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Aisle Seat Reader Responses

by Andy Dursin

What better way to end 1998 than by cleaning out the o'l Aisle Seat Reader Bag before the end of the year. Thanks to you folks who write in with (usually) eloquent responses on the movies and their film scores, since without you, a column like this couldn't possibly be prepared in advance!

As always, send in your two cents to dursina@att.net. I'm off to watch Dick Clark count down the big ball (and can you fathom that the man is only 69? Amazing!) as 1998 ticks away...

Psycho Thoughts

It may seem a bit irrelevant to discuss the box-office flop that was Gus Van Sant's remake of PSYCHO, but since some of you had some intriguing comments on the movie (which I refused to see), there's good reason to keep the discussion going.

From Bob Rgutowski <Rgutowski@nycds.org>:

    Yup, I saw it. To my...surprise?... there are no bad rock songs on the soundtrack. It's all Herrmann, as rethought, edited, compressed, and reorchestrated by Elfman. There are only three cuts from the score on the rock-dominated CD (that's the music "inspired" by the movie on the disc, natch!), and I doubt there'll be a score-only CD, which I would buy. I'll buy the flick on DVD in a few months, too, "to have," as Little Red Riding Hood proclaimed in that Warner's Bugs Bunny cartoon. But was it good? No, but it was interesting.

    The main problem was that I don't think van Sant understands this movie as well as he thinks he does. Janet Leigh's Marion was making a desperate attempt to find happiness, even if she half-knew all along she was doomed to failure. Anne Heche's Marion is a little ditzy, not a bit needy (no longing at all in HER "Oh, Sam, let's get married!") in her chic little dress and matching parasol, and it's harder to care about her. There's a lot more "I Love Lucy" here than high tragedy.

    That said, I Still was deeply disturbed by her murder. I grew to like Heche on her own terms. She certainly isn't a ninny about the rather more in-your-face nuttiness of Norman, as portrayed by Vaughn. It hurts the film that Heche doesn't leave the parlor conversation, as does Leigh, feeling "there but for the grace of God go I," and proceed to step into that shower with profound relief. Instead, Heche clearly realizes that she'd better get out of that uncomfortable conversation at her first opportunity; all of Vaughn's good ol'boy chortling has not hidden his genuine strangeness from her. Lost, lost depth!

    And Norman should always appear incapable of violence. Not so, BIG, burly Vaughn. He got laughs when he showed up in that blonde wig. He was simply Vince Vaughn... goin' a-huntin' in a blonde wig! When Perkins dashes into that fruit cellar 'en travestie' you see in a second that it's NOT Norman at all - the film is nearly forty years old, and the ravenous look in his eyes at that instant Still scares me.

    Still, as Heche sat there in Cabin #1 in her robe and tried to balance her checkbook, I suddenly realized she was only going to be alive for another 2 minutes, and I was really uneasy about having to watch her die so painfully.

Bob, these are the sorts of insightful comments that a lot of PSYCHO viewers made (as did some critics) right after the movie came out. I will check the movie out eventually, though certainly not now--it's already disappearing from theaters!

From "karlton" <karlton@airnet.net>

    Andy, I've enjoyed your column. But you need to see Psycho just to hear Elfman and Bartek's adaptation of the classic score. He did a good job and in a THX theater it is clean. I'd also like your take on the interesting change in cue to the shower sequence.

    Keep up the good work, and I'll be reading you on-line

Karlton, I do plan on seeing this on DVD, primarily just for the reason you specified--to hear what Elfman did with Herrmann's score. Still, it's hard to mess up a classic score, so I'm not sure that Elfman and Steve Bartek deserve all these kudos for their work on the film. I mean, the original score is a masterpiece, so unless you do something radical and inappropriate, it's hard not to get it right. Bernstein's adaptation of CAPE FEAR was a perfect example of adapting Herrmann to suit the needs of a modern remake.

From Wdp321@aol.com:

    I found it offensive that you think the new PSYCHO is mostly for a teen audience who has never seen the classic version. I'm 20... I love the original and watch my DVD Spec. ED. all the time!

    Sure the new one would not surpass the original who said that it would? Gus Van Sant did not set out to do it harm.... I went to see it and I consider it a tribute to the original. He never over does anything..it stays simple. It doesn't even take itself as seriously as it should. The original is far more risque as well as FAR MORE violent looking.... and much more shocking!!!! I can't wait till UNIVERSAL releases it on DVD hopefully they will give it the same treatment as the Collector's ED of the original. The only thing offensive for the film was a CDless SCORE CD for ELFMAN!!

Even though I didn't see it, I can tell you that this movie was definitely geared towards the SCREAM crowd, and most likely was made only on that basis. Check out the trailers, the soundtrack album, or simply the fact that the original movie is a classic--and a SHOT FOR SHOT remake, of all things, is totally unnecessary. You know every twist, every plot device, before it ever happens! I don't care if it's in color and Dolby Stereo, but making a reenactment of a Hitchcock film is as pointless an exercise if there ever was one. (You do, however, get kudos for being brighter than the average teen movie-goer; I'm 24 and saw PSYCHO on the "Dialing for Dollars" local movie matinee on Channel 6 when I was 10! Still, this movie wasn't geared for YOU, as such, but rather the teen horror market that SCREAM reestablished a couple of years ago).

This notion of shot-for-shot remakes, however, is a ridiculous--albeit interesting--idea to contemplate. How would you feel if CITIZEN KANE was remade shot-for-shot with John Goodman as Kane? STAR WARS with George Clooney as Han Solo? JAWS with Tom Hanks as Chief Brody? Anybody have any other ideas?

Second Thoughts on TREK

The latest sequel in the seemingly endless series, STAR TREK-INSURRECTION, certainly felt more like a TV show than any other Star Trek film ever made (as evidenced by the film's only moderate reception at the box-office). However, even before its release, some of you weighed in with your thoughts and what appears to be a genuine decline in interest in the series on behalf of casual fans and moviegoers.

From Todd Reifinger (PTAL47B@prodigy.com):

    Star Trek is always a sensitive subject with me, mainly because I'm so tired of its rabid fans and its ridiculous storylines. (I'm only speaking of the film franchise here; I don't bother watching any of the television series.) Whenever I make the mistake of discussing the mile-wide plotholes and overall cheesiness of the Trek films with someone who follows Trek, the response is usually something like this: "Well, if you were into Trek, then you'd understand it." Or, "I thought it was good because Data was so funny, and he made that cool reference to episode whatever-whatever-whatever." Do I have to be "into Trek" to understand that a plot is vapid or poorly written? There are so many plotholes in "Generations," for instance, that I won't even bother getting started on the subject.

Regarding your comments concerning the need for fresh ideas, I could hardly argue with you. Has anyone noticed how many times the Trek films have resorted to time travel or blowing up the Enterprise to propel their stories? How many times is the Enterprise going to be set on self-destruct before audiences say, "ENOUGH, ALREADY!" They blew it up in "Search for Spock," they crashed and totalled it in "Generations," they started to blow it up in "First Contact"...I mean, let's face it, this plot device has worn out its hold on my heartstrings.

But that's just my opinion. I suppose if I were "into Trek," I'd feel differently.

From Robin Anderson (EnterAct@aol.com):

    I just finished your column on the FSM website; your comments about the current state of "Star Trek" were right on the money. Over the last eight years or so, virtually everything that made "Star Trek" special has been subverted by Paramount in a blatant effort to separate Trek fans from their money. In other words, they're attempting to turn a cult phenomenon into an actual cult. (L. Ron Hubbard's cult is penny-ante compared to Paramount's.) That said, I stil admit to being a "Star Trek" fan. I watch the two series currently on the air, and I'll probably find myself in line to see the new movie this weekend. However, I'm not overly enthusiastic about any of it; the thrill is pretty much gone. It's sort of ironic, actually. I'm now looking at the years between the first Trek film and the debut of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" as the Golden Age of Star Trek. There was EXCITEMENT in going to the latest "Star Trek" film. Now, I feel like I'm just going through the motions. (Am I alone in this? I doubt it.)

    And I agree with you about putting the franchise into semi-retirement for a while. I'd never thought I say this, but there's just too damned much of it; even the most voracious of fans have to be reaching a point where they just can't watch it anymore. Maybe after a few years of Trek-starvation (like between the end of the TV series and the first feature film) will shake off the complacency of both the fans and the creators of the show.

    Finally, I just have to get this off my chest...Patrick Stewart is a far better actor than William Shatner, but Picard is just a really nice guy, while Captain Kirk is a cultural icon. Why is this? My theory is that while Stewart is technically a better actor, Shatner is far and away the more charismatic personality...and personality is what drives low-brow entertainment like television science fiction shows.

That's a great point, Robin. I grew up watching reruns of the original STAR TREK series and--to me--Star Trek WAS William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. That Shatner was a ham didn't matter to me, and it really doesn't matter now, either, because there was a clear, emotional connection that many viewers had with Kirk and Spock that just isn't there with the NEXT GENERATION crew.

Patrick Stewart may be a better actor, and the cast as a whole might be able to break away from "Trek" (like Brent Spiner on Broadway) more than competently...but there's just no fire, passion, or genuine warmth coming out of the NEXT GENERATION crew, at least not in their movies anyhow. The sense of drama and friendship is there in a peripheral sense, but the camaraderie that existed between the original Enterprise crew is lacking from the superior acting talents of "The Next Generation" cast, as far as I'm concerned. (It also doesn't help that producer Rick Berman tries to give each character something to do in the TNG movies--creating too many subplots whereas, in STAR TREK II-IV for example, the central issue was Spock's friendship with Kirk, death, and resurrection. Sure, George Takei and James Doohan may have carped at their lack of screen time, but those picture's respective scripts improved substantially as a result of not having to address every character's individual story).

I predict that at some point, the series will be put into a state of semi-retirement, and will reappear--eventually--in the form of what made the original program and movies work so well. A younger, stubborn captain who learns from a (preferably Vulcan) science officer, in the sort of relationship that Kirk and Spock had. I'm telling you, we've had middle-age English captains and middle-age women as Starfleet Captains, and eventually the younger demographic will have to be addressed at some point--particularly if the series is to continue through many stardates to follow. Count on it.

AND THAT'S A WRAP for the Aisle Seat 1998. Thanks for all your comments and keep sending 'em into dursina@att.net. Now it's time to party like it's (almost) 1999! See you on the other side!


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