Ed Wood’s awful cult classic, Plan 9 from Outer Space, is being made into an opera—by none other than Thai composer Somtow Sucharitkul. It’s actually a good fit: Somtow wrote a lot of science fiction, fantasy and horror in the late 1970s, 1980s and 1990s before returning to composing; he even directed a direct-to-video horror film and is a self-described B-movie fanatic. And while it’s true that Plan 9 is terrible, it’s terrible in a way that might just work as an opera. The Hollywood Reporter: “‘I won’t use a single word in the libretto that wasn’t straight from the pen of Ed Wood,’ says Sucharitkul. ‘Whether the Bela Lugosi character will manage a plaintive, tragic aria, when he was silent (not to mention dead) during the entire production of the film . . . that will be a nice little Easter egg to come.’” (That should be something: here’s the Plan 9 script.)
It turns out that “Night of the Cooters” isn’t the only Howard Waldrop story George R. R. Martin is making into a short film. According to Deadline, George is producing a total of four short films based on Waldrop stories. In addition to “Cooters,” which premiered last July, “Friends Forever” (which I don’t recognize) is in post, “Mary Margaret Road-Grader” is filming now, and “The Ugly Chickens” is about to start shooting with Felicia Day in the lead role. The idea seems to be to collect them into produce an anthology film or series.
George bought the film rights to Waldrop’s stories four years ago, it seems, which probably went some way to ensuring that his oldest friend in sf stays fed (Howard’s talent for making the least amount of money from his work is legendary). As I said last week on social media, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea that a Howard Waldrop short-film anthology is actually a real thing that is actually happening in this benighted timeline.
The film version of Howard Waldrop’s “Night of the Cooters” has its world premiere tomorrow night at the L.A. Shorts International Film Festival. It’s 34 minutes long, animated using the trioscope process, and stars (and is directed by) Vincent d’Onofrio. I hope the film maintains the zaniness of Waldrop’s original story, which transparently imagined its sheriff protagonist as Slim Pickens—who was not available for this production on account of having died in 1983. The trailer (below), which I completely missed when it was released in December, sheds no light on that question (previously).
In an excerpt from her new memoir, Run Towards the Danger, Sarah Polley reflects on her traumatic experience as an eight-year-old actor on the set of Terry Gilliam’s Adventures of Baron Munchausen (a movie that meant, and still means, a great deal to me), where she was put in physical danger more than once. She’s written about it before, but: “As the years go on and Terry makes more and more comments that demonstrate not just a childlike incapacity for understanding grown-up problems but a wilful dismissal of movements that seek to claim equality and acknowledgment for past harms, I see him, and the role he played in the mayhem back then, differently. I see it in the context of a cultural phenomenon of what many white men have been allowed to get away with in the name of art. Though he was magical and brilliant and made images and stories that will live for a long, long time, it’s hard to calculate whether they were worth the price of the hell that so many went through over the years to help him make them.”
I’m always keen to read an argument against spoiler alerts; in Wired, Jason Kehe makes the point that avoiding spoilers prevents us from talking about whether art is successful because we can’t talk about endings. “[G]ood criticism should not cater to our childish fears of spoiled pleasures, with disclaimers and warnings and other acts of silly self-debasement. It should honestly evaluate a work of art in its entirety, and you can’t do that without talking about what happens. Besides, it’s not even clear that spoilers really do ruin one’s experience of art.” Preventing spoilers is at bottom a marketing tactic, and has been since the end credits of Witness for the Prosecution (1957) asked the audience not to reveal its plot twist. That was, and is, to get more bums in seats. Marketing is the enemy of good criticism.
George R. R. Martin paused his journey into the sun to report that Howard Waldrop’s classic story “Night of the Cooters”—in which the Martians of H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds invade a small town in Texas whose sheriff has a passing resemblance to Slim Pickens—is being made into a short film, with Vincent d’Onofrio directing and starring. Shot on green screen, with effects to follow during a lengthy post-production; I suspect we ought not to expect great things from this. But the fact that any Waldrop story is being filmed in any fashion—that’s noteworthy.
Today is the 15th anniversary of the release of that snakesploitation film masterpiece, Snakes on a Plane. Only it was about as far away from a masterpiece as you could get. On io9, Sean Lussier looks back at the hype, the disappointment and the motherfucking snakes. “The actual ‘snakes on a plane’ part of the movie is great, but the idea itself is so absurd and so small, it takes way too long to set up, and no time at all to fix, leaving a movie with a boring beginning, amazing middle, and disappointing ending.” As I noted at the time, you could tell where the over-the-top bits—the MF-bombs, the nudity, the gross-out scenes—were spliced into what was otherwise a flat and forgettable film.
I suspected as much: “The initial reaction [to] The Empire Strikes Back is eerily similar to that of 2017’s Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi,” writes Zachary Sosland in Looper. “Both middle chapters of their respective trilogies tried to take the Star Wars franchise in exciting new directions, and both receiving mixed receptions from fans who were initially displeased with being knocked so far out of their comfort zones. Of course, the backlash against The Last Jedi was much louder, but the point still stands.”
Having been axed by Netflix after their second season on the platform, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is attempting yet another comeback via a Kickstarter to setup a new online platform not subject to the vagaries of networks and streaming platforms. As of this writing they’re above 87 percent of the way to their first goal; goals beyond that will increase the number of new MST3k episodes made.
Wired UK on the controversial process of upscaling old films to 4K resolution: “Digital upscalers and the millions who’ve watched their work on YouTube say they’re making the past relatable for viewers in 2020, but for some historians of art and image-making, modernising century-old archives brings a host of problems.” The process involves machine learning and readily available algorithms that clean and stabilize old film, colourize it, and upscale it to 4K and 60 fps. It adds material that isn’t in the original, which is what these historians object to. I’d argue that these videos operate in the same space as historical fiction: they make the past feel more real to the audience, but the audience can’t always separate fact from fiction. Somehow I doubt historians want to stop novels set in the past, though. [MetaFilter]