In Memory of James Gandolfini (1961 – 2013)

I was jostled from sleep this night at 3 a.m. for reasons I could not fathom until I was notified, upon checking the time, that the great James Gandolfini had died. In memory of his great persona and talent, I have compiled a few clips and articles on the one and only James Gandolfini.

Gandolfini was also nominated for an Oscar with the cast of
Gandolfini was also nominated for an Oscar with the cast of “Get Shorty” (1995), Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser, Business Insider

From www.imdb.com: New Jersey-born James Gandolfini began acting in the New York theater. His Broadway debut was in the 1992 revival of “A Streetcar Named Desire” with Jessica Lange and Alec Baldwin. James’ breakthrough role was his portrayal of Virgil the hitman in Tony Scott‘s True Romance(1993), but the role that brought him worldwide fame and accolades was as complex Mafia boss Tony Soprano in HBO’s smash hit series “Die Sopranos” (1999). He currently lives in Greenwich Village in New York City. Full article >>

Brian Lowry, Variety: James Gandolfini’s Unlikely Stardom, and the Role of a Lifetime

Justin Chang, Variety: James Gandolfini: A Rich Bigscreen Career in the Shadow of Tony Soprano

You Tube: James Gandolfini on Inside the Actor’s Studio – Part 1

You Tube: The Sopranos – “Are you in the Mafia?”

You Tube: James Gandolfini Plays with Fan’s Puppy After God of Carnage

Farewell, Mr. Gandolfini, you will be greatly missed.

 

Lure of the Classic: Knights of the Old Republic

The other day I dropped by IGN to learn that Aspyr had released a stunning iPad conversion of the LucasArts/BioWare classic Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) on Apple’s iTunes Store. Although I beamed with exhilaration at the news, I still resisted the lure of one of the great roleplaying games of all time, but gave in a day later: why the reticence when there is so much joy to be had?

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Be Careful What You Tease For

The teaser (contains Star Trek III: The Search for Spock spoilers!)
The other day I glimpsed the shocking image of the starship Enterprise falling out of the sky, a stunning memento of last year’s Star Trek Into Darkness teaser, where the vessel crashes in all the digital particle glory one cannot possibly imagine. It’s a visual spectacle but while it surely underlines the dark tone the campaign is aiming for and its edgy “world falling apart”-rhethoric, I found it to be somewhat self-important and, frankly, not quite as moving at all. Compare the smoking starship with Tony Stark’s struggle in the Iron Man 3 teaser campaign on the right.

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Both posters focus on what are some of ILM’s greatest visuals, but I find myself invested in the character of Tony Stark on the one hand and spoiled by a stunning turn of events exploited for a shock-and-awe tease on the other. I want to see what Stark will do in the next Iron Man film – and his suit getting smacked is a series staple, not a major spoiler – but am quite indifferent to the Star Trek poster. It already familiarises me with a dramatic turn of events that I am now fully prepared for – despite having avoided everything (except for the very first teaser).

In preparation for J.J. Abrams’s sophomore Starfleet epic, I reviewed the OST movies (1979-91) and was awed not only by the characters’ grappling with retirement and obsolence, but how ILM’s marvelous rendition of the Enterprise’s destruction in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock not only holds up extremly well today, but was concisely predicated on the characters’ disposition: seasoned, aged and battle-worn, their (final) realisation of defeat and loss was overwhelming and captured in this signature shot from Leonard Nimoy’s 1984 directorial effort.

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Most importantly, the destruction of the original Enterprise was an event that in 1984 the average film-goer was completely unprepared for, so the emotional impact on the characters and audiences was mutual. And therein lies the problem of modern marketeering.

Campaigning for an upcoming motion picture – a product whose singular selling point is telling a story visually using images, sounds and events unseen before – must not reveal the finished product to the point where audiences are effectively ahead of the characters all the time. The first viewing will otherwise strangely seem like the umpteenth repeat on a cable television due to the awkward familiarity with the plot.

Take Kathryn Bigelow’s much-coveted Zero Dark Thirty: scores of trailers were telegraphing the entire film in advance. The filmmakers’ and marketeers’ pride in the finished product is as palpable as it is ruinous to the filmgoing experience. It’s not simply the resolution, which is well known in the case of ZD30, but the various set pieces which were distinctly laid out: the shots, angles, colours, framing, seriously deflating the first viewing experience. People walk into movies knowing what sequences are about to be projected these days. Everything marketing throws at you nowadays prepares everyone for what to expect: an unsettling common occurrence these days. Let us consider a teaser campaign for one of last year’s major tentpoles, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus in greater detail to elaborate on the problematic teaser situation.

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Dark Times 11 – 1996 – Part 5

John Williams summoned the heroes at the Centennial Olympic Games, but a nerf-herder, her worshipfulness and a kid almost finding himself floating home equally prepared for victory: Star Wars continues its return to pop culture in 1996.

Star Wars was an intricate anomaly. Despite its close ties to 70ies zeitgeist it had superseded the regular status of a classic. Every generation that chanced upon George Lucas’ space opera felt instantly attracted to this peculiar property that grew independently of time and the concomitant limited fads.

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The Hobbit: The bane of innovation

I am looking forward to seeing The Hobbit this Christmas season but regard the film’s release with a troubled brow: The media has unfortunately weighed down Peter Jackson’s entertaining spectacle with thousands of words spent on picking apart the apparently questionable decision on the director’s part to shot this film in 48fps.

Most horribly, the focal point regarding a beloved tale is the technology employed rather than the magic conveyed. In a business thriving on mesmerizing audiences, this is unacceptable.

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Dark Times 11 – 1996 – Part 4

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Stallone must be in need of bringing the suffering to Daylight. Yet Star Wars aficionados were rescued by Ben Burtt in 1996. New instalment in the series on how Star Wars returned to pop culture.

Lucasfilm understood that a franchise was supposed to act as a companion to its followers and ensured that fans could constantly enjoy the invigorating sensation of discovery within the familiar universe of Star Wars.
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Dark Times 11 – 1996 – Part 3

While Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt were busy twisting box office receipts, a powerful new ally joined Lucasfilm in 1996: ‘Hmmm….powerful collector, he is.’

Every media has its fair share of legendary classics. They have in common a huge following regardless of time and age – and especially marketing muscle. For it is the consumer’s infatuation with a product that pencils popularity into the record books of the entertainment industry. The key to such voluntary commitment on the part of the public lies in deft, responsible management of franchise assets that ensures lively interest whilst planting the seeds for anticipation.

Lucasfilm had dedicated the latter half of the 90ies building a repertoire of product, strictly distanced from short-lived opportunism that throws all available content on the market in one senseless waste of potential. Star Wars was the only major motion picture property without new instalments in the near future and yet impressively went from strength to strength. To send this already stellar track record beyond the stars on the eve of the Star Wars Special Edition, Lucasfilm inducted a most versatile man into their fold. Trade paper Variety read on February 22nd, 1996: ‘Sweet Deal For Sansweet’.

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