Sunday, February 28, 2016

Drew: The Man Behind the Poster - Documentary Review

Greetings Pups,

A while back, the wonderful Cecil Trachenberg of GoodBadFlicks did a video on "What Happened to Movie Posters?" He pointed out a lot of the unoriginality, repetitiveness and general lack of artistic merit that they hold. And even though I was aware of that, it's not until someone shows you example after example, right in a row, that you realize how big the problem is. So, today, I am happy to be talking about something that celebrates a man who was the antithesis of that problem, a documentary called Drew: The Man Behind the Poster.

The titular Drew is Drew Struzan, a person who any cinephile knows. He was the creator of countless, legendary movie posters from Star Wars to Back to the Future to Hook and so many in between and beyond. He is basically the master of this particular art, and this 2013 documentary hones in on how he came to be that. Sadly, it also chronicles how the lack of appreciation for that art has grown in the film industry over the decades. But we'll discuss that travesty later.

This documentary has that quality I tend to look for which is that it feels very sincere and very personal. It's not one of those unauthorized things you see sometimes, nor does it feel like one. Much of this film is taken up by interviews with Drew Struzan himself, as well as his lovely wife, Dylan, and their son, Christian. The family tells the stories of all the struggles they had to endure whilst Drew was waiting for his big break, something he achieved through great dedication, persistence and, of course, an amazing gift. There is so much that I learned about him through this. Though I've always been a fan of his movie posters, I was unaware of how many album covers he did. Oh, sorry. Youngsters, "albums" are things that we used to buy that had music on them, and they came with little books filled with the words of the songs and usually a wonderful picture on the front. I'm actually a bit floored that I didn't know about this. I mean, I am someone who tends to devour liner notes, and since Mr. Struzan did the art work for one of my favorite Bee Gees' albums, Main Course. I can't believe I didn't notice. Better late than never?

Besides the inside stories from the family, we also get a lot of interviews with people who have been connected to Struzan's artwork by way of the films. We hear from people like Michael J. Fox, George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg, Harrison Ford and Guillermo del Toro. They have nothing but praise for the man as well as what he has created. As well they should. However, one can easily recall what those first four men I named would be taking about, movie wise, including posters for the films I mentioned earlier, but it's a bit different for Mr. del Toro. In fact, what he has to say has much to do with less of the past of Struzan's work, but more the recent past, present and possible future. Oh, spoilers coming up...I guess.

While del Toro does speak highly of those works of art that he grew up with, those that contributed to his love of cinema, he also represents, by proxy, what has happened to the attitude toward this creativity. On more than one occasion, del Toro asked Struzan to make posters for his films, and they are absolutely stunning. No surprise. Sadly, though, they were rejected by the studio, who did not want to pay for it. Del Toro ended up paying for the art himself, as well as giving some as limited edition collector's items for his fans. I guess it's no shock that one of the only directors these days that I can truly call an artist has a great respect for the art of someone else. What should not be a shock to anyone is that precise reaction to the most recent work of Drew Struzan.

I know I'm not the only one who has come to notice the lack of artistic integrity in the film industry. Not to say there is absolutely none, but it has become difficult to find. So, of course, if the industry has little need for artistic merit in the very medium it creates and distributes, why should it want for that when it comes to another? Maybe if they decided to take one more closer look at the current work of Drew Struzan, they might want to recapture some of that magic for themselves.

Look, I don't want to end on a sour note, so I have some good news. First, this is a great documentary, and if you're an art lover, definitely check it out. Second, it's clear that, though certain people are ignoring the work of a great artist, many people have not forgotten. This film shows that their are still so many admirers of Drew Struzan and what he has created and continues to create. You can see that he is so grateful for that. He makes art because it is in him to do so, and he'll never stop, I believe. It's not about collecting a check or approval from a studio. It's for himself, first and foremost, and for everyone who still is in awe of what he does.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Dealing With the Posting Past or Deleting It

Greetings Pups,

So, I was going through some of my older posts here on this blog. It's strange, like reading through old diaries. But, in this case, it's old diaries that the whole world can see. And, as we all know, the whole world reads my blog, because it is just that awesome. Seriously, though, it is rather overwhelming seeing how much I've changed since I've written a lot of those things. What specifically has changed about me are my opinions. Yes, some of my opinions have been altered, sometimes drastically.

That raised a question in my mind: "Should I delete the posts wherein my opinion is no longer the same?" On one hand, I kind of cringe at how much praise I gave to certain people and things. Like certain actors who I once respected until I found out that he has little respect for people like the worst possible way. Or certain shows that were once fun but have become rife with not so hidden agendas of bad messages which have spilled over into real life. I am not so happy with myself over that, but it was my decision to say those good things at the time. Do I have to live with that, be reminded of it when I scroll through my posts or, Heaven forbid, have new visitors read them and think that I still feel that way? I'm leaning toward the answer to that being yes.

If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that none of us can escape our past. Whilst I'm aware that I am merely speaking of entertainment reviews in my case, not criminal activity, it is still, on a smaller scale, something that I have to accept. In fact, taking posts down or erasing things I've said, as misguided as they may have been at the time, is like pretending it didn't happen. I've never been one to try and shove my mistakes under the rug. If it looks like I was never in a bad state of mind or opinion, how can I celebrate how much wiser I've become? At least, I hope I've become wiser. Of course, we are just talking about my opinions on what might be one of the most unimportant things in the world, the entertainment industry. But does that matter?

We all make little decisions every day. We draw conclusions and give our viewpoint on various things almost every time we open our mouths to speak or write something down or type it on a blog. Maybe we're not always right, and what we think is right one moment might not stay that way to us in the future. All of what we do in the past makes us who we are in the present. And what we are doing right now will lend itself to who we will become. This includes the good and the foolish.

So, now that I've thought about it and talked it over with you, my wonderful readers, I think I'll keep all those insane opinions up. Like I said, I won't be able to appreciate how much I have hopefully grown if I can't remember the place from where I started. But, then again, you never know.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Friday, February 19, 2016

Remembering Harper Lee and Why What We Write Needs to Matter

Greetings Pups,

There are some people who, even though you or I may not know them or if they are public figures who choose to be not so public, make us glad that they are, at the very least, still out there in the world with us. Sadly, we lost one of those people, and it was Harper Lee.

If you don't know who that is, and I'm sad for you if you don't, Harper Lee was the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, arguably one of the greatest books ever written. She just passed away at the age of 89, a mere seven months after her second book, Go Set a Watchman, was released. That one, the world had waited on for over fifty years. Yes, someone considered one of the best writers of our time only released two books in her long life. I haven't had a chance to read that second one, and I've heard that it was actually a first draft of Mockingbird, to which Harper made drastic changes, obviously. I don't know, but even if it was, it's probably better written than anything on the shelves these days. Still, if To Kill a Mockingbird had remained the only book that Harper Lee released or wrote, it would not have mattered. That one book was enough, because it mattered.

Now when I say it mattered, I mean that it did so in the most important way. She wrote a book that pretty much changed the world, and it certainly changes most of the people who read it. If not everyone who reads it. Interestingly enough, I don't think she set out to do that. I think she had something to say and set out to write a book that was good. However, like anyone who creates a masterpiece, she did not plan to create one. And yet, she did.

You see, a masterpiece is not something for which one can plan. It's something that happens because the person who is behind anything that exceptional somehow manages to do everything just right. Everything falls into place and some people are blessed enough to be the vessels for what is the result. Harper Lee was one of those people. She had a story to tell, and she demanded greatness of herself, which led us to this wonderful book. Considering how she seemed to shy away from as much "celebrity" as she could throughout most of her life, I imagine that she never could have predicted what an impact her writing would have on the world. Maybe that's why so many of us see her as brilliant. It's because she wasn't trying to be. She just was.

If there's one thing I really notice about Mockingbird when I read it, it is that I can so clearly see the care that Harper took as she was writing this story. She worked hard to make it the best that it could be, for herself and for anyone else who was going to read it. She perfectly took us to another world, let us see through the eyes of another person. As I said before, she wanted it to matter. So, as a writer myself, I try to make what I do matter, and Harper Lee is a shining example of that. She should be that example for all writers.

Look, I'm not saying that every book has to be To Kill a Mockingbird or any other legendary novel. In fact, some writing is meant to be fun and light, and they serve a purpose by letting our minds relax. We need those books in the world. But that is, again, their purpose, and those authors are aware of it. Speaking for myself as a reader as well, I can always tell when an author cares, and I can certainly tell when they don't. It does not take much to understand and feel what drives certain people to write certain books. Anyone can sense when someone is doing it for fame or money or to jump on a popular bandwagon, and whilst those people might have managed to achieve those things, think about what they haven't achieved. Things like respect. I know that in the past decade or so, many of us have joked and laughed about how many poorly written books have become popular and made boat loads of cash, and if that's what those authors were after, good for them, I guess. But if I was making money from a book that was terribly written and pointless and gave little to anyone who read it, I would not be happy. Because to a true artist, fame and money might be good things to attain, but without being respected as a writer, without being that artist, it's all worthless. In fact, when I finish laughing at all those aforementioned jokes, I actually feel kind of sad. I feel sad for the state we seem to be in when it come to the written word and art in general.

I have walked through many bookstores and libraries in recent years, and I do so with one question: "What is the point?" This is only my opinion, of course, but I just feel like there are so many people who want to be writers for the wrong reasons, and they build a body of work that is unbelievably futile. None of us should have to wonder what a writer has to say if we've read their book, and sadly, I've read quite a few books where I'm left empty, because, though they've put words on paper, the author has said nothing. As someone who loves words and stories and who loves to create them, I can't think of anything more devastating, in that context, than for people to read what I've written and feel nothing. I honestly want all writers to be passionate. I know some are, and I am grateful for them, but many are not. I want everyone who dares to call themselves a writer to not only want to put words on paper and collect a check, but I want them to have a desire to create entire worlds, to make a difference in the lives of their readers, even if it's a small difference. I want them to want to make their readers feel something, whether it's joy or pain or anything in between. Let it be something. We need to make them feel alive. That's what we're supposed to do. That is our contribution to the world. And it is exactly what Harper Lee did.

So, as we say goodbye to this amazing artist, I hope that all of us, especially the writers, choose to carry on a legacy that people like her began. A legacy of creating things that will reach people, that will change them for the better and that will last forever.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sharing Love For Real

Greetings Pups,

So, rumor has it that it's Valentine's Day, which apparently has something to do with love. Look, I'm only telling you what I've heard. But what an interesting concept it is, that love thing. And as a word, it is arguably the one that is tossed around more than it should be, but not nearly enough when it's needed. It's just a tricky one, and holidays like this have the potential to make it even more confusing and possibly vapid. Well, if we let it.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against Valentine's, per se, but like with a lot of holidays, the tangible aspect of it tends to take over. The gifts and the cards and the whatnots, and "love" being printed on a piece of paper or a piece of candy can overshadow the actions of love. Yes, they are lovely gestures, and I know some people have a lot of legit love behind them, but maybe I'm saying this more to those who get sad if they get nothing on this day. Especially when real love can be shared every single day in ways that are so subtle we barely notice.

In fact, I always thought of this holiday as more about romance. Again, nothing wrong with that. And when I think of romance, I think of all the special things that people do for each other on February 14th of every year. But when I think of love, real love, I think of mothers and fathers comforting their children or staying up with them when they're sick. I think of someone giving their friend an embrace when they're going through a difficult time because they just can't think of the right thing to say. I think of elderly couples who have managed to hold marriages together for 50+ years, through more storms than any of us can imagine. I even think of something as simple as a person holding open the door for someone else, just to be polite and make their day a bit better. Love is something that lasts longer than flowers or candy or even a card. It's what we do every day for each other, people we know and people we don't know. It's showing compassion for our enemies rather than reveling in their suffering. It's giving more than taking, even in the smallest ways. I think if we spend every other day doing things like this, Valentine's Day will pale in comparison.

Like I said, I have nothing against the celebrations and the gestures. Actually, I think it's sweet to see couples making an effort to do something special for one another today. I think giving those gifts is wonderful, especially the candy, since it's half price the next day. Although, word to the wise, if you're going the gummy route, less is more when it comes to size. I'm just saying, large, singular gummy products are not always that great, and your significant other might end up not being too happy with you. But I digress.

Look, whatever you're doing today, enjoy yourself, but remember, real love is something we can share every single day. If nothing else, let this one day remind us of that.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Cracks in the Creative Community

Greetings Pups,

When it comes to positive and negative reinforcement, I've always felt as though both of them have the potential to be helpful. One can encourage you through support, the other can push you to do better to prove others wrong. However, I think if you meld the two together, you can have something quite perfect. So, let's say you've got a group of friends or colleagues, a community of sorts. I think the best thing for everyone involved is to mix two things that can both be seen as either positive or negative depending how you use them. By that, I mean, tell each other that they can do it, whatever "it" is, but also push each other forward through some competition. See, saying "You can do it!" can be bad or good, depending on whether or not the person legitimately CAN do a particular "it", and competition can be healthy, unless people start getting shady or inappropriate with it. So, if you take the best parts of these two things, you can have a thriving community that will be beneficial to all involved. Did that make any sense? "Great?" I ask with high hopes. But as you can tell from the title of this post, I would like to speak specifically about a community of which I am a part - the creative community.

In my life, I've noticed, as many artists also have, that we are kind of different, unique, weirdos, if you will. And sometimes, we find ourselves a bit isolated in the place where we are. So we have to seek out others like us to feel not so alone. In my case, I've never found a lot of people like that in my immediate world, but I've found people from all over that are like me, even though most of them are far away. Just knowing that they are there has always been a comfort, and we've all managed ways to support each other, even if we never meet. At the same time, when we share our work, I think we are showing off what we can do, and if it's really good, it might make others want to compete, in a good way. Therefore, it will motivate them to create even better work. Might I remind you all that two of the greatest bands of all time worked this way. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys heard Rubber Soul by the Beatles, wanted to do something just as great or better, thus, we got Pet Sounds. Then, Lennon and McCartney heard Pet Sounds and that inspired them to make Sgt. Pepper. Then, Wilson heard that and decided to make Smile, which didn't get released for decades because of...reasons. But once it was released, we found out it was amazing. My point is that these two artists were rivals, but they also respected each other and were inspired by each other.

And that's the thing about the creative community. I believe we can only survive if we have both of those things going on among us - rivalries and respect. That respect, mind you, must be given throughout, from the most prominent members to the least known of us. It's how we will carry on a legacy. So, when I see creative people, who have made a name for themselves, treating those who have not been so blessed as though they are less than, to the point where they are almost trying to destroy their work, it really bothers me. It's like they forgot that they, too, were once the ones on the bottom. This is why I love when I see James Patterson giving money to small bookstores so that they can stay afloat and give exposure to unknown writers or Stephen King speaking to students and aspiring writers at universities, giving advice, encouragement and even some tough love to people who could potentially be opponents in book sales. It's because they know the importance of being creative and they choose to use their notoriety to help others and get them to create wonderful things of their own. They understand that, if they don't, it might all stop. I mean, it probably won't, but they aren't willing to take that chance.

My whole point here is that, in this creative community, which spans worldwide, we need each other. We need to be there to be pushed or to push against or lift up. If we have more to give, we have a responsibility to give to those who have less. We need to be proud of those who succeed and not be envious to the extent that it turns to poison. Just use the stories of their success to push yourself to where you want to go. See, sometimes we're being helped by people who don't even realize it. Bottom line, we are a structure that can fall apart if we let it. How about we don't let it? How about we mend those cracks so we can all be strong?

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer