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Tweets & Consequences:
An Odd (and Wholly Inappropriate) Way to Honor Sandy Hook Victims

© By Michael Schlossberg

The Background

December 14, 2013 marked the one-year anniversary of one of the most disturbing days in American history.  On that date in 2012, Adam Lanza killed 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  As the anniversary of the tragedy approached, communities throughout America pulled together to honor the victims of the massacre.  One such event was “26 Random Acts of Kindness,” which sought to honor Sandy Hook’s dead by encouraging participants to engage in random acts of kindness.

At around this same time, 26 year-old Greg Beck unseated an incumbent and was elected to the school board of Brookfield, Connecticut. Brookfield directly borders Newtown.

 The Fail

In response to a Facebook post promoting “26 Random Acts of Kindness,” Beck posted this comment:  “I shall buy my friends who are gun enthusiasts a box of ammunition on days 1-26.”

The Response and Consequences

 The reaction, of course, was overwhelmingly negative against Beck, and calls for him to resign began almost immediately.  In the immediate aftermath of the post, Beck issued a statement apologizing, saying, The comments were insensitive and completely indefensible.  I acknowledge the damage this has caused and truly had no malicious intentions.  Nor were there any attempts on my part to downplay the Sandy Hook Tragedy behind the comment.”

Beck made it through two public meetings without resigning; however, at both of those meetings, most of the public comment period was dominated by angry residents who demanded Beck’s resignation over his comments.  By the time the third public meeting rolled around, Beck had enough, and resigned shortly before the meeting was set to begin.

However, the story didn’t end here.  Beck made the posts while at work as an emergency dispatcher, which is a publicly funded job.  Two citizens made ethics complaints against Beck, and if Beck had been found guilty, he could have been removed from his job.  However, the board of ethics found that the complaints could only be made against Beck if he were a public official, and Beck had resigned at this point.  As such, the complaints were tossed, and Beck escaped without any further consequences – besides the national humiliation he endured for his poor judgment.

 The Lessons

 (1) Don’t say some things:  Don’t talk about violence.  Don’t talk about guns unless you are discussing hunting, hobbies, or self-defense, and, even then, be prepared for some angry responses.  And never, ever, talk about guns in a cavalier way when referring to one of the most emotionally scaring episodes of gun violence that this country has ever known.

(2) Watch where you are posting from:  The content of Beck’s post was bad enough, but the fact that he posted it while at work, as an emergency dispatcher, made a bad situation even worse.  Beck is fortunate that he didn’t lose his job, and this incident highlighted a critical truth of social media:  when and from where you post something can often be as bad as the content of a post itself.

Michael Schlossberg is a State Representative (Democrat) for the 132nd Legislative District (part of Lehigh County) in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.  He is the author of the book “Tweets & Consequences,” an amusing cautionary tale (in the form of 60 case-studies) about truly ill-advised use and abuse of social media. Visit the author at: http://mikeschlossbergsocialmedia.com/

Copyright © 2015 by Michael Schlossberg.

The foregoing appears as “Honoring Sandy Hook Victims via Ammunition Distribution,” which is Chapter Eight in Michael Schlossberg’s book, “Tweets & Consequences: 60 Social Media Disasters in Politics & How You Can Avert A Career-Ending Mistake” (Strategic Media Books, 2014).  It is reprinted in Artsforum with the permission of its author.  The book is available on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Tweets-Consequences-Michael-Schlossberg-ebook/dp/B00PKS3L44/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1415932250&sr=8-2&keywords=tweets+and+consequences  [Readers in Canada can find the book at Amazon.ca]

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Filmmakers and Critics: A Difficult Love Affair?

© Reviewed by John Arkelian

“Je T’Aime… Moi Non Plus: Artistes Et Critiques” (B+/A-) (France, 2004): Filmmakers and critics have a peculiar symbiotic relationship, one that’s by turns adoring, tempestuous, and incestuous.  It’s an odd coupling indeed, and it’s the subject of a sparkling, fascinating documentary by Maria de Medeiros, who shows as much finesse and sensitivity behind the camera as she does in front of it.  Her 81-minute film is chock-full of insights, ironies, and humor, gleaned from interviews with a wide assortment of directors (everyone from Canada’s David Cronenburg and Atom Egoyan to Portugal’s Manoel de Oliveira) and film critics from Europe, the United States, and Japan.  The sheer diversity of voices – and of the views they express – is impressive.  So is the perceptiveness and wit Medeiros elicits from her subjects.  One critic aptly defines what it is that makes a good film:  “Like a good friend… you love it, it fills you up, makes you alive, it troubles you, misleads you, seduces you.” And, lest things get too serious, someone else deflates the sometimes self-important affair of critiquing films by wryly noting that, “I never leave a film.  Like a prostitute, I never refuse clients.” Things go from the comical (a publicist who was stood up at the altar of marketing scans the crowd at Cannes for the critic who did her wrong) to the sublime, as a Palestinian filmmaker observes that, “The world today is… a dangerous place.  We have an emperor who bought his first atlas on September 12th.” Even the film’s ironic section headings (like “Sweet Dreams” and “The Caress and the Dagger”) are just right.  The result is a must-see for every film buff and a must-own by every film festival devotee.  Now, if only the people who bought the Canadian rights to this smart, witty, and charming film would actually release it on DVD!

Copyright © 2006/2013 by John Arkelian.

The preceding review originally appeared in Artsforum Magazine, Issue #13 (Summer/Fall 2006).

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Bilbo’s Journey from Grocer to Hero and Novel to Screen

© By Louis Markos

The careful reader of Genesis will notice an odd, counter-cultural pattern running throughout the book.  Again and again, God privileges the younger son over the elder (Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, Joseph over Reuben), a privileging that mirrors, and perhaps explains, God’s peculiar choice of Israel as his Chosen People.  Though the Old Testament never reveals exactly why God chose the Jews, it appears that he did so because Israel was the smallest and weakest of the nations: the younger son, if you will, of the tribes of Mesopotamia and the Middle East.  The pattern reaches its consummation in Israel’s greatest king, the young, ruddy, distinctly un-soldierly David who attacks Goliath with a slingshot because he cannot wield the sword or shoulder the armor of the far taller and more imposing Saul.

In crafting The Hobbit, and later The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien surely had this biblical pattern at the forefront of his mind.  By choosing Bilbo Baggins (and later Frodo) as the unlikely hero of his there-and-back-again adventure story, Tolkien makes it clear that there can be great strength in weakness and great wisdom in humility.  The petit bourgeois Bilbo, with his love of simple creature comforts and his risk-aversive approach to life, seems wholly lacking in the qualities necessary for a hero.  Yet a hero he becomes, displaying greater courage than the dwarves who at first scorn him, even (and especially) Thorin Oakenshield, the proud and fearless grandson of the king under the mountain.

Thankfully, this central aspect of The Hobbit is not lost on Peter Jackson, whose film (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) of chapters one through six of Tolkien’s novel captures perfectly the complex nature of Bilbo’s heroism.  As he did in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Jackson brings the Shire to shimmering life, replete with all of its old world rural charm (and pettiness) and its moderate-but-not-puritanical approach to the business of living.  This time around, however, he imbues Bag End with a quality of quaint fastidiousness.  Though kindly and hospitable, Bilbo is someone who likes his home (and his world) to be neat and ordered, with everything in its proper place.

In a warm, gently humorous manner that never condescends to sarcasm, Jackson allows his audience to enjoy the spectacle of Bilbo’s home, and routine, being turned upside down by thirteen obstreperous dwarves.  Neither in Tolkien’s novel nor Jackson’s film do we encounter a Marxist anger at Bilbo’s shopkeeper mentality; nor do we desire to see him get his come-uppance.  We want to see him pulled out of his comfort zone into the wide world, not so that his middle-class morality can be exposed and ridiculed, but so that he can grow into the much greater person that he has the potential to be.  Tolkien, Gandalf, and Jackson all see this potential in Bilbo, and, as a result, the movie audience sees—and feels—it as well.

When Bilbo and company journey out of the Shire, Jackson pulls the camera back to give us a sweeping vista that is as breathtaking as the ones that punctuate his Lord of the Rings trilogy.  But the bravura cinematography offers more than a pretty picture: it reminds us how small Bilbo is against the enormity of his adventure and allows us to chart the labyrinthine journey that will take the timid Bilbo from grocer to burglar, homebody to hero.  As in the novel, Bilbo realizes too late that he has left his handkerchief behind—an object that symbolizes all the comforts of home that Bilbo will have to forgo—but Jackson adds a nice detail that suggests the kind of camaraderie, rough but sincere, that will help Bilbo to mature: one of the dwarves rips off a piece of his filthy clothing and throws it back to Bilbo to use as a handkerchief.

As he did in his films of The Lord of the Rings, Jackson conveys the grandness of Tolkien’s Middle-earth by visualizing events from the back story of the novels.  This time around, we get an epic, melancholy pre-credit sequence that shows us how the glory of Erebor and Dale was ended by Smaug, a heart-stopping flashback of the bloody, high-casualty battle that allowed the dwarves rendered homeless by Smaug to take back Moria, and a delightful, sentimentalized-yet-gripping account of how Radagast the Brown saved his beloved woodland animals from the encroaching darkness.  He also brings to the fore the mysterious threat of the Necromancer and the debate amongst the nascent White Council (Gandalf, Saruman, Galadriel, and Elrond) as to how to interpret and meet this threat.  Still, despite these memorable, well-filmed moments—which nicely balance the lighter, more innocent adventures of Bilbo and the dwarves with a darker, more somber mood reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings—the focus remains, as it should, on Bilbo’s maturation process.

Indeed, Jackson allows his back story episodes to illuminate powerfully Bilbo’s coming-of-age story through two brief bits of dialogue that do not appear in the novel.  Although he allows us to witness a number of vicious battles, and the courage displayed in them, Jackson has Gandalf explain to Bilbo that courage does not consist solely in chopping off the heads of one’s enemy.  Courage, Gandalf counsels, is often shown, not in taking a life, but in knowing when to spare one.  The lesson is not forgotten by Bilbo, who, at the heart of the film, takes pity on the miserable Gollum and does not kill him.  Unlike Thorin, who is too proud to seek help from Elrond because the elves did not come to the aid of his grandfather half a century earlier, Bilbo shows the capacity for a kind of humility and sympathetic understanding that fills him with the power of mercy and the courage of restraint.

This key theme is sounded again at the Council in Rivendell, when Gandalf tries to convince the skeptical Saruman of the danger represented by the Necromancer and of the vital role that is being played by Bilbo and the dwarves.  In the debate that ensues between the two wizards, Gandalf exposes Saruman’s fatal flaw, one that will lead him, in the end, to betray the White Council and collaborate with Sauron: he trusts too much to power.  Unlike Saruman, Gandalf understands that the darkness is more often held at bay by ordinary folk making small, everyday decisions.  Despite the power and wisdom of the wizards and the elves, the fate of Middle-earth will rest finally with little people like Bilbo and Frodo and with what Gandalf calls their small acts of kindness and love.  Tolkien himself echoes this sentiment at the end of the novel when he has the dying Thorin confess to Bilbo that if “more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

That this notion is specifically, and uniquely, a biblical, Judeo-Christian one should come as no surprise, given Tolkien’s strong Catholic faith.  Though the dwarves possess courage and a sense of justice, it is Bilbo who embodies the theological (or Christian) virtues of faith, hope, and love.  He shows love most supremely when he spares Gollum, but he shows faith and hope in simply persisting and teaching the dwarves to put their hope in something grander than thoughts of revenge and monetary reward.  Whether or not Jackson shares Tolkien’s faith, he shows that he understands it by adding a sequence and a third bit of dialogue that do not appear in the novel but that are true to Tolkien.

At the climax of An Unexpected Journey, Jackson has Bilbo risk his life to save Thorin from his old nemesis, a pale orc named Azog who is mentioned briefly in The Hobbit and in the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings.  The act demonstrates, both to Bilbo and the audience, that our hobbit has found his inner hero, and it teaches Thorin not to underestimate the foolish and weak and base things of the world, for it is often the things which are not which bring to nought the things that are.  But the lesson does not end there.  Bilbo shares with Thorin and his fellow dwarves that his adventures have taught him to appreciate his home more than ever and to fill him with a strong desire to return home.  But that desire, he explains, has taught him something else; it has allowed him to see what a sad and tragic thing it is that the dwarves do not have a place they can call home.  Bilbo will remain with the company and finish the journey, not because he needs to (he has come to understand himself and to know his strengths and weaknesses), but because he now realizes that it his duty and calling to help the dwarves regain the home they have lost.

Though I cannot say for sure, I expect that the Bilbo who will meet us in December 2013 for Part Two of Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy will be at once more confident and more humble than the Bilbo of Part One.  He will know what he is fighting for and why it is precious.  And he will allow himself and his gifts (symbolized in part by his magical ring of invisibility) to be used to protect and save his fellow pilgrims on the road.

Louis Markos is Professor in English and Scholar in Residence at Houston Baptist University, where he holds the Robert H. Ray Chair in Humanities.  His books include “From Achilles to Christ” (IVP), “Literature: A Student’s Guide” (Crossway), and “On the Shoulders of Hobbits: The Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis” (Moody).   http://www.civitate.org/markos/

Copyright © 2013 by Louis Markos.

The foregoing essay was originally published in “First Things on the Square.” It is republished in Artsforum with the permission of its author.  “First Things” is published by The Institute on Religion and Public Life, an inter-religious, non-partisan research and education institute whose purpose is “to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society.”  Visit First Things at:  http://www.firstthings.com/masthead

Louis Markos’ book, “On the Shoulders of Hobbits” is reviewed in Artsforum at:  http://artsforum.ca/books/featured-book-reviews.

And the motion picture, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” is reviewed in depth in Artsforum by John Arkelian at:  http://artsforum.ca/film/at-theaters/at-theaters-2.

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Two Short Films from Austria

Here are two short films from Austrian-born filmmaker, Paul Prinz, who works as a cinematographer on feature films, short films, and television in Germany and Austria.  These are visually striking and evocative examples of non-narrative filmmaking — films that rely on the power of images to stir feelings in their viewers, rather than to tell a story in a conventional sense.

“Broken Shadow” (1:36) opens with a haunting quote from Sophocles: “A human being is only breath and shadow.” What follows is a study in dichotomies represented by light and shadow, the transitory, and those forces in the world that ever strive in endless opposition the one against the other.  An ominous score evokes loneliness, while a concluding image of a dark, hulking industrial plant seems to cast industry as a shadow that blights the natural world.

https://vimeo.com/59642343

“Urban Exploration” (2:23) is a melancholy reverie that seems to emblemize the de-industrialization of the West, even as it conjures ghosts of the past that abide only in memory.  Prinz describes the film as “my journey into the past… [a past that’s] forgotten and… will never wake up again.”  A strikingly evocative score gives voice to images that bespeak a decline and fall of… something.  What might that “something” be?  Something familiar, yet something as ephemeral as all Man’s works, mayhap?  It ends with a bit of cloth gently fluttering in the air.  The place called “Raika” depicted in the film is an abandoned border station between Slovakia and Hungary — a relic perhaps of Cold War divisions, or a reminder of national and ethnic rivalries that still abide there, and in so many other places the world over?

https://vimeo.com/57522480

Capsule review © March 2013 by John Arkelian.

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Dateline:  September 19, 2011
Locale:  Somewhere on the coast of Cornwall, England

Tim Burton and Company Lampoon a Well-Loved Franchise

A couple of photographs making the rounds on “Dark Shadows related

Johnny Depp (as Barnabas Collins) & Bella Heathcote (as Victoria Winters) on location with “Dark Shadows”

websites show Johnny Depp in character as the vampire-protagonist in the new big-screen adaptation of “Dark Shadows” that’s now in production in Britain.  If one can judge by appearances (note the outlandishly pasty face, the blue shades that look like they belong on an  attention-seeking pop-celebrity, the over-spiky hairdo, the oddly effeminate expression, the jarringly out-of-place fedora, and the flamboyantly green caped-coat), all we can say is “Good grief!” It seems Barnabas Collins has been re-imagined as Michael Jackson — or, possibly, as a gay mime.  What a disaster! What’s next: Quentin Collins as Elvis; or, maybe, Angelique as Lady Gaga?  Tim Burton & Company seem intent on lampooning this well-loved franchise, substituting a gratuitously kooky, oddball sensibility (a trademark of most Burton/Depp collaborations) for any semblance of dignity or respect for characters who have held the loyalty of fans for over 40 years.

© 2011 by John Arkelian

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Filmmaker and Artist of the Unconventional:
Tim Burton on Display

© By Tara Hatherly

Tim Burton, one the most celebrated and revered filmmakers of recent times, doesn’t even know how he got into making movies in the first place.  “I was just lucky to kind of be able to get into making films,” he said during a recent stop in Toronto.  “Honestly I have no idea (how I broke into the film industry).  It was just a strange, kind of organic journey that had no real path or direct path anyway.”

Burton was in town to promote his namesake art exhibit by the Museum of Modern Art.  The New York museum re-worked the exhibit exclusively for its Toronto stop at the Bell Lightbox.  Tim Burton is the MoMA’s third highest grossing exhibit of all time, featuring over 700 of his illustrations, photographs, storyboards, movies, sculptures, and more.  “The great thing about this show, it kind of forced me to look at things again.  It just kind of re-energized me,” Burton remarked.

Burton is famous for his often-Gothic filmmaking style. Influenced by cinema greats Vincent Price and Christopher Lee, Burton found himself drawn to the darker side of movies from a young age. “I think it’s from the very beginning of my life,” he said. “I loved any kind of monster-movie because I could relate to them. It all comes down to themes of perception, how they’re perceived as something horrible or bad, when usually they’re the things with the most soul. That sort of theme of misperception — that things aren’t always what they seem, has always been important to me.”

Burton is also famous for his revival of stop-motion animation, with movies such as “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “The Corpse Bride.” While he has a special affinity for stop-motion animation, he does not discriminate between old and new animation techniques.  “You pick the project and the medium,” he said. “I’m still doing stop-motion because I love it.  I’ve worked with computer graphic stuff and that can be great. Everyone talks like it’s one technology versus another. At the end of the day, you still have artists and animators doing it, so it’s not that different. It doesn’t really change much. I find it’s just more tools and toys for the toy box really.”

Recently Burton expanded his toy box to include the most recent buzzed about film medium, 3-D. “The Nightmare Before Christmas” was re-released in 3-D and his most recent film, Alice in Wonderland,” was made using the technique.  While he enjoyed creating movies in 3-D, Burton isn’t sure the medium is all it’s hyped up to be.  “They like to make it a technology war,” he deplored. “There’s all these articles like 3-D’s going to come and wipe out every other form of civilization, whatever. But I think it’s a great tool. It’s fun, but it’s not for everything. I think it’s around to stay. I would do it again, I wouldn’t necessarily do it with everything, but I enjoyed it.”  He added seeing “The Nightmare Before Christmas” brought to life in 3-D was especially rewarding. “I really loved it, because it felt to me like, ‘OK, now I’m seeing it the way you see it when you’re on the set.’ I saw the artist’s work better. You see, you can feel, the texture of the puppets and the sets, the spaces. So, in a lot of things, [3-D] works really well I think.”

Burton’s visually creative approach to filmmaking is his biggest draw.  “For me, the design and the look of something has always been as important as the story,” he explained.  After studying animation at the California Institute of the Arts, the Burbank, California native began his film career as an animator with Disney.  “I was unfortunately at Disney at the worst period in their history,” Burton lamented. “Doing “The Fox and the Hound” for ten years — that was like hard labour.  So, luckily, I was really terrible at it, so they got rid of me on that, and I got to then just sit in a room and draw whatever I wanted to for a couple years.”  He credits this time spent drawing with allowing him to develop creatively.

The first major film Burton directed was the cult hit “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,” based on the popular ‘80s television character Pee-Wee Herman, played by comedian Paul Reubens.  Burton melded animation and live action together for the film, ensuring that his eclectic filmmaking style was evident from the get-go.  Since the film’s release in 1985, Burton has gone on to direct and/or produce more than fifteen consecutive hit movies including such blockbusters as 1989’s “Batman” and “Batman Returns” (1992).  “I like Batman,” he said.  “That was my favourite of all the comics for sure. And, at the time anyway, we felt we were doing something different, because up until that time, comic book stuff was more light and campy stuff.  So it was exciting to try to bring it back to a bit more of its roots.”  Burton said he has no problem taking established characters like Batman and making them his own.  “Even if you’re doing adaptations of something, you try to personalize it,” he said. “It has to feel like it’s your own thing, even if it’s an adaptation of something, because you’re spending so much time with it, and so much of your heart and soul, that you have to kind of make it yours.”  He said one of the most memorable moments of his filmmaking career came from the set of “Batman Returns.” “I’ll never forget Michelle Pfeiffer putting a live bird in her mouth and holding it there for like 20 seconds, and then letting it fly out,” he recalled. “I was very impressed by that, very impressed.  Actually, of any actor I’ve ever worked with, I think that’s been the most impressive thing that I’ve seen.”

Burton enjoys bringing a fairy tale feel to his movies.  “[Fairy tales] have been around forever and I think there’s a reason they’ve been around forever; and I’m always fascinated by people and their take on what fairy tales are,” he said. “You talk to a lot of parents and they go, ‘Well that movie’s too scary.’ But that’s what fairy tales were, and children actually, I think, like those kinds of stories that are slightly disturbing and surreal — because it kind of makes you deal with the abstracts of life.  So, I’ve always been fascinated by people’s… take on what fairy tales are — because, to me, they’re just powerful stories.”

Burton’s favourite of all his movies is “Edward Scissorhands” (1990).  “I cared about [Edward],” he admitted. “I think that came from a lot of feelings I had as a teenager.  So that was probably the film that has the most sort of personal feelings in it from me, in the sense of it being a very traumatic time in your life.  That character was a symbol of all those feelings.  It had a lot of personal things in it for me.”  The movie was his first with actor Johnny Depp, whom Burton has continued to cast in several of his films. Burton’s spouse, Helena Bonham Carter, also appears in many of his movies.  “It’s nice to work with people you’ve worked with — just because you see them do different things and that’s fun.  But when you make a film, you have to mix it up,” he said. “So you’re always using new people, and I like that too.  It’s nice to stir it up a little bit; but for me, since I don’t really like to speak very much, it’s nice to work with [Depp and Bonham Carter] because I can just grunt or wave my arms and they know what I mean.”  But, he added, familiarity is not his motivation for casting the actors in his films.  “I would never work with him or her, or anybody, just to work with them,” he resolved. “Then we’d all say no, let’s move on…  [You] usually base it completely on the part and if it seems right for a person.  And as each time goes by, we make kind of a pact that it’s important for us all to kind of make it feel like it’s the first time and fresh and a new character, different challenges, and that’s the key.”

The Academy Award and Golden Globe nominated filmmaker has also worked consistently with decorated composer Danny Elfman.  Elfman won a Grammy for his work on Burton’s first Batman film.  “When I was a student, I used to go see [Elfman’s] band in clubs in L.A.,” Burton divulged.  “The music was always very… theatrical and kind of like movie score stuff.  So, when I got the opportunity to make movies, I just asked him.  So we kind of started at the same time in a certain way.  I didn’t know what I was doing, and he didn’t know what he was doing, and nothing has changed.”

Burton’s light-hearted humour is evident not only in his movies, but in his demeanor and conversation as well.  He kept his Toronto audience laughing throughout his appearance.  Burton also has a special connection to his 2003 movie “Big Fish,” in which the family patriarch passes away.  “It affected me because my father had died recently before that, so it was very strong in my mind, and I had a very similar kind of relationship, so that was a very strong thing for me,” he disclosed.  “I don’t think I would have done that movie if that hadn’t happened.  I wouldn’t have felt it.”

While Burton has made many successful movies, there are many of his ideas that didn’t see the light of the big screen, most notably a musical version of “House of Wax” starring Michael Jackson and a biopic of Vincent Price.  While the Michael Jackson musical can never come to fruition, Burton hopes to continue on his creative path, though he refuses to get too ahead of himself.  He can’t say for certain which projects he’ll decide to work on in the future.  “A lot of it has to do with how you feel at a certain time,” he explained.  “So, if you go too far in the future, you might lose interest in something, so I try to keep it as current as possible.  The great thing about [projects] is that you don’t know where they’re going, and I like that sometimes.  You know, it’s nice to let things develop and see what happens.”  Currently, Burton is rumoured to be working on five different projects, including a full-length adaptation of his 1984 short film “Frankenweenie,” slated for release in 2012, and a new film adaptation of the Gothic drama “Dark Shadows.” He also headed the 2010 jury at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

Tara Hatherly is a journalism student.

© 2011 by Tara Hatherly.

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On May 21.10

Dark Shadows Revisited?

Plans are reportedly afoot for a new big-screen adaptation of a perennially popular vampire franchise.  But the principals involved – Johnny Depp and director Tim Burton – represent a collaboration that bodes ill for proposed new incarnation of “Dark Shadows.” At its best, that imaginary world was a unique amalgam of tragedy, high romance, and supernatural – all of it embodied in an old-fashioned Gothic setting.  That variety of darkly romantic material is, sad to say, all but extinct nowadays.  Its execution on the original (1966-71) television series was too often clumsy, but it was meant to be taken seriously – and it deserves to be.  (It got the upscale treatment it deserved in its short-lived prime-time television remake in 1991.)   As a filmmaker, Burton has a frequent propensity for going way over the top.  More often than not, his films are overblown and cartoonish.  The garish, gratuitously flamboyant filming style he represents is ill-suited to “Dark Shadows.” As to Depp, it is hard to picture him in the role of the 200-plus-years old Barnabas Collins.  True, Depp has done good work elsewhere, but surely he’s too round-faced, superficial, and modern-looking to bring the necessary gravitas to a serious portrayal of this tragic, tormented vampire.  On his own, Depp may or may not make a credible Barnabas; but in company with Burton all may indeed be lost, as far as looking forward to a satisfying new take on the Shadows mythos is concerned.   An actor with greater dramatic range – like Daniel Day-Lewis – would have been a far better fit.  And, why not persuade Canada’s own Jonathan Frid, the talented Shakespearian actor who defined the role and made it iconic, to do a cameo of some sort in the new film?  Meanwhile, why on earth is MGM dragging its heels about releasing the two existing Dark Shadows movies –  “House of Dark Shadows” (1970) and “Night of Dark Shadows” (1971) – on DVD?  What’s the hold-up?  Every other film under the sun has been released on DVD – but not those two!

© 2010 by John Arkelian.

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