Monday, December 13, 2010

Hollywood, Why So Serious?

I would like to begin today’s discussion with a simple question.  Should TOY STORY 3 win the 2010 Oscar for best picture?  On the surface the question appears innocent and to many na├»ve.  Come on!  What are you thinking?  How could an animated film win the big prize?  What makes you think that an animated film even deserves the big prize?  Hollywood even created a category specifically for animated features in order to keep from having to ever answer this very question.  Sure animated films have been nominated in the past.  BEAUTY AND THE BEAST was nominated in 1991, but many thought that that was a relatively weak year for films, and UP was nominated last year, but it was probably the beneficiary of an expansion of the category to 10 nominations.  In either event, neither was given a proverbial snowball’s chance of winning, so what’s the deal?  Why does Hollywood have such little regard for animation and while we are on the subject certain other genres when it comes to its coveted award?

In the past Hollywood would judge its nominations, not based on subject matter, but based on excellence in craft and entertainment value.  Through the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s best picture winners were routinely crowd-pleasers like IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934), YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU (1938), AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS (1956), and THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965).  Even as late as 1976 ROCKY took Oscar home.  As they say, that was then, and this is now.  The last pure comedy to win was THE STING in 1973.  Yeah a musical won in 2002 (CHICAGO,) but the subject matter was certainly edgier than previous musical winners.  It took an over top epic of monumental proportions for a fantasy film to win, THE LORD OF THE RINGS:  THE RETURN OF THE KING.  SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE was light and entertaining, and it managed to beat the darker and grittier SAVING PRIVATE RYAN in 1998, but many thought that anomaly was the result of a media blitzkrieg by Harvey Weinstein.  Oh and of course, there is that whole TITANIC thing.  Remove these from the mix and look at the trends, and you will see it’s true.  In spite of these notable exceptions, Oscar has moved into darker and often times more socially relevant subject matter over the last 30 years.  Comedies, most fantasies, and heart warming musicals have been left at the train station holding their tickets in hand in favor of what Hollywood feels are deeper and more important dramas.  Many recent winners have had very narrow audience appeal and have not performed as well at the box office.  In fact, Oscar has become so predictable that many people see certain films as intentional “Oscar bait.”

It is certainly short sighted to notice and report a trend without at least attempting to address the why so why has Hollywood moved in this direction?  Well, any answer would be complete and absolute speculation because I don’t think you would ever get a straight response if you tried to pose the question in an open forum of Hollywood executives and filmmakers, so I will do my best to at least to tell you what I think.  I think that Hollywood has lost touch with the regular folks who spend hard earned money on their product.  I think that they have forgotten why many of us go to the movies.  Now I am not talking about why I or many of you go to the movies.  Yes, I like to be challenged on occasion.  I like to question my own convictions from time to time as I am sure so do many of you.  However, the general masses don’t visualize movie going in the same manner.  Most people just want to check out for two hours and enjoy a little vacation from reality.    Sure Hollywood still provides this type of entertainment, but from the perspective of the craft of filmmaking such popcorn fare seems to be of an inferior nature.  The powers that be put their time and talents into the crafting of more challenging subject matter.  Unfortunately, gone are the days of an abundance of well made light-hearted films.  This trend has occurred because I feel that Hollywood has come to the conclusion that it is its job to educate the masses to their way of thinking.  Yes, I may be over stepping my bounds and accusing Hollywood of some seriously arrogant practices.  Yes, Hollywood filmmakers mostly walk to the left of the political equation, and I certainly don’t want to create yet another liberal vs. conservative debate, but it does seem that the general attitude of Hollywood is that we know better than you, we are smarter than you, and we want you to listen.  Look how great and important these films are.  They are so great and important that we are giving them our most prestigious prizes.  America, watch and take notice of what we are telling you.  This is the way of the future, and you must see the fact underneath the fiction.  Now I admit that this is my opinion, and it is not necessarily a fact, but it is certainly not a position to where I have idly arrived.  I have come to this conclusion by carefully listening to the interviews given by many Hollywood “A-listers” over the years and also by listening to some of their Oscar acceptance speeches on the big night.  To me, it is disingenuous to continue to place a higher level of importance on certain films at the expense of others.  There is plenty of room for high quality films of all types, and Oscar can and should acknowledge all deserving entries.

Well, I guess one can’t necessarily raise concerns without providing a solution so here it is.  Return to the ways of yesteryear.  Now I am certainly not saying that Hollywood should stop making socially relevant material into films.  What I am saying is that they should put forth high effort in all aspects of filmmaking, and they should judge films on the art and craft of filmmaking, not on subject matter.  I am a moderate in all aspects of the word.  Balance is important.  Hollywood has drifted away from the middle, and I think it is time for it to move back into its proper position.  It is O.K. for a popcorn, box office blockbuster to win the Oscar for best picture if it is crafted well.  It is also O.K. for a lighter box office performer with social relevance to win if the same rules have been applied.  THE SOCIAL NETWORK is the current front runner to take home Oscar Gold on 2/27/11, and it is most definitely a well crafted tale of superior quality.  Let’s just strip subject and genre out of the equation and judge apples to apples instead of including them and judging apples to oranges.  When done it is easy to see that TOY STORY 3 or even INCEPTION meet the same criteria.

With this stated do I think that TOY STORY 3 has a chance?  No, not this year.  Hollywood for all its liberal and progressive ways is actually quite slow to change.  Animation still has an uphill battle on its hands for some very practical reasons.  Hollywood really and truly doesn’t know what to do with it.  For one, animated films have no visible actors to be judged.  Voice talent is in a sound proof room somewhere reading and recording lines of dialogue to be later synced to a cartoon creation.  This creates a barrier for Oscar voters who may be attempting to perceive the man or woman behind the avatar.  In addition, most of the regulars in Hollywood don’t even know the names of the great animation directors.  Sure we know who Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and David Fincher are, but do we know John Lassiter, Brad Bird, and Lee Unkrich.  Why is that important?  Well unless you are DRIVING MISS DAISY, no film has won the Oscar for best picture since the early 30s without its director also being nominated.  Since name recognition is absent, the likelihood of one of these directors receiving a best director nom is quite remote.  Despite this, with the continued existence of Pixar there is hope.  TOY STORY 3 is easily the highest reviewed film on Rotten Tomatoes this year with a tomatometer of 99% and only 3 rotten reviews to its name, (including our good buddy Armond White.)  Past Pixar films have also held this distinction.  Pixar films continue to be triumphs of storytelling and heart felt emotion and sentiment.  They have generally been technically superior to most other films animated or otherwise.  As this trend continues Hollywood will eventually take notice and will eventually award an animated film Best Picture, and maybe then we can truly return to judging films on their technical merit and not their subject matter.

That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


In the 30s and 40s no filmmaker captured the essence of Americana like Frank Capra. His films were the very epitome of the triumph of the human spirit especially when intertwined with great adversity. During his illustrious career he won three Oscars for his direction, and two of his films won the coveted Oscar for best picture. He was a bold representative of a time in Hollywood when films did not need to be dark and foreboding to be considered award quality, and he capitalized on that notion with style and grace. YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU is easily one of his most memorable and greatest achievements.

An average day in the Sycamore Household

Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU tells the story of the eccentric Sycamore family and their grandfather and ringleader, Mr. Vanderhof. More than 30 years prior Mr. Vanderhof was a successful business man who abruptly left his office one day in order to have some fun with life and never returned. His passion and free spirit became a staple in his household, and now all the Sycamores spend their day doing whatever they please. Penny, Vanderhof's daughter, writes novels because someone delivered a typewriter to the Sycamore house by mistake 8 years ago. Her husband, Paul, makes fireworks in the basement with family friend and resident Mr. DePinna. Their eldest daughter Essie dances around the house like a ballerina and makes fudge, and their youngest daughter, Alice, likes to slide down the banister into the great room on her way to work. Worlds collide for the Sycamore family when a wealthy Wall Street banker wishes to buy their property and the surrounding properties in order to build a factory for the manufacture of weapons for the looming war in Europe. Grandpa is the last holdout, and banker, A.P. Kirby will do whatever it takes to get him to sell. Little does Mr. Kirby know, but his son and newest vice president, Tony, is dating Alice Sycamore.

As a stage play YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU is an absolute delight to behold. I recently had the opportunity to see a wonderful professional production here in my home town, and it was an intensely gratifying experience. Without the constraints of live theater, (the entire play takes place in the great room of the Sycamore household) the film is able to expand locations in order to flesh out detail only hinted at on stage. Under these circumstances the film becomes an exciting and entertaining companion to an already entertaining play. For me this really helped increase my satisfaction with watching the film, but mind you, you do not need to see the play to enjoy it. Capra's skilled direction drives the story effortlessly from start to finish, never slowing down and never leaving the viewer wanting. It is easy to see why he was so highly regarded in his day. Lionel Barrymore is deliciously elegant as Grandpa Vanderhof. He delivers his lines with emotion and picture perfect comedic timing. (I must add an exchange between him and an I.R.S. agent about paying taxes as one of my favorite scenes of all time.) For those of you who are fans of another Capra work, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, Barrymore's performance adds an interesting and stark contrast to his portrayal of the malicious and ambitious Mr. Potter. Jimmy Stewart also shines as Tony, the bridge between the Kirbys and the Sycamores and the son of a wealthy man who has already learned that wealth isn't everything. Stewart has always exceeded at capturing the essence of the everyman, and it is easy to see why Capra chose to work with him on several occasions. He portrays Tony with warmth and class, and one can't help but see true love and devotion between him and Alice. Jean Arthur is also exceptional as Alice, a woman who loves her family and loves her man and hopes that the two will find a way to meet in the middle through her. All in all, expert direction, stellar performances, and emotionally uplifting storytelling make this film a treasure that should not be missed.

YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU is light-hearted but not a product of simpler times. Keep in mind that the U.S. was caught in the grip of The Great Depression and Europe was on the brink of war. With that in mind Hollywood was interested in audience friendly escapist fare, and YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU fits that need nicely. Is it silly and unrealistic at times? Yes, I can admit as much, but its central theme still resonates true to this very day. "Don't become so entrenched in the grind of daily life that you forget what's truly important."

That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Harry, Ron, Hermione, Birds, and Bees

In case you were vacationing in the darkest regions of some uncharted nebula, Harry Potter was released last week.  This wasn’t just any Harry Potter.  It was the first part of the final chapter in this Brobdingnagian franchise which has now become the most successful in film history, (not adjusting for inflation.)   And it wasn’t just released.  It exploded onto the silver screen with an eruptive force that could make Krakatoa look like a children’s pop gun.  In its opening weekend it took in over $125,000,000 placing in at number 6 on the highest grossing opening weekends of all time.  If only I was on the Warner Brothers payroll.  Even if you don’t like Harry Potter you would have great difficulty arguing against its cultural influence and impact since the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in June of 1997.  Since that time the book and its sequels have been international best sellers, and the film adaptations have grossed dollar amounts in the billions.  Scores of children wear Harry Potter inspired costumes each Halloween, and words like muggle, Quidditch, and expecto patronum have become household terms.  Many of us dream of some day visiting the likes of Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, or the Weasley’s Burrow, (but maybe not Azkaban.)  Needless to say, it is a different world since Harry Potter and his friends have entered it.  On top of this the world of Harry Potter is unique because it appeals to children and adults alike.  I just saw HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, Part I over the weekend, and I would say that there were more adults in the theater than children.  So, knowing its influence on young and old alike what is Harry Potter’s role in our culture?  Where do its boundaries lie?   As Uncle Ben once told a teenage Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  What is Harry Potter’s responsibility to his fans, and is it possible that the film franchise has become too sexy?

B cup to C cup?  You decide.
My question is a curious one and is rooted in recent events, but we must go back a few years to track its origins.  Curiously, during the run of HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX a question arose concerning the representation of Hermione’s pubertal development on publicity art for the film.  It would seem that Hermione’s chest appeared larger in posters for IMAX screenings of the film when compared to the exact same poster labeled for traditional screenings.  Now I guess one might argue that of course Hermione’s chest looks bigger, it’s in IMAX, but some did not find the possible photoshop by Warner Brothers’ art department as amusing, accusing them of anything from poor taste to something as heinous as child pornography.  (Emma Watson was still under 18 at the time the photos were taken.)  Regardless of the truth or intent the story was generally nothing more than an interesting anecdote, and it seemed to fade away quickly, unless you frequented message boards on the internet, which can go a long way beating a dead horse when they are in the right frame of mind.

Ahh, the lady in red!

Now jump ahead to the recent past.  As Warner Brothers’ prepares for the release of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, Part I they release a teaser trailer featuring our three stars walking briskly through the streets of London.  Though they appear to be on the run, (from what we can imagine but aren’t sure) they are well dressed and Hermione is wearing an elegant red dress.  The trailer reveals little of the plot of the film and seems to be more about grabbing our attention, especially with mostly muted colors and Hermione’s eye popping evening wear.  With this installment of our discussion I think we can blame TWILIGHT.  You see, we had already been exposed to two TWILIGHT films and were about to be hit in the head with a third.  I think it was the publicity department’s way of saying, “Hey teen fans of TWILIGHT don’t forget that Harry, Ron, and Hermione are also all grown up and so are their adventures.  If you like Bella and Edward you are going to love our trio even more.  Keep us in mind come November.”  Again, aside from a few bloggers laughing at the similarities this story also faded with little if any real fanfare.  As if Harry Potter really needs to compare himself to TWILIGHT in order to gain viewers.

Hey you.  Get your damn hands off her!
That brings us to the present day and the anticipated release of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, Part I.  After widespread screenings of the film the media airwaves came alive with discussions of a particular scene featured in the finished film.  (WARNING, MINOR SPOILER AHEAD)  It would seem that while Ron is attempting to destroy the locket horcrux it defends itself by attacking him with his greatest fears.  After he jumps away from an army of approaching spiders he bears witness to Harry and Hermione, obviously nude, in a tight embrace.  After an initial moment of bewilderment he composes himself, charges through the image, and drops a mighty blow on the horcrux with the sword of Godric Gryffindor.  Now, as far as I remember from the novel, no image was as explicitly described in the written word as was shown on screen.  Nevertheless it was there, and many are talking about it.  Whether or not this story gains momentum or fades like the previous two remains to be seen.  So in the meantime the question is this, “Is it too much?  Knowing that there will likely be younger children in the theater could the scene have been muted with the same effect?  Could Harry and Hermione be in the same position, but wearing clothes?  Well the debate and opinions are likely endless, but I hope to justify my position adequately in the next few paragraphs.

Younger and simpler times
First I would like to restate that the Harry Potter world is unique because it continues to appeal to the young and old alike.  With that in mind please picture this.  You are an 11 year old child, and your aunt just gave you a new book for Christmas, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  She knows you like fantasy and adventure and the woman at the bookstore told her that you would probably like it.  Well you most certainly fell in love with it and wanted to read more, but you had to wait.  There weren’t any more, at least not yet.  As you grew to become 12 so did Harry in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.  As you grew into a teenager and became interested in girls so did Harry.  As you grew into early adulthood and took on more adult responsibilities so did Harry.  You see, you were in the unique position of growing up with the books because you had to wait for their release.  In addition, the first film didn’t hit the big screen until 2001, and you had to wait for that too.  Like Harry at the age of 11 you were innocent and completely infatuated with the wonderful world of magic, but as the two of you grew older your interests changed.  Yes, new and exciting worlds opened up to you, but with new options came newer and bigger responsibilities; such is the blessing and the curse of aging.  However, like Harry you were developmentally ready for the challenge.  Now, imagine that you are 11 today, and you pick up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone because your friend said that it was really cool.  It is absolutely the coolest thing that you have ever read, and you immediately read the rest of the entire series.  You jump into your Netflix cue and move all of the available films to the top.  After watching all of them in rapid succession with a drooling ear to ear grin, you drag your parents to the theater on opening night for Deathly Hallows, Part I.  You do all this over the span of a few months and are chronologically and developmentally still 11.  You did not grow up as Harry grew up.  You did not gradually progress from one world to the next.   You flew through them at breakneck speed without looking back.  Because you were bombarded with thoughts and ideas at such a rapid pace and at such an escalating level of maturity you were unable to process them adequately and became frustrated and confused.  As a result you find yourself in a world that you do not understand and aren’t sure if you truly like anymore.   You have been forever changed.  Maybe this is a good thing.  Then again, maybe it is not.

Snogging Harry Potter style
Now let’s translate this into our current situation and re-ask the question, “Has Harry Potter become too sexy?”  In my opinion, the correct answer is no.  While I do feel that the scene that launched this verbose discussion could have been diluted with the same effect I do not have a problem with it being present in the film.  Harry Potter is not too sexy.   He has become a young adult and is behaving as such.  He likes Ginny Weasley and she likes him.  When teenagers like each other they kiss.  In addition, Ron likes Hermione but is afraid to show it.  He fears that Harry is more appealing to Hermione than he is.  As a result he becomes petty and jealous.  Eleven year old boys don’t kiss eleven year old girls.  Eleven year old boys don’t become envious of their friends over eleven year old girls.  At eleven girls still have cooties, but things change at 17.  Harry Potter’s problem is that he is forever adding to his fan base, and some of them may not be ready for his later adventures.  Despite this fact, many fans are exposed to them anyway, so where does the responsibility lie?  Well, it lies where it always lies, with the parents.  Keep in mind, in the United States HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, Part I is rated PG-13.  This is an advisement to parents that the MPAA feels that some of the film’s material may be inappropriate for children under 13.  Parents must be active in their children’s lives.  They should ask them what they are reading.  If they are concerned about a particular film they must do the appropriate research before saying yes to a trip to the theater.  There are many websites available that will objectively give parents a blow by blow description of a particular film so that an informed decision can be made.  Parents know the strengths and weakness of their own children best and have the ultimate right to say yes or no.  Parents should not pass the buck onto Hollywood because they are too complacent in their own lives to play an active role in the lives of their children.   That’s just selfish and downright lazy.

That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Welles, Hearst, and Kane

It has been nearly 70 years since the release of CITZEN KANE, and the topic remains fresh, vibrant, and alive.  It continues to top the “best of” lists of most filmmakers and critics alike.  Its power and influence can be felt most everywhere, including in the most unlikely of places, i.e. The Simpsons.  It has become a standard by which the term “classic” can be defined.  So the questions that beg to be asked are these, “How did all this happen, and what almost prevented it from happening at all?

Logo for an RKO Release

In the spring of 1939 RKO was in desperate need of help.  The studio was financially unstable and was looking for a creative boost to its film library.  Then president, George Schaeffer looked to New York for his answer and found an upstart young artist named Orson Welles.  Welles was already making a big splash on the Broadway Stage with sensational productions of JULIUS CAESAR, MABETH, and HEARTBREAK HOUSE.  However, what really brought him into the minds of the West Coast was his radio production of H. G. Wells’ WAR OF THE WORLDS in October of 1938.  Welles’ dynamic production of a Martian invasion literally sent the entire nation into a panic.  Police stations were bombarded with calls most of night, and if it wasn’t for the fact that the broadcast constantly reminded everyone that this was fiction, Welles would have gotten himself into a great deal of trouble.  With that kind of talent, Schaeffer saw a chance to bring RKO out of its doldrums and began courting Welles in an attempt to bring him to Hollywood.  Ultimately the efforts paid off and Welles agreed to an incredibly generous contract.  Under the contract Welles would make two films and after script approval from the studio he exercised complete artistic control over the films, including final edit.  At the time such power was rare, especially for someone new.  In fact, only the likes of Charlie Chaplin had such control in those days.

Orson Welles in his prime

Though Welles had a great deal on his plate at the time, including some prior commitments which brought him back to New York every weekend, he immediately began work for RKO.  His initial plan was a film adaptation of the Joseph Conrad story Heart of Darkness.  The story had always been a popular one, but for many years it was considered dark, brooding, and unfilmable.  Welles convinced the studio heads to see things his way by telling them about inventive and unique filming techniques that he planned to implement into the production.  Ultimately they greenlit his proposal and production began.  Almost as soon as production was underway, trouble began.  In addition to Welles’ New York commitments tensions were escalating in Europe, and before too long all out war had begun.  Would a dark wartime tale attract a mass audience who already had the concerns of real war on their minds?  The answer was an emphatic, “NO!” and the plug was pulled.

Welles with Mankiewicz

With Heart of Darkness out of the question, Welles began to turn his attention in different directions, always seeming to come up empty.  A reunion with an old acquaintance from his New York days, screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz ultimately sowed the seeds that would one day become CITIZEN KANE.  Mank, (as his friends called him) had been around Hollywood for years.  He was a talented writer, but a tragic flaw always kept him from reaching his potential, (booze.)  He was actually on his way to New York to find new work when an automobile crash brought him back to L. A.  While recovering from his accident, Welles approached him to aid in the writing duties of his weekly radio broadcast for the Campbell Soup Company.  Mank agreed and sometime during these collaborative efforts the idea for Kane was born.  The exact nature of the starting point is unknown, but it seemed to revolve around a new novel by celebrated novelist and noted socialist Aldous Huxley.  Huxley, popular writer of the science fiction novel, Brave New World, among others arrived in Los Angeles in the late 30s and found himself in the favor of noted publishing tycoon, William Randolph Hearst.  Huxley was so turned off by this meeting that he decided to write a novel that thinly resembled his experiences with Hearst and some of Hearst’s questionable activities, most notably the mysterious death of film producer Thomas Ince while attending a party on Hearst’s luxury yacht.  The novel, After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, made the rounds, but the generally ruthless Hearst decided to ignore it in the hopes that it would go away.  It did, and all seemed well, at least at the time.  However, Welles, having been invited to a party at the Huxleys' home to commemorate the completion of the novel was intrigued by Huxley’s story and its link to Hearst.  An idea was already beginning to take shape, and the muses were starting to sing.

William Randolph Hearst with Marion Davies

I guess the questions that beg to be asked at this time are two-fold, “Who was William Randolph Hearst and why did anyone really care about mysterious events from his life?”  Well by the 1930s William Randolph Hearst, owner of 29 newspapers plus countless other publications, had become one of the wealthiest individuals in the world.  With wealth came power, powerful friends, and enemies waiting for a crack in the armor to open wide enough to strike.  You see, Hearst began his days in the newspaper business when his wealthy father gave him the San Francisco Examiner as a gift.  He quickly improved circulation and started making a tidy profit by converting the legitimate news venue into a sensationalistic tabloid-like rag.  He adopted every low brow technique of “yellow journalism” at his disposal to increase the bottom line and pad his own pockets.  At this he was extremely successful, and became incredibly wealthy and influential.  Rumor even has it that his exaggerated reporting of Spanish and American tensions led to the Spanish American War.  On his rise to the top he devastated many underneath his thunderous wake and spent little if any time apologizing.  With time he built San Simeon, a huge castle on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, as a testament to his wealth and power.  In its echoing halls he entertained many of the most influential people of the time, including much of the Hollywood elite.  In addition, he took a mistress, Marion Davies, under his intimate and wealthy wing.  At the time she was a second rate actress whom he tried to buy into the business by creating his own production studio with her as the star.  Needless to say this, among many other things attempted to be accomplished by Hearst through the use of his ludicrous wealth, never came to fruition.  With this in mind, it is easy to see why Hearst would be a tempting target for a man like Welles.

Publicity Poster for CITIZEN KANE

Still recovering from the crash that left his leg fractured in three places Mank traveled to the countryside to concentrate on the script and avoid the temptations of the big city, namely booze.  After several months of round the clock work he returned to L. A. with first draft in hand.  The idea to follow the narrative of the Huxley novel, including his fictional version of Thomas Ince’s mysterious death had been scrapped.  Instead the screenplay focused on the final words of a sickly tycoon and a series of flashbacks created in order to learn their meaning.  Welles was thrilled.  He loved the final utterance, “Rosebud.”  It was simple and memorable.  Where did Mank get the idea?  According to Mank he had heard from a reliable source that “Rosebud” was Hearst’s pet name for Marion Davies’ “nether regions.”  Welles loved the inside joke, and work began securing the greenlight from RKO.  After script approval was received production began, and, believe it or not, it was completed with few if any delays.  In January of 1941, with a proposed release date of February 14, 1941, Welles screened the not quite finished product for a small handpicked group of people.  All but one member of this exclusive press screening were completely blown away.  Many thinking it was possibly the best film they had seen in a long time.  The one dissenting viewpoint belonged to Hedda Hopper, local gossip columnist and long time friend of William Randolph Hearst.  She left infuriated with Welles and immediately called Hearst.  What Hopper didn’t know was that this was part of Welles’ plan.  Angered by the audacity of this young filmmaker’s attempt to splash his private life across the silver screen, Hearst immediately went to work with plans to ensure this production never saw the light of day.  Never one for getting his own hands dirty, he put his minions on the project of being his mediators in this crusade.  Flexing his power and muscle through them he convinced the other studio heads to refuse to screen the film in their own theater chains.  (At the time many of the larger studios owned their own chains of theaters throughout the nation, and it was through mutual cooperation that many films were able to be released on a more widespread scale.)  He put a ban on any RKO advertisements in any of his newspapers.  He tried to get Welles and his friends branded as communists.  He even went as far as convincing MGM head Louis B. Mayer to ask George Schaeffer to sell the film and all its negatives to him for $800,000, (the reported budget of the film,) so that he may destroy them.  The biggest and most effective threat from the Hearst campaign came from potential exposure of an underhanded practice that had been currently going on in Hollywood.  The raging war in Europe had resulted in an influx of immigrants to the United States, many of them Jewish.  Rumor had it that the predominantly Jewish heads of the studios had been favoring many of these unfortunate souls for work over their American counterparts.  Needless to say, the initial plot worked, and the February 14, 1941, premiere of CITIZEN KANE was canceled.
Grand Premier at The Palace Theater (May 1, 1941)

Despite this setback RKO president, George Schaeffer truly felt he had a masterpiece on his hands and began a grass roots campaign to get the film into theaters.  He traveled the nation privately screening the film for critics and film professionals alike looking for support.  After the movement picked up steam he finally convinced the RKO board of directors that publicity and strong word of mouth would make CITIZEN KANE a hit, and they agreed to release the film.  CITIZEN KANE finally saw its grand premiere at New York’s Palace Theatre on May 1, 1941.  The film proved to be everything that people were saying, an instant masterpiece, the best film of our time, etc, etc.  Critics wrote rave reviews, and the air was buzzing with excitement.  However, as we have come to learn over all these years, critical praise doesn’t always translate into mass audience appeal.  Its dark and bleak subject matter did not translate well for average filmgoers who know nothing and care nothing for the art of actual filmmaking.  As a result, enormous fanfare aside, CITIZEN KANE was a box office flop, and its receipts fell about $150,000 short of its budget.  In addition, the Hearst attack on KANE did not end with its release.  His influence still kept the film out of smaller theater chains nationwide, narrowing its availability for screenings and probably contributing to the shrinking bottom line.  Despite his best efforts, Hearst could not take full credit for the commercial failure of CITIZEN KANE.  The reasons for this are actually three-fold.   The previously mentioned Hearst boycott and lack of mass audience appeal are two, but the third was even more devastating.  With war in Europe and uncertainty for the future in the thoughts of most Americans, many just weren’t going to the movies.  Box office receipts were down across the board, not just for CITIZEN KANE.

KANE's competition at the 1941 Academy Awards

Despite early failures, Orson Welles had one last chance to drum up support for KANE and make it into a success, the Annual Academy Awards.  When the nominations were announced in early 1942 KANE topped the list, and many industry insiders felt it was the film to beat that year.  A successful run on Oscar night wasn’t any guarantee, but it certainly couldn’t hurt.  The publicity just might be enough to get KANE back out into wider release and maybe turn a modest profit.  Well, as they say about the best laid plans of mice and men, they often go astray, and Welles’ most certainly did.  CITIZEN KANE was a surprise loser in all categories except “Best Original Screenplay.”  Welles himself lost the best director Oscar to John Ford, and KANE lost the best picture Oscar to HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY.  Many think Hearst had his hand in this as well.  Some reported that KANE was booed by the audience every time it was announced.  In addition, a new rule for that year’s ceremony allowed extras to vote in certain select categories.  Many felt Hearst used his influence with the industry to steer the 6,000 votes away from CITIZEN KANE.  However, none of this has been verified.  With the losses on Oscar night no new campaign to save KANE ever got off the drawing room floor, and the film disappeared into RKO’s vaults.  Even with the film out of the picture for the time being the relentless Hearst did not call off his attacks.  It is implied that Hearst had a hand in the failure of Dorothy Commingore’s acting career.  Despite rave reviews as Kane’s trophy wife Susan, (the supposed Marion Davies character,) Commingore mysteriously found it difficult to find legitimate work in Hollywood again.  In addition, when the alcoholic Mankiewicz found himself on the wrong end of a D.U.I. case, Hearst papers relentlessly and excessively reported the news for nearly two weeks.  Welles himself never quite achieved the same greatness as he did with KANE, and most of his films were not commercially successful.

With Hearst himself dead in 1951 and most of the fanfare around CITIZEN KANE gone as well, little was heard of the film until 1962.  At that time CITIZEN KANE made its first appearance in the number one spot of the British Film Institute’s “Greatest Films of All Time” list.  It repeated this monumental feat in 1972, 82, 92, and 2002.  In 1998 it appeared number one on the American Film Institute’s list of the best 100 films of all time.  It would appear that despite its hardships CITIZEN KANE had cemented itself in the annals of film history, never to be replaced.  If only Orson Welles had lived long enough to see it to completion.  He did witness early successes, but unfortunately he died, alone, of natural causes in 1985 at the age of 70.  Did he leave this earth with one final cryptic remark?  We will never know.  What we do know is that he left us with a masterpiece that we can treasure for now and for many endless years to come.

That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Helpful Hints for the Haunted

Congratulations!!  You have just been cast in the new Wes Craven film.  No, it is not MY SOUL TO TAKE.  Mr. Craven would like to wash the bile laden residue of that cineturd out of his system by jumping right back in the saddle with a new project.  The details are very hush, hush at the moment, but rumor has it that it involves some vengeful spirits and a spooky old house.  Since it is your primary objective to give the performance of your life and survive to the end of the film, (maybe even win that Oscar you so richly deserve,)  I would like to provide you with a few key pointers to help you complete this daunting task.  Truth be told, many people either die or suffer horrendous misfortune in horror films because they make the same mistakes over and over again.  Are they just frightened out of their minds or do they just lose all sense of reason in the heat of battle?  Who can say with absolute certainty?  What I can say is that if you follow my simple platform you will be greatly rewarded.  If you don't, well you can't say you weren't adequately warned.  So, without further adieu grab a pen and some note paper because here we go.

Very inviting.  I think I'll stay
As you embark on this endeavor the most important thing to remember is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  If you receive notice that an aunt, grandparent, or (insert random relative here) that you have not seen or heard from in quite some time has recently died and left you the ancestral home in her will, SELL IT!  Don't go for a visit.  Don't insist that you are going to honor this person that hasn't contacted you in just over a millennium by living in the home.  JUST SELL IT!  Contact a local realtor, and put that liability on the market as quickly as you possibly can.  Bank the proceeds and move on.  In so doing you have just saved yourself from months if not years of agonizing torture at the hands of the perceived dead and buried family secrets that are now preparing to haunt you from beyond the grave.  This is your first warning, but say you are curious and insist on a sentimental journey back to the homestead.  On your arrival the locals turn a cold shoulder to your family legacy and shun your very existence.  They go out of their way to make you feel unwelcome.  The adults accost you with cold stares from the porch of the dilapidated general store.  The children run from you, and their parents quickly lead them away from your presence.  When you attempt to question them they are overly evasive or flat out lie to you.  You continuously find spiteful, anonymous, handwritten letters in your mailbox.  Guess what, you have just reached warning number two.  Refer back to the beginning of this paragraph and look at those two words in all caps.  However, you are a stubborn soul.  No one is going to keep you from what is rightfully yours, especially a bunch of uneducated and uncultured country simpletons.  This second warning falls on deaf ears, and you proceed to your family home to commence with a little exploring.  You arrive at the home at dusk, and you are greeted by your relative's faithful housekeeper who nearly knocks you over on her way out of the door because, as she so eloquently states, "I don't like to be here after dark."  A strange breeze gives you a chill as you enter, but nothing seems out of place or unusual on the surface.  The locals have gotten you unnerved you say.  You begin looking around, and in the attic you find an old trunk with a collection of newspaper articles dating back over a hundred years.  Some of them are worn and hard to read, but you are able to decipher a story about an accident at the mill that you remember your mother saying was owned by your great, great grandfather.  Many perished in the accident which was believed caused by the unsafe working conditions at the mill.  Congratulations, this is your third and final warning.  Proceed with the two words in capital letters at the beginning of this paragraph or suffer the consequences.  This may not be baseball, but after three strikes you are still out.

You really don't want to know the answer to that.  Try again.
O.K. maybe this has nothing to do with your family.  Maybe it is all about you.  You just got divorced, were diagnosed with a terminal illness, or (insert life changing stressor here,) and you are not feeling emotionally stable at the moment.  The heavy anvil of depression is weighing down on you, and you need some relief.  You want to leave the hustle and bustle of city life for some much needed quiet and peaceful reflection in the countryside.  Before packing up your things and telling your boss you are going take an indeterminate leave of absence consider this simple advice, STAY HOME!  Listen, I know you feel bad, and everything around you reminds you of your current problems, but this is where your friends and support systems are located, and this is when you need them most of all.  Your friends are here to help you.  They will come to your home or apartment.  They will stay with you if needed.  They will provide you with the companionship required to get you on your feet again.  That is why they are your friends.  You do not have any friends in (insert name of small town 200 miles away.)  In fact most of the people in said town are probably suspicious of out of towners.  They have deep dark secrets of their own that they have kept hidden from the outside world for hundreds of years, and they don't want any city folk snooping around in their business.  I realize that you are just trying to help the restless spirit that is haunting the small home you have rented, but you didn't know this person in life so why bother with them in death.  Besides, the locals will go the extra mile to protect their traditions, and if you get too close to the truth you will become expendable.  Believe me, if you just stay home and tough it out with your friends you will be much happier in the end.

Can't you see I'm busy.   Get Out!
O.K. you just got a new job working for (insert name of successful development company here.)  You have a chance to make millions of dollars by spearheading the company's plans to build a huge new housing project in the suburbs.  Before you begin remember this simple mantra, SACRED LAND IS SACRED.  Whatever your boss demands of you,  no matter how much money you may lose,  regardless of whether or not this may even cost you your much coveted job, do not build your development over an existing cemetery, and most certainly do not desecrate the holy lands of an ancient but extinct Native American tribe.  Only trouble can come from this, and believe me, it isn't worth it.  Listen, death is the great equalizer.  No matter what our station is in life, we will all be dust in the end.  For many life is hard, and when they die they deserve to rest in peace.  They don't need some money hungry upstart raining on their parade by digging up their remains and dumping them elsewhere, or worse, removing the headstones, not digging up their remains, and planting a concrete foundation right on top of their heads.  I don't know about you, but I get pretty cranky when my earthly sleep is disturbed.  I can't imagine how I might feel if my eternal sleep was disturbed.  If that were to happen I would be coming after you, and the end result would not be pleasant.  O.K. maybe you aren't an upstart businessperson looking to make a quick buck.  Maybe, you are just a stupid college drunk.  Well, I am not going to tell you not to drink and party.  That is your business, not mine.  What I am going to tell you is, "Don't get drunk and party in a cemetery."  Look back to those capitalized words at the beginning of this paragraph. (I hope you can read.)  Yeah, I understand that you are not digging me up to build a home, but I don't want you dancing, peeing, and/or screwing on top of my head either.  This is my final resting place.  It is not a frat house.  Leave me in peace or suffer the consequences.  You have been warned.

Don't worry.  Nothing to see here.
O.K. let's say you are on vacation with some friends, and the group of you is staying at a quaint cabin, (insert preferred location here.)  While exploring the cabin you find some interesting handwritten notes in a language you don't understand.  DON'T READ THEM, especially not out loud.  In fact, it is best just to stick them right back where you found them and forget they are even there.  Well, maybe it wasn't a collection of notes.  Maybe one of your stoner buddies found an unlabeled videotape instead.  The answer is still the same.  DON'T WATCH IT.  Maybe it wasn't that either.  Maybe one of your friends brought an Ouija Board because he played with it once at his cousin's house while they were drinking, and it was a blast.  DON'T PLAY WITH IT.  Put that Ouija Board right back in the suitcase and leave it there.  Can you see the trend here?  Don't mess with anything that may result in unknown or unwanted events.  There is a reason why we fear the unknown.  It is because it is unknown.  Why would anyone want to put themselves in a position where they are forced to deal with beings whose behaviors are not understood and whose intentions are unknown?  It is best to just let sleeping dogs lie.  After all, curiosity killed the cat, because the cat got inebriated and thought it would be fun to, "see what happens when it does this."

There you have it budding young A-lister.  Heed my words, and you will quickly become a ghostbuster extraordinaire.  Ignore them, and you will be cursed until a most horrendous and unnatural death claims your immortal soul.

That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, November 8, 2010


THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE is a British film based on the Richard Matheson novel, HELL HOUSE. Richard Matheson is one of the better horror writers of the 20th Century, and his work can be found scattered across both big and small screens. Some of his most notable adaptations include three versions of the vampire story I AM LEGEND, WHAT DREAMS MAY COME with Robin Williams, and STIR OF ECHOES with Kevin Bacon; on TV, multiple episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, and DUEL, the made for TV movie that launched another legend, Steven Spielberg. Matheson's stories dealt with many themes, from simple twist endings to satirical humor to paranoia. Sometimes he tried to create a horrific tale that attempted to find balance between the supernatural and the natural. With added inspiration from my favorite ghost story, THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson, HELL HOUSE is one of these tales.

THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE opens with a meeting between physicist and paranormal researcher Lionel Barrett and aging millionaire Rudolph Deutsch. For reasons unclear in the film, but more developed in the book, Mr. Deutsch is interested in scientific evidence supporting life after death and has asked Barrett to find it. For Dr. Barrett the temptation, possible academic notoriety, and money are too good to overlook, but the feat will be no small one. In order to find the answers he seeks he must journey to Belasco House, the only known location where paranormal activity remains unexplained, and Belasco House will not give up its secrets easily. In the paranormal circles it is known as Hell House, the "Mt. Everest" of all haunted houses. No one has even set foot within its evil walls in 20 years, and the last research group to investigate it did not fare very well. Of the eight member team, most died or were driven permanently insane. Only one, Ben Fischer, crawled away with both mind and body intact. Now it is Barrett's turn to solve the riddle. Together with his wife, Ann, mental medium, Florence Tanner, and physical medium, Ben Fischer, (the very Ben Fischer, who nearly died the last time,) he travels to Belasco House to encounter the waiting demons within.

THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE is a British production and has the look and feel of a Hammer Studios film. For this reason some may feel it looks dated, but I disagree. Seeing that I still really enjoy Hammer Studios productions, as a mimicker it was an added bonus. All in all the film creates a wonderful atmosphere for malevolent specters. The sets are stylish and elegantly dressed. The surroundings are horrifically ominous, and the soundtrack creates an eerie sense of foreboding. The film remains effective at generating some legitimate scares, and I found myself feeling hairs stand on end like it was my first viewing all over again. For this, it was enough for me to give the film a positive review, but Matheson's screenplay has some discernible weaknesses, namely in characterization. I have often discovered this problem when watching film adaptations in which novelist and screenwriter are one in the same. It almost seems as if the novelist is already very close to the characters and understands them, creating assumptions that we do as well, though we have never met them before now. With the exception of Ben Fischer all other players in the film seem one dimensional. We know Barrett is a determined researcher who wants to prove that paranormal activity has a natural basis, but his motivations are never explored beyond that. His wife is mere window dressing. Many of the more sexually explicit aspects of the novel center around her, and with the sexuality toned down for a PG rating it leaves her little to do. Florence Tanner represents the yang to Barrett's yin, but beyond that we really don't know much about her past experiences or motivation. It is not even fully explained why Deutsch sanctioned this project in the first place. When added together, this proved to be somewhat dissatisfying. The house and its history seem to dominate most of the group's attention, leaving us little time to get to know them as more than just pawns in an evil game of ghostly cat and mouse.

Besides its drawbacks THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE does offer some appeal for the lover of horror. As I previously stated, some effective scares and creepy crawly tension remain as integral components to the film. In addition, Matheson filled his story with scientific explanations for the paranormal, some of which are still relevant today. The ideas of ghosts generating electromagnetic fields and draining environmental energy in order to create physical manifestations are widely accepted by today's parapsychologists. For believers, like me, it adds an element of realism to the story. Beyond that, the film has proved to be a model for more recent haunted house stories like POLTERGEIST and ROSE RED.

In conclusion, has THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE worn a little with time? Perhaps, but despite its shortcomings, I still find it to be a worthwhile experience especially if you enjoy haunted houses and incorporeal harbingers of doom.

That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What I Learned from Watching TROLL 2

Today I would like to put on my professor's cap and educate everyone into the wondrous world of TROLL 2.  TROLL 2 has many things to teach about the world around us, and it is fortunate that we have this unique opportunity to open our minds and expand our horizons.  So without furth...  Wait!  What is that you are saying?  You have never heard of TROLL 2?  Well, looks like we need to start from the beginning.  TROLL 2, released in 1990, has the reputation for being one of the worst films ever made.  It is PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE bad.  But, I must say, worst, like best, is often difficult to pin down.  There are just too many variables in play to find a way to cancel them out and arrive at a final verdict.  Does that mean TROLL 2 isn't bad?  Oh no, not at all, TROLL 2 is most definitely quite awful, but there are different kinds of bad.  Some films are bad-bad, like BATTLEFIELD EARTH.  There is nothing redeeming about this film, and it has no entertainment value.  In comparison, some films, like TROLL 2, PLAN 9, etc. are fun-bad.  Sure, they scrape the bottom barrel when comes to film making technique, but they have a strange, masochistic charm about them that provides them with entertainment value.  In fact, TROLL 2 is so fun bad that one of its stars has recently made a documentary about it that is actually well done and has been well received.  With a tomatometer of 94% BEST WORST MOVIE is listed as fresh from this very website.  So, with that in mind I would like to enlighten everyone with some of the intellectual stimulation that has enriched me since viewing TROLL 2.  I will warn you, that there may be spoilers ahead, but no need to worry.  I don't think that there is any way I can ruin your screening of TROLL 2.

Nilbog is goblin spelled backwards.  If you don't believe me print this blog and hold it up to the mirror, or I guess you could just write it down and hold it up to a mirror.  Either way, Nilbog really is goblin spelled backwards.  I wouldn't lie to you about that.  You see, the heroes of our tale, the Waits Family, have been invited to embark on the vacation of a lifetime.  They have decided to leave city life behind for an entire month and work on some family's farm in the quaint town of Nilbog, USA, population 25.  In return, the Nilbog family will live in their home.  Nothing could be better than spending a one-month vacation working someone else's farm while they do nothing.  AWESOME!  What the Waits do not know is that Nilbog is an evil place.  The residents of Nilbog look like humans on the surface, but underneath they are hideously evil goblins.  They survive by luring unsuspecting humans into their realm and turning them into plants, which they, in turn, consume as food.  In order to hide their true identity from the outside world they have inverted the name of their true nature.  No one would ever suspect the truth.  That is unless they had a mirror or happened to be dyslexic.  If that were the case then the jig would be up.  Fortunately for the Nilbogians young Joshua Waits does not appear to be dyslexic.  Unfortunately for them, he does have access to an automobile's routine safety device, the side view mirror.  It only takes the proper alignment of the family car and a street sign for him to uncover their dreaded secret.

When making any film, the title of said film is simply a suggestion.  It is just something to call the film for purposes of identification.  No need to worry yourself with petty details like coming up with a catchy symbolic name.  In fact it need not bear any resemblance to the actual subject matter of the film at all.  Just make up a title and move directly into production.  The title in question, of course is TROLL 2.  On the surface it seems harmless enough, five letters and one number.  Without having any prior knowledge of the film one might imply that at one point in time in the recent past there was a film called TROLL.  TROLL 2 is a sequel to TROLL.  Logic would dictate that it probably involves trolls and likely picks up the action somewhere in the future beyond the time where TROLL concluded.  Silly you, you are trying to think logically.  I didn't tell you to do that.  I said we are talking about one of the worst films ever made.  Not only is TROLL 2 not a sequel to TROLL it doesn't bear any remote similarities whatsoever to the timeline established by TROLL.  On top of that, there aren't even any trolls in the film.  In fact, I cannot recall the word "troll" even being said by any character at any time.  The antagonists in question are goblins and are always referred to as such.  Now one might attempt to deduce that the makers of TROLL 2 were trying to capitalize on the name recognition of TROLL in order to attract an audience for their film, but seeing that TROLL wasn't much of a film either that theory blows up with little effort.  Therefore, the mystery behind the title eludes me.  Maybe it was discussed in the documentary, but I have yet to see it so I really cannot comment further.

Deceased loved ones have incredible power, but even this has its limitations.  In the real world grandparents die and are buried.  We grieve the loss of the dearly departed and move on.  Little did we know that grandparents often return from the dead in order to read horrible, terrifying fairy tales to their grandchildren.  In addition, they can appear in mirrors, take solid form, stop time (but only for 30 seconds), make Molotov cocktails, present their grandchildren with lifesaving lunchmeat sandwiches, and summon lightning from above to set fire to evil goblin preachers.  However, they cannot speak to their own children, or any adult for that matter, and they disappear forever after 6 p.m.  This last one requires a little clarification.  The narrative of TROLL 2 was unclear as to how many days after first appearance that the 6 p.m. rule takes effect and whether or not this was Eastern, Central, Mountain, or Pacific Time, and/ or standard or daylight savings time.  What was clear is the 6 p.m. rule does take affect when the danger to the family is at its greatest.  It is the grandparent's responsibility to leave the final stages of the mess to the corporeal beings because incorporeal beings have better things to do than finish what they started, (like the seniors' dinner special at Denny's), especially if it extends beyond the 6 o'clock curfew.

From watching TROLL 2 I have also discovered that my doctor, board certified nutritionists, the U.S. Government, research scientists, county health department commissioners, and that guy who made SUPERSIZE ME, are all WRONG.  Eating meat is healthy and safe.  Eating vegetables is dangerous and may result in early death.  You see, our goblin friends are vegetarians, and are disgusted by the site of processed animal products.  Despite this characteristic their favorite food happens to be humans, but not just any humans mind you.  Like I said before, animal flesh makes them nauseous.  Therefore, they trick humans into eating gooey green organic products that transform them into plants.  Once the change is complete they are greedily consumed.  But keep in mind, the goblins have a weakness.  Not only do they not eat meat, they are repelled by it.  When our hero, young Joshua,  eats a double decker bologna sandwich he is able to keep the goblins at bay long enough to destroy the sacred stone that gives them their power.  I hear you, you are losing faith in me.  "Now Sparky, " you are saying, "these goblins are farmers in their human form and live in a rural community rich with vegetation.  Why don't they just grow their own food or eat the local plant life and leave the people alone?"  A good question for which I have no answer other than to say that we are still talking about TROLL 2, (remember, the film that doesn't even have any trolls in it.)  So, the take home message is that obesity, hypertension, heart disease, and high cholesterol are not as important as protecting yourself from evil imaginary creatures.  Therefore, throw that salad away and get yourself a 16 oz porterhouse steak, eat up, and live.

TROLL 2 has also taught me that corn on the cob is an aphrodisiac.  "Wait, Sparky," you are saying again, "you said eating vegetables was bad."  Yes, I did say that, but I guess that depends on what is more important to you, living or taking care of the little soldier.  Listen, we are always looking for that perfect food that makes that night with our special someone even better.  The problem is that we are often embarrassed by what people think of us when we purchase certain products.  You have never gotten used to that strange look the clerk at the supermarket gives you when you walk up to the checkout line with 5 dozen oysters and nothing else.  You live in constant fear that you will be at the special interest store on the corner purchasing your Spanish fly, and you will accidentally bump into the pastor of your church on the way out.  Well, thanks to TROLL 2 fear and embarrassment are things of the past.  Now you have the perfect item.  Corn on the cob is the ideal product for enhancing nocturnal activities.  It is cheap, readily available, and generates no preconceived notions from people on the street.  You can now get your freak on in the comfort of your own home with whomever you wish, and no one has to ever be the wiser.

Finally, TROLL 2 has taught me that Stonehenge is truly evil.  On the surface Stonehenge just appears to be a bunch of rocks, arranged in a circle, sitting out in the English countryside.  Well, that is exactly what the Druids want us to think.  The fact remains that Stonehenge has special mystical powers, and only the Druids know how to harness it.  They are being patient, calculating in private, waiting for that time when they can kill us all and take over the world.  They tried in HALLOWEEN III:  SEASON OF THE WITCH, and they tried again in TROLL 2.  In HALLOWEEN III they put pieces of a Stonehenge monolith into the backs of masks.  When coupled with a special commercial featuring flashing lights the wearer's head exploded into a ball of living snakes.  In TROLL 2 magical stones from Stonehenge were used to bring the goblins into our world in order to do the bidding of the evil Druid Queen.  Only through the quick thinking of a dead grandpa and a whiney kid, and the use of processed meat on a bun was disaster averted a second time.  This will no longer be tolerated.  I say that prevention is the best medicine.  Stonehenge must be dismantled and destroyed before it is too late.  Contact the government of the United Kingdom and express your concerns immediately.  We must act now or suffer the consequences of our indifference.

That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it.