I know I’ve covered this ground before, but it bears repeating. When you entrust corporation with control of your culture, it isn’t long before they decide that empty shelf space is worth more.
In another story with a happy ending, Black Angel has been found and restored.
The 1980 short film was created to accompany The Empire Strikes Back in theaters. It was the directorial debut of Star Wars’ pioneering set decorator Roger Christian and a special request by the big man himself, George Lucas. After it screened in cinemas, it suddenly vanished.
"Suddenly vanished" is a gross oversimplification, but it’s pretty close to what happened — except that it makes the film’s near-loss sound like a tragic accident instead of the very real negligence it actually was on the part of its distributor. The film, shot on a budget of £25,000, released in parts of Europe and Australia with The Empire Strikes Back (the U.S. never saw it because the U.S. theatres had stopped showing short subjects by then). Christian had a personal copy of it, but was stored at Boss Film Studios. He was out of town when Boss went bankrupt, and all of his materials stored there were disposed of.
As for 20th Century Fox’s copies (since they were the distributors, after all), Fox threw them out when their London storage facility closed down.
The film has only managed to be found thanks to a copy surfacing in the archives of Universal Studios. The kicker is that nobody knows how Universal wound up with a copy of the film. They didn’t produce it, they didn’t distribute it — at no point was Universal involved in the movie in any way.
At the corporate level, the short was considered commercially valueless after its initial release — and it was treated as such. As a result, it was very nearly lost forever.
And this is a film that was made in 1980.
So let me get this straight.
Atlas Shrugged: Part I BOMBED at the box office. It was both a critical and a commercial failure. Not even an active campaign by the at-the-time-popular Tea Party movement to put butts in theatre seats succeeded in selling enough tickets for the film to turn a profit. Then a botched release of the film on DVD and blu-ray had to be recalled because the producers were offended that the back cover blurb referred to film as a story of “self-sacrifice.”
Could you see the invisible hand of the market flipping the bird as hard as it could in the producers’ directions? Don’t be silly — of course you couldn’t. It’s invisible.
But rest assured — it was doing it.
And they came back for more. Atlas Shrugged Part II: The Strike recast every single role with fresh actors — although, as the second part of a planned trilogy, it still picked up where the first part left off. Again, it was a critical failure. Again, it was a commercial bomb. Only this time around, it CRATERED hard enough that the dinosaurs rolled over in their graves and muttered, “Oh, not this crap again.”
That loud CRACK you might have heard around that time was the sound of the market keeping its invisible pimp hand strong right across the producers’ chops.
And after the market has spoken — twice — that people don’t want this story (or, at least, they don’t want this version of it), the producers are back for a third helping and they’re spreading around plenty of blame for why the first two failed. They’re blaming the directors, the actors, the designers — everybody but themselves. They’ve recast every role yet again and they want everybody to know that this movie (which is still the third movie in the trilogy) is “a very different motion picture than the first two. You can’t even compare them.”
Huh. Arrogant producers run the little people into the ground and ruin others’ careers while preaching free market fundamentalism and blaming everybody else for their failures. Meanwhile, they continue blithely on their path of destruction, safely cushioned by a ridiculous amount of money.
I’m certain that could be a metaphor for something.
I watched last night’s Oscars on ABC. It was fun, but not quite as rich in material as other award shows have been lately (as anyone watching my twitter feed probably noticed). I thought it was awesome when Angelina Jolie’s thigh threatened to take over the whole theatre, and I couldn’t help but wonder when Billy Crystal was replaced by his own Lipton Brisk commercial puppet.
And there was that. Let’s not forget about that.
Aside from that, a few thoughts about last night’s telecast in no random order.
- In any contest between a tribute to silent films and an actual silent film, the silent film wins.
- The secret to a movie like The Muppets working is that everybody who worked on the film is somebody who either has been there from the start or who grew up wanting to be part of the show.
- The producers can go so far as to completely eliminate performances of the nominated songs, and still go over on time. I’m starting to think you have bigger problems than the Best Original Song category, guys.
- Just let Tina Fey host, already.
- Christopher Plummer should give lessons on how to give acceptance speeches.
- The entire ceremony is capable of being upstaged by the Muppets rocking out to “Under Pressure” in a commercial.
- The acronym title for ABC’s new series, GCB, stands for “Good Christian Bitches.” And that third word is apparently one that must never be uttered in a commercial.
- Also, the lengths to which ABC will go to make certain that you know what the word is without having to actually say the word are hilarious, just not in the way ABC expected.
- Despite the above two facts, ABC is also launching its new sitcom, Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23, also with its own hilarious attempts to avoid saying the word in the commercials.
And, again, this: