Alan Rickman. 1946-2016

Cancer has been busy in the pop cultural world in the first couple weeks of 2016. Stage and Movie star (and all around silky-voiced villain) Alan Rickman has succumbed to a battle with cancer at aged 69.

Depending on your age (and geographical location) you might know the man as Hans Gruber from action-classic Die Hard, where he portrayed one of the most memorable, Plutarch quoting, baddies of the screen (“And Alexander wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.”)

If you are of the younger set, then perhaps you remember him as the shifty Hogwarts teacher, Snape, from the Harry Potter films.

But this only scratches the surface from a quirky and varied acting career that spanned arthouse ghost stories, like Anthony Minghella’s Truly, Madly, Deeply, often cited as “Ghost” for grown-ups, where Rickman picked up a BAFTA. Also in idiosyncratic comedies such as The January Man (with Kevin Kline), savage political satire Bob Roberts, and Kevin Smith’s Catholicism-with-poop-jokes road trip, Dogma. He also completely stole the show from Kevin Costner playing the Sheriff of Nottingham in the big Hollywood blockbuster version of Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves in the early 1990s. So much so that there was a long-standing rumour that the film had to be re-cut to minimize Rickman’s screen-time for fears of him undermining the straight-laced and boring star of the film with his exceptional scenery chewing. (See also, Aussie western Quigley Down Under.)

Lastly his exceptional voice was often used in to full effect when the actor wasn’t on screen, such as Marvin in the (underrated) film adaptation of The Hitchhicker’s Guide To the Galaxy, Absolem the Caterpillar in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland films (the later of which, Alice Through The Looking Glass will be his cinema performance.)

And this is to say nothing of his extensive stage work.

For those of us who like going to the movies, Rickman will always be treasured as one who can intimidate quietly, with the power of his voice, and a pointed look of derision. There are few, if any greater examples of instantly recognizable screen presence and haughty attitude (with a soft underbelly) working today. Actors like David Thewlis and Benedict Cumberbatch who followed in his wake will have to carry the torch from here on out.

David Bowie. 1947-2016

Musical legend, style god, actor and space oddity, David Bowie has passed on following a battle with Cancer. Whether you grew up with him in the 1970s as Ziggy Stardust and The Man Who Fell to Earth, the 1980s with Live Aid, Labyrinth and Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, the 1990s with his Nine Inch Nails / Trent Reznor collaborations and various soundtrack work (From The Lost Highway to Seven) or the aughts with his astounding portrayal Nicola Tesla in The Prestige, and his comic destruction of Ricky Gervias in Extras, the Thin White Duke knew how to keep himself fresh, vibrant and relevant in both the pop cultural and musical worlds. And he did it with a rare integrity and dignity that is often missing, particularly in the world of pop music. He just recently released his 25th studio album, Blackstar, a couple days ago. David Bowie’s passing comes just a few days after his 69th Birthday.

The Guardian has more.

Vilmos Zsigmond. 1930-2016

We are losing our legendary cinematographers at an alarming rate this early into the new year. Vilmos Zsigmond, master of the earth-toned palette, shooter of McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Deliverance, The Deer Hunter, Heaven’s Gate, Blow Out, The Sugarland Express, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind for which he won the Academy Award for cinematography has passed on January 1st.

The Guardian has more.
 
 


 
 

 
 

Haskell Wexler. 1922-2015

Legendary cinematographer Haskell Wexler passed on yesterday at 93. One of the few shooters who won Oscars for both filming in black & white (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) and colour (Bound For Glory), he also shot One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest for Milos Forman, The Conversation for Francis Ford Coppola, Faces for John Cassavetes, Days of Heaven for Terrence Malick, Coming Home for Hal Ashby, Matewan for John Sayles, both In The Heat of the Night & The Thomas Crowne Affair for Norman Jewison among many others.

The man was a filmmaking genius, and didn’t shy away from politics either, as evidenced by his radical documentary/feature hybrid Medium Cool, which launched the career of Robert Forster, and as revolutionary today as it was in 1969.

The New York Times has far more in-depth look at Wexler’s career.

Maureen O’Hara: 1920-2015

ohara

She certainly lived a full life. With 65 acting credits to her name, I have to admit I have a lot of catching up to do if I ever wanna watch even half of them. That said, she always sticks in my brain if I think of Miracle on 34th Street, Rio Grande or The Parent Trap.

At 95, she passed away quietly in her sleep; surrounded by family and listening to music from The Quiet Man. The ravishing beauty became known as the “Queen of Technicolor” because of the way the camera loved her pale complexion contrasted against her flame red hair. How will you remember her?

She will be missed by many. Rest in peace.

Wes Craven: 1932 – 2015

 
Wes Craven had balls. He shocked (and still shocks) audiences in 1977 with the artful depravity of The Last House on the Left. He revitalized (or at least redefined for a time) the horror film escape in 1984 with an iconic character named Freddy Krueger. Then again in 1996, he took some meta-shots at some of his own work within the genre: . This once again brought about scores of copy-cats over the next two decades.

It’s safe to say that although not everything Craven touched turned to blood-curdling gold, the man was a legend not only within (though principally) a genre, but also the profession of screen writing and directing. At the age of 76, Craven has left us after a bout with brain cancer. He’ll certainly be missed but the filmography is here to stay and will certainly never die. Rest in peace sir.

Roderick George “Roddy Piper” Toombs. 1954-2015

Rest in peace you magnificent warrior. And enjoy all the Bubblegum that heaven allows.

“Rowdy” Roddy Piper, WWF superstar wrester, Canadian, Saskatoon badass, and delightful blowhard has passed on at 61. His final movie, a Cthulhu horror-comedy is likely scheduled to debut this fall, but he will always be Nana, the blue-collar worker crushed by the absence of honest working class jobs due to the Thatcher-Reagan conservatism of the 1980s only to find out that all republican fat-cats are actually ghoulish aliens from outerspace in John Carpenter’s iconic They Live.

James Horner. 1953 – 2015

Composer James Horner passed on yesterday in a plane crash while flying his Embraer EMB 312 Tucano turboprop aircraft. Horner, like many film score composers, has a massive list of film credits, including most of James Cameron’s filmography (From Aliens to Avatar), most of Ron Howard’s filmogarphy (From Willow to A Beautiful Mind), most of Mel Gibson’s directed films (Braveheart to Apocalypto) and so many more. Take a ride with the Fire-mares below from the camp classic Krull.

The Guardian has more.

Rick Ducommun. 1959-2015

Canadian comedian Rick Ducommun, who is special our hearts for playing Tom Hank’s busybody neighbour, Art Weingartner, in The ‘Burbs, has died. This is according to Joe Dante’s Facebook and Twitter pages which offer no further details. Dante was one of the few directors who cast Ducommun (who also had a small part in Gremlins 2) and the only director who gave him a significant role, I am expecting the news to be accurate.

Ducommun had a brief flash on the stand-up circuit with his very non-PC 1989 HBO Comedy Special, “Piece of Mind” and a set for Comic Relief III, and was also in very minor roles in Die Hard (where along with his scene in The ‘Burbs he is responsible for cutting the neighbourhood power off) and Groundhog Day (where he played the barfly.) For very sharp eyed viewers he was also a prison guard in Spaceballs, and a helicopter pilot in The Hunt For Red October.

He will always be Art Weingartner to us. Hey Art! You’re wife is home.

R.I.P.