away from the awe-inspiring live shows that have been creating quite a buzz throughout the City of Roses.

And in yet another perfect Portland fashion, Violent Psalms is yet another wonderful act that surrounds themselves with great friends who are just as immaculately talented.  The play often with fellow break out bands like Dedere and Grandhorse (both of which have been featured here at TWS), even having Dedere frontman Jared Brannan provide vocals all over Slow To Speak.  It is bands like these fine folks that make continue to make it even worth listening to music any more.  And Violent Psalms still manage to individualize themselves with a sound that is reminiscent of the happy-go-sad moments of the 90’s, when it was cool to be talented.  While it is not nice to compare a band, I can’t help but feel the tingly sensation that Dinosaur Jr. used to give when a song like “Sleeping Pills” kicks off and lives my attention directed only on the beautiful words and almost jazz like alternative guitar work that is nothing short of a brilliant signature for Violent Psalms.

Violent PsalmsViolent Psalms is without a doubt one of my favorite bands to emerge this year, and a group that I truly hope sticks it out and continues to create their own brilliant art together for years to come.  Slow To Speak will easily be one of those albums that will always be a “go to” album when you really can’t figure out what to listen to in those late night/early morning hours when you aren’t feeling to eclectic, but not entirely disturbed.  Or maybe when just for cleaning your apartment.  Or you know, whenever the hell ever.  That’s right folks, Violent Psalms is an amazing new band that desires, and definitely deserves your god damn attention.  And you should definitely feel fortunate enough to give that to them.

 

Slow To Speak will be released on May 16th, 2014.  And as we mentioned, this is a band with some great friends.  And on May 16th, the Violent Psalms Album Release Show will be happening at the Alhambra Theatre in Portland Oregon, featuring Dedere, Grandhorse, and the Seattle based indie rockers Western Haunts.  I suggest you get yourself there.