Director: Dan Algrant
(Tribeca Film/Focus World)
Select Theatrical release:
May 3 Los Angeles – Laemmle Noho 7
May 3 New York – Village East
May 10 Denver – SIE Film Center
May 17 Columbus – Gateway Film Center
May 17 Toronto – TIFF Bell Lightbox
May 24 Seattle – Northwest Film Forum
May 24 Portland – Hollywood 3
Also available as Pay On-Demand viewing and iTunes purchase.
What It Is…
Director Daniel Algrant’s rumination on the late singers Tim & Jeff Buckley is slyly named Greetings From Tim Buckley. I say slyly because it is not only a nod to an album title but an ironic nudge that the protagonist must “meet” his estranged, deceased, father solely through his music and other’s perceptions of that music. At its core the film is the story of a talented young person boxing with an ancestral ghost. It is an imbroglio magnified by Jeff’s uncanny likeness to the images on Tim’s vintage record albums.
The film illuminates the story of Jeff’s participation in a tribute to his father held in Brooklyn at St. Anne’s Church in April of 1991. The Hal Wilner production was essentially Buckley the younger’s coming out party. It’s a single facet of the prism that was Jeff Buckley but a key perspective on the history that drove him. Similar to Dream Brother, David Brown’s dual biography which alternated chapters between father and son, Algrant offers us Pen Badgley’s Jeff and Ben Rosenfield’s Tim in doppelganger juxtapositions that highlight their commonalities, particularly their will-o-the-wisp ways. I call it decisively indecisive, those on the receiving end might just call it self-serving or just plain selfish behavior.
Badgley, embodies the young singer in the same peripheral OMG glimpses that Jeff himself embodied his father. It is very hard in this post video world to portray an entity of recent note. Your audience has a lot of audio-visual information to compare. Badgley gives you his take on “the guy inside,” and it works as mercurial amounts of self-doubt and obstinate pride come through with facility. That is, you don’t see him acting.
As a musician and songwriter myself, I particularly enjoyed the scene in which Frank Wood as Gary Lucas and Badgley’s Jeff cobble together the riffs that would eventually become the song “Grace,” the title tune of Buckley’s only non-posthumous album. An unintended slight comes when guitarist Lucas compliments Jeff on his Qawwali style vocal technique then suggests he use it to embellish one of is father’s tunes at the tribute. The scene is a great illustration of how – for Jeff – Tim’s legend is both a stepping stone and pitfall for his own aspirations.
Co-Star Imogen Poots plays Allie the fictionalized foil who acts as love interest, play friend, muse and talented competitor. The center of the movie finds Jeff and Allie cavorting around town where they end up flipping through LP’s in a used record shop. When Allie flashes Jeff the cover of one of his father’s albums, Jeff counters with a Led Zeppelin LP and launches into a chipmunked pastiche of Zep tunes that scares the crap out of the staff. It’s a performance that is worth the price of admission. If you’ve never heard the real Jeff render “’Kashmir’ at 78 RPM” you owe it to yourself to seek it out. There’s a short version on the Live at L’Olympia concert disc released in 2001 by Columbia/Sony Australia.
When Greetings From Tim Buckley succeeds or fails it is for the same reason, its “one – piece – of – the – puzzle” scope. While Jeff fans know what eventually transpired during the rest of his short lifetime, the film leaves casual viewers in the lurch wondering “why should I care?” Therefore Jeff devotees may want to own this film while newbies will have to hit Wikipedia for the complete 411 – or just buy Grace to be enlightened.
Though the interpersonal content of the screenplay often allows the audience to glean some pointers to future developments in Jeff’s life, its ending – the concert reenactment – ultimately falls flat. Why? Because the performances do not convey catharsis and because as an “origin” story there can be none of Jeff’s own spectacular output. His troubadouring at clubs like Siné would ultimately blossom into the creation of Grace several years later.
Turnabout being fair play, I’d say that 20 years since the release of Grace, few would know who Tim Buckley was if not for his famous son.
Klose to the Edge…
In addition to Badgley, singer/songwriter Jann Klose is featured “in the mix” playing and vocalizing on Tim Buckley’s “Pleasant Street,” “Song For Janie, and “Once I Was.” I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Jann’s excellent group and photographing the gig.
This season he will be previewing songs from his new album Mosaic. The album will be released on CD on June 7th, with iTunes download following later in the month. In addition to Klose’s original songs, the album closes with his a cappella version of Tim Buckley’s “Song To The Siren” and in an art imitates art ouroboros he has recently been writing with aforementioned Jeff Buckley collaborator Gary Lucas.
I highly reccommend you make a point of hearing him perform.
The original 1933 King Kong – toys and miniatures – close-up photography. These are a few of my favorite things, and a bit of serendipity helped me mash them all up all into this one image.
Let Me Explain…
In the process of preparing continuing coverage of the 2013 American International Toy Fair I opened the little bag of goodies Safari Ltd offered to press folks reporting on their product line. Low and behold out fell a Tyrannosaurus Rex and great little gorilla, both part of Safari’s Good Luck Minis collection.
Since this coming weekend marks the 80th anniversary of RKO’s King Kong, I thought I’d have some photographic fun with the two Minis and a Polaroid close-up lens kit I purchased recently. I wanted to see how far I could push these simple screw-on adapters before shelling out for a “real” macro lens. I’ve also been contemplating what my first posting to Flicker’s Toy Photographers Group might be and this seemed a perfect opportunity to create a table-top tableau mimicking the thrilling battle between Kong and the T-Rex.
What It Is…
Using mostly household items, I did my best to recreate the mise en scene of Gustave Dore’s etchings which inspired the art direction of Kong 33’s Skull Island.
Along with the two Safari LTD. miniatures – which measure 7/8’s of an inch tall – there are brown and green bath towels as the foreground, plastic Christmas flowers that didn’t get stored away yet as the canopy, and a few slate drink coasters are the middle ground. A small acrylic painting of the Sedona, Arizona landscape I did twenty years ago is the distant background and some twigs from my front yard complete the effect. A frosted glass candle holder and a clear plastic bag were used to modify the output of a battery powered 126 LED light source.
Shot on a Nikon D300 with 50mm lens and +2 close-up adapter. I think the super-shallow depth of field produced by the adapter helps convey the look of an other worldly jungle. Aside from a slight crop the image is posted as shot, there’s no Photoshop post production.
Calling All Scream Queens…
Along with other “Kong-o-philes”, I’ll be celebrating the king’s birthday at NYC’s Film Forum screening this Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 11AM. The event includes a Fay Wray “scream-a-like” contest which should be a highlight.
What’s Up Doc…
Also see my recent post about Altus Press’s soon to be released pulpy pairing of Doc Savage and King Kong on Skull Island.
My love for King Kong stems back to the 1950′s when the RKO Pictures catalog first came to television. That group of films was relentlessly screened by WWOR Channel 9 in New York as part of their “Million Dollar Movie” format. It offered proto “monster kids” like myself an opportunity to see the great gorilla trilogy of King Kong, Son of Kong, and Mighty Joe Young as many as 7 times in one week! What a wonderful way to imprint young brain cells forever.
My early 1970’s film writing professor’s cringed at my glowing critiques of Kong, a film they clearly considered high camp but the ensuing years have looked on it with a kinder skew. The world at large seems now more likely to agree with my view that it is as an elemental example of cinema where unfettered imagination and technical talent converges.
Alternately, I became a fan of Doc Savage fiction back in the 1960’s when Bantam Books revived the series in paperback format adorned with spectacular James Bama cover paintings. At the time I had no idea they were reprints of pulp books from thirty years earlier. Much like the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars and Earth’s Core novels I was devouring concurrently, they were exciting and timeless stories aimed pretty squarely at a boy my age.
Two On An Island…
To celebrate these fortuitous 1933 births Altus Press will publish a pulp inspired tale bringing the two titans of American pop culture together. Scheduled for release in March Doc Savage: Skull Island will be the fifth installment of the company’s Wild Adventures of Doc Savage series and will be penned by neo-pulp and comics author Will Murray (aka Kenneth Robeson). Murray has been the leading legacy author of Doc Savage stories since he completed several of Lester Dent’s outlines for Bantam books.
Cover art will be rendered by Joe DeVito who is no stranger to the octogenarian characters. DeVito previously illustrated Kong:King of Skull Island, which is available for your iPad or Nook tablet, and has supplied art for Altus Press’s previous Doc Savage extrapolations.
The new story will take place in flashback after Kong’s fall from the Empire State building which also serves as Doc’s NY headquarters. Doc relates his first encounter with the outsized gorilla in the 1920’s which Murray notes will interconnect with Savage’s familial backstory. “I knew it had to be written with reverence for both of these immortal characters. So I used the locale of Skull Island to tell a larger story, an untold origin for Doc Savage. It all started back on Skull Island….”
Bama – Lama – King – Kong…
It’s interesting to note that Bama also illustrated the cover of Bantam’s first paperback edition of the Kong novelization. I still treasure my well worn first printing, purchased off the local newsstand back in 1965.
Should you not already own it, Brian M. Kane’s book James Bama – American Realist pulls the artist’s key works (including his art for the classic Aurora monster model kits) under one cover. It’s beautifully printed and offers a look at some of the photographic model poses Bama worked from for the Doc Savage paintings. I was fortunate enough to grab a signed and numbered deluxe slip-cased edition (with DVD) when it was first published in 2007, but hardcovers are still out there for a reasonable price. Highly recommended to say the least.
This mash-up of two of my favorite adventure characters is an irresistible lure and I’m personally hoping it’s a grand slam rather than an offbeat footnote in their histories. I will admit to a bit of wariness based on the need to keep the power and mystique of these archetypes unmarred. Nonetheless this is one of the few books in recent memory I can say I’m eagerly awaiting.
The Devil is in the Details
Yes, the devil is in the details when you’re trying to get an original film idea funded. The more outre, the less likely you’ll find willing investors who, not surprisingly, look for sure fire returns. That is how Darren Lynn Bousman explained the process to a goth bedecked audience at New York City’s Times Scare haunted house attraction. The director has been on both sides of the coin, overseeing three Saw sequels and the Mother’s Day remake. These kinds of projects find backers based on franchise popularity but in turn crowd out new concepts with “rehashed” retreads. Alternately, along with writer Terrance Zdunich, Bousman has created the indie as indie gets Repo, The Genetic Opera.
The NYC Devil’s Carnival Tour event found Bousman and company halfway through an interesting experiment. Part film experience, part live performance by local acts, part audience participation, Q&A and a meet and greet, it proposes a unique but risky DIY model that circumvents industry gatekeepers. It is quite a commendable effort and I believe inspiring to creative outsiders. Afterall, today’s harebrained schemes can turnout to be tomorrow’s business models. Tapping into the comicbook, sci-fi, horror and cosplay communities puts the creators directly in touch with an established fan base, kind of like a live version of Kickstarter. Their affiliation with goth goddess Emilie Autumn is what peaked the curiosities of both Ken Pierce and I in the first place.
The concept is somewhat akin to “midnight movie” culture where screenings of films like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” had costumed audience members break the prosenium arch and become part of the event. It allows it’s producers to create a different experience at every tour stop. At the NYC event were treated to a contortionist, an audience member costume contest, a behind the scenes reel from the production of “Repo” (sing-a-long!), and a troupe of young ladies who offered an erotic tableau one might have expected to see in a Victorian bordello. Bousman, Zdunich, actress Briana Evigan and soundtrack producer Joseph Bishara were all on hand for a post screening Q&A session. A protracted meet and greet where they kindly signed posters and CD’s. They were genuinely thrilled to meet their fans and marveled at the creative costumery.
The film itself follows a trio of characters castoff by a Geppetto like God (played by Paul Sorvino.) These folks are having a hard time on Earth and an even worse stay in Hades, inevitably caught by one of the 666 rules of the realm. Their individual narratives are based on the fables of Aesop. Meager change in the human condition over millennia validates the longevity of those simple parables.
Like “Repo”, “The Devil’s Carnival” is a musical. Unlike its progenitor – which is based in futuristic sounds – producer/engineer Bishara noted that the Carnival soundtrack reaches back to “ancient” instruments for its sonic landscape. The tuba driven low-end gives the film the feel of a Kurt Weill operetta or the rickety rawk of Tom Wait’s albums “Rain Dogs” and “Bone Machine.” Amazingly it was all tracked in one day long recording session. It ain’t rock, but it ROCKS.
Based on its budgetary constraints the film is quite opulent visually. Make-up, lighting and camera work are all top notch and inventive. The fairy tale stagecraft will likely remind you of Laurel and Hardy’s timeless “March of the Wooden Soldiers” (1934) but with strikingly saturated color. Think Mario Bava or the look of Juan Lopez Moctezuma’s “Alucarda, La Hija de las Tinieblas” (1977.)
The cast includes Briana Evigan (Mother’s Day), Ivan Moody (singer of Five Finger Death Punch), Slip Knot’s Clown Shawn Crahan, Dayton Cally (Sons of Anarchy), Sean Flanery (Boondock Saints) Emilie Autumn and plague rats, Alexa Vega (Spy Kids franchise), Jessica Lowndes (Altitude) and screenwriter Zdunich as the dark lord himself.
The film, which runs under 1 hour is a cliff hanger, it’s follow-up script already completed. Bousman revealed teasers that part 2 will include more views of the “Heaven Carnys”, thereby more Paul Sorvino (Yay!), and a duet between Emilie Autumn and Clown.
I love the way the ensemble tune “Six Hundred Sixty Six Rules” parodies Rent’s “Seasons of Love” (aka “525,600 Minutes”), what a hoot.
If you have the opportunity to catch “The Devil’s Carnival” in the latter half of the tour be assured of a great time. I suggest you dress to the nines in your best fantasy fineries and participate, it’s rule #667.
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Joss Whedon’s recent denial of writing either The Kree or The Skrulls into the upcoming Avengers movie has fandom buzzing again about who or what the villainous planet attackers that we’ve been seeing in the trailers are. While that little tempest in a teapot continues to brew I thought I would go back to my Toy Fair 2012 photos and pull together a gallery of what was on display there.
Expect a deluge of Avengers themed toys, games and action figures from Lego, Neca, Funco and Diamond Select (I love those mini-mates). Check out my earlier posting on tokidoki for a look at their cool Avengers baseball caps, and the Peavey musical instruments story, illustrated with images of their superhero adorned guitars.
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