Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Masterpieces come in all shapes and sizes (Roger that)

The Academy of Motion Pictures is going to honor Roger Corman with a lifetime achievement award. This is, to me, a very welcome if surprising decision. Welcome, because I grew up loving Corman's work on the late show (back when that term signfied not a Letterman gabfest but rather the screening of a "lesser" movie or two prior to the channel signing off for the evening). Surprising, because Corman specialized in these "lesser" low budget / b-movies, with plenty of gore and cheesy special effects. Not usually the pretentious Academy's cup of tea, unless they're convinced it's "ironic" or "artistically reverential" a la Tarantino.  That attitude reminds me of a Simpson's throwaway gag in their Viva Ned Flanders Vegas episode where the Mirage Hotel events sign blares the headliner act "A TRIBUTE TO THE MOODY BLUES" and in much smaller print below it: "opening act: the moody blues". 

Corman's heyday ran from the late 1950's through the end of the 60's, a catalog constituting a style both singular and powerfully imaginative, squeezing every ounce out of their shoestring budgets.

Much of Corman's work blazed the trail for the groundbreaking 1970's movies by such young filmmakers as Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola. The influence is apparent in the camera movement, music and visual stylings of such classics as Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, The Godfather, and Apocalypse Now. Not coincidentally, Scorsese and Coppola were Corman proteges (as were James Cameron, Jonathan Demme, and legions of other notable auteurs).

Speaking of influences, Quentin Tarantino should pony up a percentage of the box office take to Roger for every flick he's put out.

Corman also discovered and nurtured such then-unknown actors as Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper and Robert De Niro, to name just a few. Nicholson was a Corman mainstay in the 60's.

My favorite Corman flicks? A Bucket of Blood, The Premature Burial, The Wild Angels, The Trip, and Bloody Mama.

Good to see Roger's getting a bit of respect from the Hollywood suits. I look at him in the same light as I do the Ramones and Velvet Underground: their discographies do not in and of themselves reflect their importance; rather, it was their inspiration to and influence on scores of other young musicians of note who went on to hall of fame careers. I'm paraphrasing, but somebody once wrote that the Velvet Underground probably only had a few thousand fans during their time together; however, every last one of them formed a band. That's Corman in a nutshell to me.

Congrats, Roger.

No comments:

Post a Comment