ATLRetro’s Hellacious and Horrorific Halloween Guide 2015

Posted on: Oct 26th, 2015 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Calling all ghouls and gals! Come see why we think you should raise hell in Retro Atlanta this Halloween season!

1. Head Rolling Tunes! Get sinister All Hallows Eve (weekend) with a helluva lot of rancid rock ‘n roll! The Star Bar gets hellacious this weekend with Hell Night featuring326009_298795516804941_172672546083906_1195943_20653855_o2 BigFoot, Timmy James & the Blue Flames and Night Terrors on Friday (10/30)! Or get your horror punk fix with their 24th Anniversary Party & Halloween Bash featuring Horror Business, Pretty Vacant, Salad Days, Road to Ruin and Kool Kats The Casket Creatures on Saturday (10/31)! Get monstrous and go, go Godzilla on down to the Variety Playhouse for a night with the Blue Oyster Cult (10/30)! Rock out retro-style with The B-52s during their “Halloween Scream” show at the Fox Theatre (10/30)! The Earl gets monstrously metal with their Halloween party featuring Wolf Eyes, Timmy’s Organism, Video and Uniform (10/30)! And Smith’s Olde Bar terrifies with their Howl ‘o’ Ween rockin’ tribute night featuring The Cherry Bomb (Joan Jett); Learning to Count (Ramones); and TNT (AC/DC) (10/30)

2. Fangtastic Films! Halloween just isn’t the same without blood-filled horror flicks! If you’re craving the crazed, catch John PsychoCarpenter’s HALLOWEEN (1978) at 7:30pm across town [Hollywood Stadium 24 in Chamblee; AMC Avenue Forsyth 12 in Cumming; AMC Barrett Commons 24 in Kennesaw; AMC Sugarloaf Mills 18 in Lawrenceville; and Georgian Stadium in Newnan] on Thursday (10/29)! The Plaza Theater delivers killer screenings with Gerald Kargl’s ANGST (1983) (10/29); Victor and Edward Halperin’s monstrous classic, WHITE ZOMBIE (1932) (10/30); and don’t forget to Time-Warp it up with some uber musically-inclined transsexual aliens at as they continue their tradition of screening THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975), featuring the live cast of Lips Down on Dixie at midnight, with special Halloween treats (10/30)! Get bewitched with a screening of Kenny Ortega’s HOCUS POCUS (1993) at dusk at Atlantic Station during their “Spooky Film Fest” (10/30)! Ghosts invade Studio Movie Grill (Alpharetta/Duluth) with their 30th Anniversary screening of Ivan Reitman’s GHOSTBUSTERS (1984) at 7pm/9:30pm (10/30)! Celebrate 40 years with Dr. Frank-N-Furter and Jim Sharman’s cult classic, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) at AMC Phipps Plaza at 10pm (10/30-10/31)! The 9th Annual Atlanta Horror Film Festival haunts at DooGallery featuring 70 independent horror films from across the world (10/28-10/30)! And get homicidal at The Earl Smith Strand Theatre with their screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s horror masterpiece, PSYCHO (1960) at 8pm (10/31)!

3. Dance with the Dead. Do the Monster Mash with DJ Evil Jet at the Euclid Avenue Yacht Club’s annual Halloween Bash (10/31)! 10.31MarysPallookaville celebrates All Hallows Eve and their second year of corndogula slingin’ with their Ice Scream Ball & Halloweiner, featuring drink specials, music, tricks & treats, costume contests and more (10/31)! Or get ghastly and groove on down to Mary’s for their Hallo-Weenie Dance Party (10/30), followed by their Scary-oke! shindig and costume contest on Halloween night (10/31)! Or rattle your bones during Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis and IMAX’s Fright Night Halloween Party, dripping with devilish drinks, costume contests and more (10/30)! Spook on down to Callanwolde Fine Arts Center for their “Halloween Night on Callanwolde Mountain” family-friendly party featuring trick-or-treating, live music with the Callanwolde Concert Band featuring Matthew Kaminski, costume contests and more (10/30)! And party it up in Virginia Highlands with their Halloween Night in the Highlands event featuring costume contests and more (10/31)!

12079683_10153767154624015_1522384923892883865_n4. Gothic & Ghastly. It’s a night of gothic chills at Atlanta Symphony Hall as the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra presents a night of Danny Elfman’s music from the films of Tim Burton at 8pm (10/31)! Haunt on down to the Historic Oakland Cemetery for their annual hour-long Capturing the Spirit of Oakland 2015 Ghost Tours, featuring music, a fortune teller and more! Come on out and tiptoe through the graves, make a few new spirited friends and hear the hallowed tales of some of their eternal residents, running from 5:30pm to 10:30pm (10/29-10/31)!

5. Horrifying Haunts. It’s a gore-fest at Chambers of Horror Haunted House at the Masquerade as they terrify with their adults-only blood-infested splatter-fest [10/29-11/1, 8pm-12am/1am (weekend)]! Or creep on down to Netherworld Haunted House in Norcross and spook it up through Nov. 1 (7:30pm-10:30pm week days; 7pm-midnight weekends)! Ghastly-2015-illustration-with-title-banner

6. Thrilling and Chilling Theatrics. Be the Headless Horseman’s next victim and get your bones chilled at Serenbe Playhouse’s thrilling presentation of their immersive spooky attraction and show, THE SLEEPY HOLLOW EXPERIENCE, haunting through Nov. 8 (Wed-Sun at 8pm; Fri-Sat at 10:30pm)! The Arts Exchange spooks it up with their Halloween 2015 party featuring performance art, a spooky amphitheatre and experimental music at 8pm (10/31)! Get immortal with the Center for Puppetry Arts’ presentation of Jon Ludwig and Jason Hines’ THE GHASTLY DREADFULS: RAISING SPIRITS adults-only spook show filled with creepy stories, devilish dances and more (10/28-10/31; 8pm)!

7. Psychotically Psychedelic. Rattle your bones and get psychedelic at the Red Light Café with their Night of the Dead Halloween Party featuring gr8FLdude & frenz and Dead Affect (10/31)! Or jam it up with Honeywood during their Halloween trader-vics-halloweenshow at the Crimson Moon Café (10/31)! And it’s “Hawgtoberfest” at Hottie Hawgs BBQ with Swami Gone Bananas (10/31)!

8. Tricks or Tikis! Trader Vic’s takes a big hairy bite out of you with their Werewolves of London Halloween dinner event, featuring a prix fixe menu ($35/person) including monstrous starters, entrées and desserts. Werewolves & Pina Coladas, OH MY! Trader Vic’s calls all werewolves to come in & enjoy Pina Coladas à la Warren Zevon‘s “Werewolves of London” this Halloween! Costumes are encouraged & are worn best if your hair is perfect! Doors Open at 5:00 p.m. (10/30)!

9. Decaying Eighties. ATL Collective delivers two nights of rotting flesh as they raise the dead with their performance of Michael 10.31BasementJackson’s Halloween classic, “Thriller” at Vinyl (10/30-10/31)! Or do the Monster Mash at Steve’s Live Music as they dish out a spooky night with The Lizardmen and Devomatix (Devo tribute) (10/31)! Kool Kat Becky Cormier Finch and Denim Arcade deliver a rockin’ ‘80s Halloween show at the Dallas Public House (10/31)!

10. Groove Like a Ghoul! It’s a night of boos and blues as Danny ‘Mudcat’ Dudeck and the Atlanta Horns get down at their annual Halloween Bamboo Au Go Go Party with The Reverend & the Lady and Yoshito Kiyono at the Northside Tavern (10/31)! Put on those dancin’ shoes groove like a ghoul at The Basement as they get down with forty thousand years of funk during their Keep on Movin’ Halloween Dance Party (10/31)! And get ghastly and groove on down to the The Music Room for the Dangerfeel NewbiesSoul of Jazz Halloween Jam (10/31)!

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Rockin’ Retro Guide to Dragon Con 2015

Posted on: Sep 3rd, 2015 By:

dragonconBy Claudia Dafrico
Contributing Writer

As the famed pop culture extravaganza that is Dragon Con takes over downtown Atlanta once again this Labor Day weekend, one has to think: where to even begin? In between countless meet and greets, discussion panels, vendors, and amazing cosplays to ogle at, it seems impossible to do everything Dragon Con has to offer in just four days. ATLRetro is here with our top picks to help you get your nerdy Retro fix without short circuiting from overstimulation.

GUESTS

carollspinney_2CAROLL SPINNEY. The legendary muppeteer behind everyone’s favorite SESAME STREET resident, Big Bird, will be speaking at the Imperial Ballroom in the Marriott Marquis Atlanta on Saturday at 2:30 P.M.  This is a must-do for any con-goer, child or adult, that grew up with Big Bird and his neighbors.

PETER MAYHEW. With STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS approaching at near-light speed, the hype for the new film has reached peak levels. Be at the Mariott Imperial Ballroom Sunday at 4:00 P.M. to hear Peter Mayhew, the actor behind beloved Chewbacca, talk about the new installment in the saga and his experience appearing in all three STAR WARS trilogies.

brianBARRY BOSTWICK. If you’re one of many that have spent weekends past midnight with Dr. Frank N Furter and freinds, you’ll definitely want to make your way over to the Hyatt Regency Atlanta on Friday at 1:00 P.M. to catch up with Barry Bostwick, aka Brad Majors, from THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975), and see why he  was compelled to audition for the film. Also catch him at Lips Down on Dixie’s live performance accompanying RHPS at 1:30 A.M. on Sunday in the Hyatt Centennial Ballroom.

TERRY JONES. Terry Gilliam has been a guest at a couple of DragonCons. Now we get the other Monty Python Terry. What’s he best known for? Well, here’s a hint: “Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam!” Here him share his Python memories and more on Sunday at 11:30 A.M.. and he presents Terry Jones: A Very Naughty Boy Live!” about the making of LIFE OF BRIAN (1979) on Monday at 10 A.M., both in the Sheraton Atlanta’s Grand Ballroom.

300208_271920342839242_789821841_nCOMIC & POP ARTIST ALLEY

DEREK YANIGERIf the art of perpetual Kool Kat Derek Yaniger looks familiar, it’s probably because you can see it at the top of this article. Derek designed ATLRetro’s fabulous logo. Stop by his booth to get your fix of rockabilly, tiki and more in a sea of fantasy and steampunk.

PANELS

2001THE HISTORY OF PULP FICTION. Science fiction, fantasy, horror, weird fiction, adventure, noir. They all appeared in the pages of pulp magazines so it makes sense that Pulp Fiction has its own panel. Join fellow pulp lovers in a discussion of Pulp’s fascinating past and exciting future. (Sun. 10 AM; Augusta 3, Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel)

PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE: WE KNOW YOU ARE. There is perhaps no movie that is quite as quotable as Tim Burton’s classic PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE (1985) With a reboot rumored to be in the works, be sure to celebrate  the original on its 30th anniversary. Tell ‘em Large Marge sent ya! (Sun 10 PM; M303-M303, Atlanta Marriott Marquis)

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY REUNION. Since its premiere in 1968, Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi epic has bewitched viewers of all generations. Two of the film’s stars, Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood, reunite to reminisce on the unbelievably unique experience they had performing in this landmark film. (Fri. 1 PM, Sat. 5:30 PM; Grand Ballroom East, Hilton Atlanta)

CHRISTOPHER LEE & LEONARD NIMOY: CLASSIC SCI FI LEGENDS. 2015 saw the loss of two of the most talented actors the Sci-Fi and Horror genres have ever known. Join other fans to celebrate the lives of Leonard Nimoy and Sir Christopher Lee, whose contributions to pop culture will never be forgotten. (Sat. 5:30 PM; M303-M304, Atlanta Mariott Marquis)

hieberCTHULHU: NEW SPINS ON OLD MYTHOS. Everyone’s favorite Elder One has resurged in popularity in the past few years, and it looks like it is here to stay. Stop by to hear the experts explain how and why Cthulhu “works” in today’s world of pop culture, and where he’s headed in the years to come. (Fri. 7 PM; Peachtree 1-2, Westin Peachtree Plaza)

EXPLOITATION! In what might end up being the most entertaining and liveliest panel at Dragon Con, panelists and fans will gather to celebrate exploitation and cult films and all the revelry they bring. A late night panel for a late night crowd. (Fri. 10 PM; Peachtree 1-2, Westin Peachtree Plaza)

HISTORICAL HORROR. ATLRetro’s own Anya Martin will be moderating this panel, which will discuss and analyze the role history plays in horror fiction and how historical settings can bring new life (or death) to a story. Other panelists include Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Leanna Renee Hieber, Kenneth Mark Hoover and L. Andrew Cooper. (Sun. 11:30 AM; Peachtree 1-2, Westin Peachtree Plaza)

PARTIES

9.6(2)PIN UPS BY THE POOL. Who doesn’t love mermaids? Come see Dragon Con’s finest sea sirens compete for the grand prize, and join in on the fun by channeling your inner pin up for some poolside glam. (Fri. 8:30 PM; Sheraton Atlanta)

SUITS, SINATRA & STAR WARS. In wonderful Dragon Con fashion, two fabulous themes (the STAR WARS saga and the Rat Pack) have been combined to create what promises to be a swingin’ night for all. Dancing with a wookie to a Sinatra song is the best kind of night one can have, after all. (Fri. 10 PM; A601-A602, Marriott Marquis Atlanta)

MONSTER MASH FOR CHARITY. Halloween may be over a month away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t break out your Dracula fangs and Frankenstein bolts early. And the best part of this classic monsters graveyard smash? It’s all for a good cause! (Fri. 10 PM; Regency VI-VII, Hyatt Regency Atlanta)

MECHANICAL MASQUERADE. Go really retro Steampunk style at the Artifice Club‘s annual four-hour bash, orchestrated by Kool Kat Dr. Q and always a Dragon Con highlight. The theme this year is “Dystopia A Dark Future to Remember.” ( Sun. 10 PM;Peachtree Ballroom, Westin Peachtree Plaza)

BURLESQUE

9.5(2)DRAGONCON BURLESQUE: A GLAMOUR GEEK REVENUE-Burlesque is a Dragoncon staple; no Labor Day weekend would be complete without at least one show. Stay up late Saturday night to get a chance to check out Kool Kat Taloolah Love and the rest of the lovely ladies and mayhaps lads, too, of D-Con burlesque; they’re sure to put on a show that brings down the house. (Sun. 12:00 AM; Reg. VI-VII, Hyatt)

To check out the complete Dragon Con schedule, download the Pocket Program and/or app at www.dragoncon.org

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Kool Kat of the Week: Brian Lonano Explores the Ins and Outs of Goblin Lovin’ With His Latest Short Film GWILLIAM!

Posted on: Jun 16th, 2015 By:

by Aleck BennettGwilliam_Poster_11x17_v03
Contributing Writer

Atlanta filmmaker Brian Lonano has been garnering raves on the festival circuit for humorous horror short CROW HAND!!!, which makes all of us at ATLRetro laugh like crazed lunatics every time we see it. Now he  is on the cusp of bringing us another heaping helping of the hilariously bizarre with GWILLIAM, a tender tale about the love between a man (William Tokarsky of TOO MANY COOKS and YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL) and a goblin (an animatronic puppet). But he needs your help! That’s why he’s running an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign, promising an insanely inventive and perfectly perverse variety of rewards for donors.

The short film has long been the weird nephew in the motion picture family. Since theatrical exhibitions largely abandoned the “selected short subjects” of days gone by (aside from, say, Pixar’s commitment to the form) in favor of more movie trailers and before-the-show advertisements, it’s been a constant struggle to get short films in front of large audiences. Sure, film festivals routinely devote chunks of programming to shorts, but the audience is always limited to the people in attendance. In recent years, however, that has changed. Say what you will about the Internet’s impact on the film industry, one thing is indisputable: it’s provided makers of short films with a platform that allows more people to see their work. That, in turn, has had an impact on television programming. Animated TV series have used the “two cartoons in one half-hour” format for a long while now, but some networks—most notably Cartoon Network and its [adult swim] programming block—have embraced the 11-minute episode as a standalone entity. And [adult swim] has taken that short film format into live action, with series like Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim’s multiple offerings (such as TIM AND ERIC AWESOME SHOW, GREAT JOB! and CHECK IT OUT! WITH DR. STEVE BRULE), YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL and that twilight zone of weirdness at 4:00 a.m. where things like TOO MANY COOKS show up.

Brian Lonano - SXSW

Brian Lonano – SXSW

That’s where we cross paths with Kool Kat of the Week Brian Lonano. Lonano has been making short films for a decade now. His nine shorts have screened at festivals from SXSW to Fantasia International Film Festival, from Canada to Cambodia. And here in Atlanta, he’s been shown at the Atlanta Film Festival and the Buried Alive Film Fest. (He’s done promotional bumper shorts for many festivals around the world as well.) His shorts are typically a deft mix of wacky comedy, horror or sci-fi tropes and inventive practical effects.- a combo no better seen than in last year’s CROW HAND!!! His 10th film, GWILLIAM, is currently in preproduction, and to raise the funds for this endeavor (because while the Internet is a convenient platform, it’s really hard to monetize it), Lonano has turned to the new audience that the Internet has provided for assistance via this IndieGoGo campaign.

ATLRetro caught up with Brian Lonano to ask him about the campaign, his history in short films, what GWILLIAM is all about and what’s on the horizon.

ATLRetro: You’ve got nine short films under your belt in the past decade, including the inspired THE TRANSMISSION and the utterly berserk CROW HAND!!! What first drove you to dive into filmmaking?

I grew up watching films that featured a lot of special effects and puppets. I am a big fan of Jim Henson, Tim Burton, Spielberg and classic STAR WARS. JURASSIC PARK came out when I was 10 and I wanted to make movies ever since. I became obsessed with seeing any and every movie that Industrial Light & Magic did the special effects for. I didn’t have a camera for a long time so I drew comics and made puppets. As I get older I seek out more bizarre film oddities like HAUSU, THE VISITOR and A FIELD IN ENGLAND. Those kinds of films coupled with what I grew up worshiping keep me inspired to make movies.

You’re not only known for your short films, which have screened all over the world, but you’ve also been recognized by the industry for your usecommissioned work for festivals and television, something our readers might not immediately know about. What does Brian Lonano do when he’s not dreaming up weird short films?

My full time job is working at a post-production facility that processes dailies for TV shows and movies that shoot in town. The commissioned work I make is mostly for film festivals. I would direct a short film called a bumper that advertises the film festival and I would more or less have creative control which is great. I’m very grateful to film festivals that show my work so when I’m asked to make a bumper for one, I put a lot of effort in making a kick ass bumper to show how bad ass the festival is.

It’s a tale as old as time: a man and a goblin in love. What attracted you to this story, and just how disgustingly screwed up can we expect the end result to be?

GWILLIAM came about from a drawing my brother did back in 2011. He was drawing a picture of this weird little man—it just looked completely wrong in the best way possible. We laughed about the picture and decided we had to name the weird man. So we asked ourselves, what’s a gross name that would fit this monstrosity? And we decided on Gwilliam. After that we came up with a strange story where a different man was prowling at night and has an encounter with Gwilliam…I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. I’m excited about how gross this movie is going to be because it’s not gore centric like my previous film CROW HAND!!!. It’s a whole new kind of disgusting.

The preliminary sculpt you’ve shown on the website is impressive even in this early stage. Who’s behind the design of the Gwilliam puppet?

IMG_0150The sculpt of Gwilliam is actually created by Splatter Cinema super team Blake Myers, Luke Godfrey and Nick Morgan. They will be responsible for making the creature puppet for the film.

I see designer Rachel De Urioste mentioned in the IndieGoGo campaign. What she’s bringing to the table? Rachel De Urioste is a local artist, fabricator and designer and she’s designing the GWILLIAM perks for IndieGoGo. She designed the crow totem that was featured in CROW HAND!!!. When we were on the festival circuit with CROW HAND!!! I asked Rachel to make some plastic versions of the Crowtem so I could plant them in theaters and see if anyone would pick them up. I loved the idea of something tangible to take away from the movie. CROW HAND!!! is so short that I wanted to make a big impact with the promotion of it. So with GWILLIAM I wanted to make a new prize to give out to potential donors. If I was giving to a campaign, I would want something cool like a toy. I think people gravitate towards tchotchkes like that.

The variety of rewards you’re offering investors range from the innocuous (digital downloads, credit listing) to the utterly depraved (a Gwilliam sex doll???). How did you come up with these ideas?

I brainstormed ideas for prizes with Rachel and my wife/co-producer Victoria Cook. We all agreed the totems from CROW HAND!!! were a great idea and we wanted to take it a step further. Rachel had never dabbled in designing toys and I am a big fan of Archie McPhee‘s novelty finger puppets so I thought a Gwilliam finger puppet would be a great prize to give out. As I said earlier, if I was donating to something, I would want to get a cool toy. Rachel is making full painted Gwilliam finger puppets but she is also making rainbow editions of the Crowtem and Finger Puppet as well as solid color Gwilliams (we’re calling it the ROY G BIV collection) and even glow in the dark finger puppets! The blow up is another prize we allROYGBIV Gwilliams came up with. The doll would be life size (meaning Goblin size) and the goal is make it a functioning doll. We wanted our campaign to stand out and I figured weird finger puppets and blow up dolls would do the trick!

You’ve lucked up in nabbing William Tokarsky fresh off the TOO MANY COOKS brouhaha, but he’s also popped up in projects ranging from THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE to YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL. How did your paths cross, and how did you know he was the right man to romance a goblin puppet?

William was very easy to get in touch with. I sent him a message on Facebook asking if he would be interested in working together on a project. We agreed to meet in person and I gave him the script to read. I didn’t say much about it until he read it. Thankfully, he was laughing at the script and said he would absolutely be a part of it. So far working with William has been terrific. He’s easy going, very funny and a great team player. I look forward to shooting so I can direct him.

On the local front, you’ve worked with the Buried Alive Film Festival as a judge, you’ve shot a great bumper for them, and you’ve had your shorts exhibited there as well. Any hope you’ll be bringing GWILLIAM to BAFF screens in the future?

If the film is completed in time I would absolutely love to screen it at BAFF this year. But because I am friends with Blake and the whole team (and they are also working on the film), it would be an out of competition entry. I love screening my work here because the audience gets what I am trying to do and they all seem to really enjoy it!

CROW HAND!!! from !ROBOT HAND! on Vimeo.

All photos courtesy of Brian Lonano and used with permission.  Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com.

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Going Back to the Bizarre Birthing of Burton: Splatter Cinema Raises Blythe Spirits with BEETLEJUICE at the Plaza Theatre!

Posted on: Aug 12th, 2013 By:

Splatter Cinema Presents BEETLEJUICE (1988); Dir. Tim Burton; Starring Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder, Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Jeffrey Jones and Catherine O’Hara; Tuesday, August 19 @ 9:30 p.m.; Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

This month, Splatter Cinema goes a little off the beaten path at the Plaza Theatre. This month’s showing is not the typical gore-soaked exploitation fare you’re likely to see them serve up. But the way that BEETLEJUICE enthusiastically revels in horror and delights in depicting twisted flesh makes it a good choice for those of the Splatter Cinema mindset.

It’s hard to believe that there was a time when Tim Burton wasn’t a “thing.” That there wasn’t an identifiable “Tim Burton” style. And that there was a time when BEETLEJUICE was a sudden and surprising leap into the dark comic realm that would eventually come to define that style.

Burton had exploded onto the film world with his previous film, 1985’s PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE. While that movie contains themes that he would revisit many times in the future (particularly “childlike protagonist exists in a fanciful universe seemingly of his/her own creation until a shock tosses them into the outside world”), it also contains the off-kilter and baroque visual sensibility that is a hallmark of his films to this day. But aside from the “Large Marge” and “clown hospital” scenes, there’s little of the horror-steeped atmosphere that saturates so much of his work.

BEETLEJUICE is where (aside from his earlier short films, which were largely unseen by the public at that point) Burton first seamlessly blended equal parts horror and quirky comedy into the recognizable whole that would come to identify the director.

The film focuses on a young couple, Adam and Barbara Maitland (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis), who find themselves unexpectedly deceased and forced to haunt their New England home. When the Deetzes (Catherine O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones and Winona Rider) move in, the Maitlands are forced to circumvent the bureaucracy of the afterlife and engage “bio-exorcist” Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton, pronounced and also known as “Beetlejuice”) to force the new residents out. As to be expected, wacky antics ensue.

In collaboration with production designer Bo Welch, Burton used the foundation of the screenplay to paint his comic sensibilities in a luridly-colored, high-contrast gothic horror sheen. His scenes in the afterlife and during Beetlejuice’s reign of terror in the Maitlands’/Deetzes’ home look like Charles Addams’ cartoons filmed in the style of SUSPIRIA. Grotestqueries bathed in candy-colored lighting schemes. Welch and Burton would develop this aesthetic even further in collaboration on 1990’s EDWARD SCISSORHANDS and 1992’s BATMAN RETURNS, firmly establishing this as the “Tim Burton” trademark style.

It would have been all too easy for the screenplay to serve simply as a hook from which Burton could hang a number of ghoulish setpieces. It’s to the credit of writers Michael McDowell, Larry Wilson and Warren Skaaren that the film is as engaging as it is. By keeping the “ghosts” of the movie benign and well-meaning—and the new residents not malevolent but incredibly selfish and irritating—Beetlejuice’s diabolical motives put both families in a sympathetic light.

And the cast’s performances can’t be overlooked in helping create the rounded characters of the movie. Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis are both amiable and sweetly romantic as the ghostly Maitlands, while Catherine O’Hara and Jeffrey Jones are their polar opposites: antagonistic and back-bitingly snarky. Where Baldwin and Davis are convincingly laid-back and plain, the performances of O’Hara and Jones are deftly high-strung and pretentious. Winona Ryder as young Goth daughter Lydia Deetz bridges both worlds—not only figuratively in the temperament of the clashing couples, but literally within the story as she is the only person able to see and converse with the Maitlands—and delivers a performance in turns dryly sardonic, cooly detatched and warmly engaging.

Winona Ryder in BEETLEJUICE.

But the movie truly belongs to Michael Keaton. As Betelgeuse/Beetlejuice, his performance clashes perfectly with everyone else’s. No matter how engaging or off-putting the Maitlands and Deetzes may be, the performances of Baldwin, Davis, Jones, O’Hara and Ryder are tightly restrained and controlled. Keaton, on the other hand, is entirely explosive and cartoonishly over-the-top; issuing forth a rapid-fire patter of one-liners, non-sequiturs, mumbled asides and mad proclamations delivered at the top of his voice. He’s physically manic as well, leaping about and flailing around wildly, as if Burton was randomly jolting Keaton with a live electric wire just off-screen. He turns Beetlejuice from a simple, evil prankster into something larger than life. If, you know, he were alive rather than a moldering corpse.

And if the movie belongs to anyone else, it’s Burton. This is where the Tim Burton we now know was born: the bright colors washing over stark black-and-white-patterned spookiness of THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, the stylized locations and set design of EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, the dark humor of FRANKENWEENIE. They all spring from here. But few mesh these elements together with as much effortless skill as BEETLEJUICE.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

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30 Days of the Plaza, Day 21: Scary Monsters and Super Songs – Splatter Cinema Welcomes You to Alice Cooper’s Nightmare

Posted on: Jul 9th, 2012 By:

Alice Cooper appears in concert at the premiere party for Warner Bros. Pictures' and Village Roadshow Pictures' "Dark Shadows," in Hollywood. Photo credit: Greg Zabilski/Warner Bros., 2012.

By Rachael Mason
Contributing Writer

If you saw the Tim Burton-Johnny Depp remake of DARK SHADOWS recently, then you probably enjoyed watching Alice Cooper perform as himself at a party hosted by Barnabas Collins (Depp). In fact, Cooper’s brief appearance—a highlight of an otherwise uneven film—likely left you with an incredible desire to see the rock star on the big screen once again.

Well, wait no longer, because Splatter Cinema is hosting a one-night only screening of Cooper’s 1975 classic concert film WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE on July 10 at The Plaza. The movie depicts the incredible horror-themed stage show designed for the tour supporting Cooper’s 1975 concept album—his first solo project without the Alice Cooper band. The production centers around the nightmare of a boy named Steven and includes faceless demons, dancing skeletons and giant spiders. Choreographed by David Winters, who also directed and produced the film, WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE includes footage from Cooper’s concerts at Wembley Arena in London on Sept. 11-12, 1976. Cooper hits like “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “School’s Out” and “I’m 18” are part of the show, as are “Billion Dollar Babies,” “Only Women Bleed,” “Department of Youth,” “Black Widow” and “Some Folks.”

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Kool Kat of the Week: Michael Shell Serves Up a Tantalizing Taste into Directing THE GOLDEN TICKET, The Atlanta Opera’s Latest Production Based on CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY

Posted on: Mar 1st, 2012 By:

Photo courtesy of Opera Theatre of St. Louis.

Oompa Loompa, Pudding and Pie! Most of us might think of opera as Really Retro, but fans of the blissfully tart children’s book CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY by Roald Dahl and its iconic cinematic interpretation with Gene Wilder as enigmatic chocolatier Willy Wonka are in for a real treat. The Atlanta Opera is dipping into the 20th century for its 2011-12 season-opener, THE GOLDEN TICKET, with performances March 3, 6, 9 and 11, 2012 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. Commissioned by the American Lyric Theater and Dahl’s widow, Felicity Dahl, THE GOLDEN TICKET serves up all the scrumptious delights familiar from the book, including chocolate rivers, inflating blueberries and magic elevators.

The Atlanta Opera production will be the third for THE GOLDEN TICKET which premiered in June 2010 at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and was written by Donald Sturrock (libretto) and Peter Ash (music), who also composed a children’s opera of Dahl’s THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX. Many singers from the original Saint Louis cast will joing the Atlanta company to reprise their roles in Atlanta, including bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch as Willy Wonka/Mr. Know, tenor Andrew Drost as Augustus Gloop, and baritone David Kravitz as Lord Salt. In another treat, Composer Peter Ash will conduct. And don’t worry. You and the kids don’t need to brush up on your Italian, as the performers will sing in English with English supertitles projected above the stage.

ATLRetro recently caught up with the Atlanta Opera’s Michael Shell, who had the delicious opportunity to direct this opera of pure imagination, to find out more about how it will delight all ages.

ATLRetro: How did the Atlanta Opera come to perform THE GOLDEN TICKET?

Michael Shell: My understanding is that Dennis [Hanthorn, Zurich General Director of the Atlanta Opera] knew of the piece when he was in Milwaukee and wanted to produce it there. They never got to, and then when St. Louis decided to produce it, he came to see the production and wanted to bring it to Atlanta.

Photo courtesy of the Opera Theatre of St. Louis.

When the Tim Burton movie version of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY came out a few years ago, a lot was made about it being closer to the book than WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (1971) and having the blessing of Felicity Dahl; yet a lot of people love the Gene Wilder version as an iconic part of their childhood. What can you say about THE GOLDEN TICKET’s relationship to the book and those two movies?

I think it is more closely tied to the book. With a few additional characters, Peter and Donald have tried to stay close to the narrative in the story while making changes to aid in bringing it to life onstage. In particular, the role of Charlie. When reading the book, the reader essentially becomes the character of Charlie.  So in the opera, Peter and Donald, found a way to give Charlie a voice through his relationship with his grandparents. In his aria in Act I Charlie is observing his grandparents, all four sleeping in one bed because they can only afford one. He wonders what they must have felt like when they were young and if they also longed to, “escape far away into dreams…”

The physical production also took its inspiration from the book rather than the movies. There are words and letters hidden in the set.  The set unit that is Charlie’s home spells out the word “HOME.” There are letters all over the set that gives us a unity that is tied to the written word. I think the best use of it is in the gates of the factory and also when those gates open. It keeps the audience engaged the same way they are when reading the story. It doesn’t tell you exactly what the factory looks like but allows you to see what you imagine to be the factory.

Backstage at the Atlanta Opera production. Photo credit: Charles Wenzelberg.

How does directing THE GOLDEN TICKET compare to directing classic operas? 

Directing this piece is certainly one of the most exhilarating and terrifying things I have ever done. With shows that have a performance history, you can look at that history as a guide for what you want to do or what you don’t want in a production. With a new piece there is no blueprint.  All you have is the score and the imagination of your collaborators.  With this production having the composer as the conductor has given us amazing insight to meaning behind certain  musical and dramatic moments.  My approach though is the same regardless of the piece.  I want to understand what the story is about or the theme of the story and how that theme relates to the characters. With this answered I can then go further into why characters behave and make the choices they do throughout the course of the opera.

What’s the score like?

The score is lyrical, beautiful, inventive and complex. But even in its complexity, it has a simple accessible style that makes it perfect both avid opera-goers and new audiences alike. The lyrics so skillfully crafted by Donald Sturrock are perfectly musicalized by Peter Ash that you are thrust into the story and the journeys of the characters. There is also plenty of humor that is brought out in the music. The grandparents’ snoring quartet is a prime example. Here are four people coming in and out of dreams, snoring and talking in their sleep. But as you can imagine four older people in one bed, there are bound to be other noises that occur.  We have dubbed this quarter as the “gastric” quartet.  This is the only opera that I have ever directed that I have had to instruct someone how to “pass gas.”

Michael Shell oversees a scene in THE GOLDEN TICKET. Photo credit: Charles Wenzelberg.

The description reads that “THE GOLDEN TICKET is a poignant tale about wishes coming true.” But there’s also a cautionary tale and quite a bit of dark humor in Dahl’s story. How does the opera approach the contradictions in the character of Willy Wonka and balance those two aspects?

I think the darkness is there both in the music but also in the portrayal of Willy himself.  Daniel Okulitch is brilliantly cast in this role. His childlike curiosity mixed with his intelligence and depth of feeling make him the perfect Wonka.

Are there any particular scenes/segments that you think will particularly delight fans of the book and movie(s)?

I think our depiction of the oompa loompas will make fans of the movie happy.  They are a unique take on these characters.  Very unique to the opera is their attitude about life in the factory and life in general.  They are, for me, the heart of the factory.

Apparently Donald Sturrock and Peter Ash, who created the opera, had a lot of trouble getting funding because the opera community had a problem getting a grip around an opera that would appeal to children. How have ticket sales been so far and are you concerned at all that your regular opera audience won’t embrace it for that reason?  

I hope that people who are patrons of opera already come to this with an open mind.  Very often people are turned off to new opera because they are comparing it to their favorite Puccini opera or their favorite Verdi opera. This comparison cannot be made nor would we make on Verdi if he were still composing today.  As we evolve as a society, our expression in artistic endeavors will change. If we don’t begin to accept these new pieces on their own terms and evaluate them in terms of story telling etc rather than if they are as good as TOSCA, we will kill the future of new opera and potentially the art form in general.

Photo courtesy of the Opera Theatre of St. Louis.

Turning the question around, what do you say to people who love the book and movie(s) but are nervous that they won’t enjoy the story as opera?

Any story brought to life onstage is going to require changes to bring it to life for live theater. So I would ask these fans of the book and the movies to come with an open mind and to follow the words of Willy Wonka and “Imagine.”

I think this opera is perfect for both avid opera-goers and people who are new to opera And families. The complexity of the orchestration and score makes it interesting for a music lover. The accessibility of the music’s overall harmony makes it perfect for people who are new to modern opera.  The humor and heart of the story make it perfect for all types of audiences including children.

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Retro Review/Vintage Vacation: The Weird are Victorious: CUTE AND CREEPY Opens in Tallahassee, FL

Posted on: Nov 3rd, 2011 By:

Pop-surrealist/guest curator of CUTE AND CREEPY Carrie Ann Baade posed in costume besides Jessica Joslin's OTIS, bone and metal assemblage.

By S. J. Chambers
Guest Contributing Blogger

Something unprecedented happened in Tallahassee, FL, last October 14. Over 2,000 people, masked and unmasked alike, showed up at the Florida State University’s Museum of Fine Art for the opening of CUTE AND CREEPY, which runs through Nov. 20. Guest curated by FSU painting professor and pop surrealist extraordinaire Carrie Ann Baade, CUTE AND CREEPY is one of the first exhibits to look at the new surreal, grotesque and macabre dark art that is beginning to permeate popular art, and is exhibiting 25 of the most cutting edge artists working today like Kris Kuksi, Elizabeth McGrath, Jessica Joslin, Kate Clark, Kathie Olivas and Chris Mars. In addition to being the first exhibit to collect all the facets of the bizarre and strange under one museum roof, Baade explores what a “Weird” aesthetic really is, its cultural significance, and why now, as she writes in the catalog’s introduction, “is the time to revel in the macabre.”

Can you find the Diva-in-Sheep's clothing posing next to Kate Clark's mixed media sculptures?

And revel Tallahasseans did. On opening night, Professor Baade treated gallery-goers to not only art, but a dark carnival-like atmosphere where the weird, the cute and the creepy came to life and swarmed the space. There were acrobats, Goths, Steampunks and unclassifiable fabulous costumes, one of which was what I can only describe as a Were-sheep Diva. Even Professor Baade got into the spirit with a beautiful Steampunk/Surrealist vintage costume.

The FSU Fine Arts museum has never seen a crowd like this before. In fact the 2,000 attendees were four times the amount of any prior opening. At one point in the night, people were shuffling from one room to the next, gridlocked as though they were in line for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. But this was a show that people want to return to, and throughout the gallery, people began making rendezvous to return for more quiet contemplation.

Gallery-go-ers contemplate the cute and/or creepy aspects of one of Kathie Olivas's "Misery Children."

I, for one, am not surprised at the success of this rare and intriguing exhibit. It is in line with a prominent and emerging trend in the arts. In 2010, Tim Burton’s retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art became its third most-attended show in its history (Matisse and Picasso hold rankings first and second). Then, earlier this year, the Boston Athenaeum presented a very thought-provoking exhibit on the work and genius of Edward Gorey. What better way to bookmark the year than with Florida State University’s Museum of Fine Arts fall exhibit: CUTE AND CREEPY.

S. J. Chambers is a writer and native Tallahasseean. She is co-author of THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE (Abrams Image), which was just featured on CBS SUNDAY MORNING, and the editor of THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE, VOLUME 2.0. She can be found espousing ephemeral musings on her Twitter. Meet her on Sat. Nov. 12 at The Mechanical Masquerade Presents: A Paranormal Fantasy

All Photos by S.J. Chambers.

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