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.
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.
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.
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.
Iconic actor Christopher Lee has passed on at the age of 93. He leaves behind a fascinating career in which he specialized in intimidating figures of intelligence and power. For the UK’s Hammer studios, Lee made dozens of films (and 20 of those co-starring with Peter Cushing), where he played a very raw and masculine version of Dracula, often.
I will always have a fondness (and fear) of his Lord Summerisle in Robin Hardy’s The Wickerman, a cultured Scottish lord who presides over an island of pagans whose apple crop is dying and extra measures have to be taken to make the land fertile again. Lee sings, struts, dresses in drag and never once loses his authority or dignity in the role, right up to the harrowing ending.
Lee also played Scaramanga, the Bond villain in 1974’s Man With The Golden Gun. While quiet in the 1980s, he started to get small roles in the 1990s with his white hair, such as Richard Lester’s Return of the Musketeers, Joe Dante’s Gremlins and Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow before making a full career resurgence in the 2000s with The Lord of The Rings, where he played the fallen wizard, Saruman. After that, George Lucas used him extensively in the Star Wars Prequel trilogy (dovetailing nicely with Peter Cushing’s authoritative role in the original trilogy.) With his career back in full swing, top projects such as the remake of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory made fine use of his tall figure. Even Martin Scorsese found a nice against-type role for Lee in his tribute to all things cinema, the children’s adventure, Hugo.
With such a prolific career and legacy, an onscreen career that spans 8 decades, there is no other actor quite like Christopher Lee, a man of intelligence, taste and dignity, he was one of a kind and will be missed.
Character actor Geoffrey Lewis passed on yesterday leaving a legacy of hundreds of wonderful character parts. He appeared in everything from Clint Eastwood westerns to The Devils Rejects and Fletch Lives.
Personally, I always used to confuse him with fellow character actor Marshall Bell, who I assume, both he fought tooth and nail for the same time of roles; namely grizzled, slightly authoritarian, often sympathetic but just as likely, a turncoat or a villain. Notably, Lewis is also the father of actor Juliette Lewis, who can be equally feisty and unpredictable on screen as her father ever was.
Our oldest living filmmaker, prolific Portugese director, Manoel de Oliveira, has passed on at the incredible age of 106. To put things in perspective, his first work in the film industry was in the SILENT FILM era; specifically 1927. And his career spanned more than 60 Features, Documentaries and short films. Although I do not believe I saw a single one of his many films, much of which are from an industrious run in the past 20 years, his passing underscores once again to me, just how young filmmaking is as an artform.
Working steadily into his hundreds, Manoel de Oliveira’s final feature screened in 2012 at the 69th Venice International Film Festival; Gebo and the Shadow stars Michael Lonsdale, Jeanne Moreau, Claudia Cardinale, Leonor Silveira, Ricardo Trêpa and Luís Miguel Cintra and is based on the play The Hunchback and His Shadow by Raul Brandão.
“Making a film isn’t finding the answer to a question; it’s trying to capture life as it is.”
he elder half of the famous Maysles documentary filmmaking team, Albert Maysles died yesterday at 88. David (who passed on in the late 1980s) and Albert documented The Rolling Stones in one of the best documentary films ever made, Gimme Shelter, shot during the infamous Altamont Concert; a touch-point considered the end of the Hippie movement, and the beginning of the flower-power narcotics hangover. (We did a Movie Club Podcast on the 1970 doc here.) They were leading proponents int the Direct Cinema Movement which aimed to minimize cinema tricks in the documentary form to represent their stories honestly (and as the name states, directly.) They also documented The Beatles, IBM, The extended Kennedy family (Grey Gardens)the dynamic of the modern salesman in the classic documentary, Salesman. In his solo career Albert Maysles made an equally diverse stretch of films from the 1950s all the way up to 2009. Maysles was a titan of the documentary field, as important to its development as Robert J. Flaherty, Frederick Wiseman, Werner Herzog and Errol Morris.
With much sadness, I report that Leonard Nimoy, Actor, Director, Singer, Photographer, Poet, purveyor of Vulcan logic-and-heart-of-gold, has passed on. Whether you were a Star Trek fan (he was in pretty much every reboot and incarnation of the show in some capacity), an admirer of the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, or just enjoyed songs about Hobbits, Nimoy always delivered the goods.
Not to be too obvious, but he lived long and prospered, and his legacy allows that we benefit from such fine work.