Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Sean Paul Murphy, Writer
Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Beatles Albums Ranked

I love the Beatles. Their music has always struck an emotional chord with me, wherever I am in my life.  I believe the reason the band is always able to  speak to me is because they went through so many changes themselves. From the harmony-driven rock-n-roll of their first albums to the innovative pop of their mid-period, through their psychedelic experimentation and their return to rock, the Beatles never rested on their laurels. Throughout their career, they all grew as both musicians and songwriters, but each stop along the way offers its own joys. Abbey Road is not inherently better than Please, Please Me. Both albums are excellent in their own rights. They're just different.

My appreciation of the Beatles has only grown over the years. My first artistic love has always been the movies. I wasn't "into" music. I used to say that my taste in music during my teenage years ran the gamut from BA to BE. (The Bach pieces I learned on the piano to, of course, The Beatles.) At first, I really only concentrated on their melodies and lyrics. When I picked up the guitar, I developed a greater appreciation of musically and their use of (minor) 4 chords. When I picked up the bass, I fell in love with McCartney's amazing melodic playing. Now, I find myself concentrating on Ringo's underrated drumming. (I once had a fascinating discussion about Ringo's drumming with the E Street Band's Nils Lofgren, but that's another blog.)

This list is completely subjective, based on my feelings today. Over the years, many albums have risen and fallen in my estimation. For example, during the 1990s, I obsessively listened to the White Album while I commuted to and from New York for work. A few years ago, when I was working for National Geographic, I found myself listening to Let It Be practically every night on my way home. More recently, Help! lingered at the top of my playlist. However, the recent remixes have shuffled my order of preference yet again.

I am only ranking the official Beatles canon. The British versions, many of which where not officially released in the United States until the CDs finally came out. I must confess that my feelings regarding the often haphazard Capitol releases sometimes affects my opinion of the British releases.

Here's the list: (Feel free to disagree.)

13). Yellow Submarine
13 January 1969

Well, when you make a list something has to be on the bottom. Yellow Submarine sadly earns this honor. The Beatles initially had no enthusiasm for their animated feature and the soundtrack became the dumping ground for new songs they felt unworthy of their more serious projects. Personally, I love the songs they dumped here. All Together Now might be an insubstantial sing-a-long, but Hey Bulldog is easily one of their best rockers. Harrison's It's All Too Much might be the most under appreciated track in their entire oeuvre.

So why does the album make the bottom of the list? The lack of new songs. The album only featured four new Beatles tracks, filled out with two previously released singles and producer George Martin's incidental score. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy Martin's score, but it isn't generally what I want to hear when I put on a Beatles album.

Apple has essentially replaced the original album with the Yellow Submarine Songtrack which dumps the George Martin tracks in favor of the other previously released Beatles songs used in the film. As a further enticement to make the switch to the new album, the songs have all received outstanding new stereo remixes. It is a must for all Beatles fans.

I was actually cold to the animated feature film itself until I finally saw it on the big screen with the new 5.1 mix.  Now I'm a believer.

Best Track:          Hey Bulldog
Weakest Track:   March of the Meanies

12). Beatles For Sale
4 December 1964

In some ways this album marks an improvement over its predecessors. The first three tracks shows growing depth in their songwriting and a willingness to embrace the dark side of life and love. Lennon, in particular, began to write more personal songs like I'm A Loser. That said, the cliche about the exhaustion evident in the cover photo also manifesting itself in the tracks rings true. The album was recorded in bits and pieces between constant touring. The guys definitely needed a rest from manager Brian Epstein's goal to release two albums and four singles a year. (That would be a total of 36 songs. Name a major recording artist today that comes close to that level of productivity!) The worst songs on the album are the covers. They all seem perfunctory and lack the energy of the covers on their first two albums.

Best Track:    I Don't Want To Spoil The Party
Worst Track: Mr. Moonlight

11). Please, Please Me
22 March 1963

This album, in this configuration, wasn't officially released in the United States until the CDs came out. The bastardized first American version, Introducing The Beatles, released by VeeJay, was the first album I bought. Here's the funny part. While I was listening to this album, my older brother was listening to a cassette of The White Album that one of my uncles lent him. I didn't even realize both albums were from the same group.

Aside from the included singles and B-sides, this album was recorded in one day. It definitely captures the excitement of their early live performances. Who can argue with an album that starts with I Saw Her Standing There, one of their best original rockers, and ends with Lennon's larynx-shredding cover of Twist and Shout. That this album doesn't make their Top 10 only shows how the strength of their subsequent material.

Best Track:    Twist And Shout
Worst Track: A Taste of Honey

10). With The Beatles
22 November 1963

I have long debated whether this, the Beatles' second album, was better than their first one. This is one of the rare instances were the Beatles deliberately attempted to repeat themselves. Epstein and Martin were insistent that they duplicate the pattern of their first album. But there were differences. The covers from first album were mainly Brill Building songs. The Beatles switched to Motown for this album. Also, the first album had a more 'fifties sounding ambience. This album had a warmer sound. Ultimately, I give this album the edge because I think the originals are a tad stronger.

Best Track:    All My Loving
Worst Track: Hold Me Tight

9). Let It Be
8 May 1970

I was long familiar with the singles, but I didn't hear the rest of this soundtrack album until the early eighties when I was visiting a friend in Ocean City, Maryland. Loved it. Loved the concept. Loved the energy of the live, and semi-live material. And guest Billy Preston certainly added some soul. Objectively, you can easily argue that the songs themselves are not as strong as the songs on most of their other albums, but they have their own charms. If I love it, why do I rank this album so low. Mainly on account of The Long and Winding Road and Let It Be. Those songs are both fabulous, but they don't fit on this album. The strings on The Long and Winding Road, in particular, destroy the concept and takes me out of the groove every time. Paul was right to be upset.

In 2003, Paul supervised a remix of the album called Let It Be... Naked to remove producer Phil Spector's fingerprints. I was very happy with the remix of The Long and Winding Road, but I was utterly dismayed at the other unnecessary changes. They removed the studio chatter which gave the original album a warm, friendly vibe. They also used alternate takes and edits on certain songs, and even auto tuned John Lennon! Auto tuning John Lennon? Have you no shame?

Generally speaking, I have applauded the remixes of the Beatles albums, but not in this case!

Hopefully, the rumors are true that Apple is preparing to re-release the documentary film:

Best Track:    I've Got A Feeling
Worst Track: The Long and Winding Road

8). Revolver
5 August 1966

I know Beatle purists will probably be horrified that I placed this album so low on the list. Many people consider this to be the Beatles' best album. On an individual track-by-track basis, it might indeed be their best work. However, the album never really held together for me as a whole. I suppose my main problem is that I was decidedly underwhelmed by the American version, which trimmed three Lennon songs from this album to put on the Capitol hodgepodge Yesterday and Today. As a fan, I definitely fall into the Lennon camp, so, as much as I love Here There and Everywhere, Eleanor Rigby, and For No One, the album felt completely off balance without the Lennon songs. George actually sang more lead vocals on the American version than John did! (Love Harrison's song I Want To Tell You, another severely underrated Beatles track.) The CD release finally restored the Lennon songs Doctor Robert, And Your Bird Can Sing and I'm Only Sleeping, but I still didn't think the album held together. The tracks were too disparate.  I feel myself being pulled into too many different directions every time I listen.

Great songs, though.

Looking forward to a Giles Martin remix of this album! (The stereo remix of Eleanor Rigby on Yellow Submarine was great.)

Best Track:     Here There and Everywhere
Worst Track:  Love You To

7). Help!
13 August 1965

I never bought the American versions of Help! and A Hard Day's Night since they were half albums, mixing the soundtrack songs with lame instrumentals. Therefore, the British versions were the only ones I really knew.  Lennon's songwriting skills were growing by leaps and bounds on this album. He dominated side one -- the soundtrack side. That said, I enjoy McCartney's songs, The Night Before and Another Girl, even if some critics dismiss them as throwaways.

McCartney does dominate the non-soundtrack side with his tracks Yesterday -- the most covered song in the history of pop music -- and I've Just Seen A Face, one of my favorites.

BTW, although I will admit that A Hard Day's Night is objectively a better movie, I enjoy watching Help! more. I'll never forget seeing it for the first time on television. My aunt Sharon was babysitting us and she was so appalled by some edits in the film that she called the station to complain.

Best Track:    Help!
Worst Track: It's Only Love

6). Rubber Soul
3 December 1965

I hate to admit it, but I actually liked the American version of this album better.  The Capitol version, starting with I've Just Seen A Face instead of Drive My Car, gives the album a distinct folk rock vibe. It feels more focused than the British version. That said, there is certainly nothing wrong with the official version.

This is album where the Beatles grew-up. Their songs, particularly those by John Lennon, showed new maturity. (Paul would catch up to him on Revolver.) Now completely comfortable in the studio, they began to experiment. George even brought in the sitar for Norwegian Wood. Really, the only sour note on the album is the closer Run For Your Life. The jealous little rocker doesn't find the more enlightened mood of the rest of the album.

Best Track:    In My Life
Worst Track: Run For Your Life

5). A Hard Day's Night
10 July 1964

The Beatles' third album, and the soundtrack to their first movie, is the only one to feature only Lennon McCartney songs. The album opens memorably with the defiantly epic G7add9sus4 chord on the title track. It is one of the definitive moments in rock 'n' roll history. This Lennon dominated album (he sang lead on nine of the thirteen tracks) is also one of their most consistent sounding. Harrison played his new Rickenbacker 360 twelve string guitar throughout  the album. The full, warm sound inspired thousands of guitar players. It also doesn't hurt that the album is attached to a wonderful movie. The film captures Beatlemania at its height and the album shows why Beatlemania existed in the first place.

Best Track:    A Hard's Day Night
Worst Track: When I Get Home

4). Magical Mystery Tour
27 November 1967

Another soundtrack! (Five out of their thirteen canonical albums are soundtracks. And another one of their albums inspired a dreadful BeeGees musical, but the less said about that the better....)

Feeling they were little more than extras in Help!, they decided to make their own film. John Lennon once famously said "any picture goes with any music." Well, Magic Mystery Tour disproves that theory in a big way. The film proved to be their first "failure," but the music was a different story.

The first side of the album covers the McCartney dominated soundtracks songs. The second side collects a number of their psychedelic-era Summer of Love singles and B-singles.  Any album with Strawberry Fields Forever, Penny Lane and I Am The Walrus has to rank pretty high!

BTW, this album is the only American configuration that entered the official Beatles canon after it was later released in Britain itself. (Initially, the Beatles only released a double EP of the soundtrack in their native country.)

PS. While looking for a video clip, I discovered the film has been released in Germany with a new 5.1 audio mix. How come I don't have that?

Best Track:   Strawberry Hills Forever
Worst Track: Flying

3). The Beatles (The White Album)
22 November 1968

The Beatles, aka The White Album, is a fiery return to more basic rock-n-roll after the group's psychedelic period, which began with Revolver and ended with Magical Mystery Tour.

To me, one of the problems of the Beatles' psychedelic period was the McCartney dominance. During that period, Lennon produced some absolutely amazing work, but his productivity (and leadership of the band) waned as a result of constant LSD use. Apparently one of the main reasons the group trekked off to India to study under the Maharishi was to try to ween Lennon off the drugs. It worked (at least temporarily.) No longer under the influence, Lennon's muse returned with a vengeance. He wrote a ton of songs, as did McCartney and Harrison. When they returned to England, they took the unprecedented step of demoing their material together at Harrison's Esher home prior to recording the album.

The result was a sprawling double album which dabbled in practically every kind of music. Although I docked Revolver a few points for its musical diversity, the conflicting styles and approaches are the whole point of this album. This is a band exploring their possibilities. That it holds together as a whole piece as well as it does is a tribute to the brilliant sequencing of the songs.

As good as the original album was, I really enjoy the recent remix. The songs now have more modern stereo mixes. I found it often maddening listening to this album in my old car.  I had a loose wire in my stereo system, and if I hit a pothole the wrong way, I would lose my left speakers, which meant, in the case of this album, entire instruments!  I wouldn't have that problem with these new mixes. I strongly recommend them! (Plus, you get the Esher demos as a bonus disc!)

Best Track: Happiness Is A Warm Gun
Worst Track: Revolution 9

2). St. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
26 May 1967

I'll never forget the first time I heard this album. I went over to a friend's house after a baseball game. He put this album on the stereo as he changed. We only stayed long enough to listen to the first three songs, but I was enraptured.  I didn't buy the album myself until many years later. When I did, I was decidedly underwhelmed. Aside from the tracks I was already familiar with from the 1967-1970 (The Blue Album) compilation, I didn't think much of the songs.

Prior to 2017, I would have ranked this album somewhere between five-and-seven on this list. Then came the Giles Martin remix. It was like listening to the album for the first time. I still think some of the songs are weak, but I really enjoy the aural experience of the album as a whole. I find myself listening to this album quite a bit. Hence it's surprising new position on my list.

Best Track:   A Day In The Life
Worst Track: Lovely Rita

1). Abbey Road
26 September 1969

The Beatles, angry and feuding, decided to put aside their petty grievances and produce one last album, under the watchful eye of producer George Martin. They all suspected this would be their last album, and they put their all in it and created their masterpiece.

In a compromise move, side one was given over traditional rock songs favored by Lennon while McCartney dominated side two with an elaborate song suite.  This album shows the group at the height of their musical skills, instrumentally and vocally. George Harrison finally comes to rival Lennon and McCartney as a songwriter with two of his best compositions Something and Here Comes The Sun, and even Ringo Starr contributes the delightful Octopus' Garden.

Some cynics have argued that the song suite is simply a hodgepodge of substandard songs and unfinished fragments, but it holds together beautifully and proves to be a great coda to their career.  Yes, they would all go onto solo success, but this album remains their collective pinnacle.

Best Track:   Something
Worst Track: Her Majesty

Other Albums:

If you purchased the albums listed above, you will still find yourself without some of their most important and popular tracks since the Beatles tended to create stand-alone singles not drawn from their albums, as well as other extraneous tracks. Therefore, you need Past Masters, Volume One and Past Masters, Volume Two, both 7 March 1988, to fill out the official canon. Both albums are necessary for true fans.

Of course, if you own all of those albums, you still don't have everything. There's still the live albums. The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl was never released during the height of Beatlemania, when it would have sold millions, because no one was satisfied with the audio quality. The band could barely be heard above the screaming fans. It finally came out on vinyl on 4 May 1977. I picked it up mainly as a curio, but only listened to it once or twice. That version was never released on CD. The material was remixed and released as Live At The Hollywood Bowl on 9 September 2016 in conjunction with the documentary Eight Days A Week. I enjoyed that album more, but I think it still falls in the completists only category. The substandard audio quality of Live! at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962 (8 April 1977) makes these lively performances of the Beatles at their most raucous suitable only for the most rabid fans. Also, after years of court battles, Apple apparently has finally won control of the masters and has effectively buried them (for now.) Much kinder on the ears are the two albums Live on the BBC, 30 November 1994, and On Air - Live at the BBC Volume Two, 11 November 2013. The Beatles recorded dozens of their early songs and rock 'n' roll standards live in the studio for various BBC programs. These albums partially collect those songs.  These albums should entertain even the most casual fan. To me, the definitive Beatles live album has yet to be released.

Love, 20 November 2006, remixes and re-imagines a number of Beatles classics to be used in conjunction with a Cirque du Soleil show. It is a wonderful album for a new generation of fans, and its success paved the way for the great remixes of their canonical albums.

Less essential for the causal fans are Anthology 1 (21 November 1995), Anthology 2 (18 March 1996)  and Anthology 3 (28 October 1996). These three double albums treat fans to a number of previously unreleased songs and alternate takes, and, in the case of the first two albums, entirely new Beatles songs Free As A Bird and Real Love.  (Here's hoping Paul eventually releases the third track!) Of course, the fanatics already owned many of these recordings on bootlegs, but it was fantastic to hear them from higher quality source material.

1962-1966 (The Red Album), 1967-1970 (The Blue Album), both 2 April 1973. The Beatles were not a group that lent themselves to compilations. However, these two albums sets -- for a combined eight sides -- are a perfect distillation of the band mixing the singles with key album tracks. These were the gateway drug for the 2nd generation fans that came of age in the 1970s. They still remain the best purchases for the non-fanatics. 1, 13 November 2000. This compilation album of the band's number one hit singles was the best-selling album of the decade. Still, it is not a good compilation. Halfway through their career, the Beatles became less single-oriented and as a result this album fails to be truly representative of their later work. That said, 1+, the remixed version released in 2015, is essential for fans. I am not a fan of the Rock 'N' Roll, Love Songs and Beatles Ballads compilations. It feels unnatural for me to listen to their music in themed collections. I don't think any of those albums are currently available in CD format.

Yes, there are more albums and compilations, but I can't discuss them all. The ones listed above should give you the full of the Beatles' career. Of course, there is always one more thing for the completist....

Other Lists:
Top 10 Horror FIlms of the 2010s
Top 10 Horror Films of the 2000s
Top 10 Horror Films of the 1990s
Top 10 Horror Films of the 1980s
Top 10 Horror Films of the 1970s
Top 10 Horror Films of the 1960s
Top 10 Horror Films of the 1950s
Top 15 Horror Films of the 1930s and 1940s
7 Guy Films
My 5 Favorite Westerns
20 Films, or Confessions of a Misspent Youth
Beatles Albums Ranked
My 20 Favorite Beatles Songs
My 5 Least Favorite Beatles Songs
My 5 Favorite Dylan Albums
Halloween Recommends

Monday, November 26, 2018

Top 10 Horror Films of the 2010s (so far)

I am a horror fan. Always have been. Always will be. I grew up on a steady diet of late night horror films in the bygone era of late night horror hosts. I wanted to write a blog about my Top 10 Horror Films, but I had far too many favorites to choose from. Therefore, I am writing a series of blogs dealing with specific decades. Now I'm looking into our current decade. Obviously, this blog only deals with films released to date. I am sure there will be at least one more great film before the actual end of the decade.

This was a very good decade for horror films. There were great studio horror films, and great independent ones, too. I had a hard time restricting myself to ten films.

Once again, according to the ground rules I handcuffed myself with in my first list, I do not include crime films about torture or murder, such as Psycho or Silence of the Lambs, that do not feature a supernatural aspect. Nor do I include films about animal attacks like Jaws.

Since this list features recent films, I will try to avoid spoilers.

Here's the list:

Directed by Marc Forster
Based on the novel by Max Brooks

It's up to Brad Pitt to save the world in this big budget zombie apocalypse film.

This film plays more like an action film than a horror film, and benefits from a high level re-watchability. According to a story in Vanity Fair, this was a very troubled production. They described an entirely different ending that was scrapped in favor of the one currently in the film. To me, the first ending sounded more fun. I wish they would have included it as a bonus feature on the Blu-Ray.

OCULUS, 2013
Directed by Mike Flanagan
Written by Mike Flanagan & Jeff Howard
Based on the short film by Mike Flanagan & Jeff Seidman

A young man, who was hospitalized for years for killing his parents, teams up with sister to destroy a haunted mirror he believes was responsible for the death of his parents.

Based on his award-winning short film, Mike Flanagan hits a home run with this time and dimension twisting tale of terror. I knew Mike from his time at our shared alma mater Towson University. We really got to know each other when his remarkable film Ghosts of Hamilton Street hit the festival circuit the same time as my first feature 21 Eyes. Sadly, that Twilight Zone-ish film never got the distribution it deserved. Fortunately, he finally made the big time with this film.

Read my interview with Mike Flanagan: Here.

Written and directed by Robert Eggers

An intensely religious family, living on the edge of the wilderness in early colonial New England, blame their misfortune on witches.

It took me a while to see this film. I put in my Blu Ray player, but my wife made me turn it off as soon as the baby disappeared. (She does not tolerate abuse of babies!) I later watched this film as part of the Yippee-Ki-Yay Mother Podcast. Our guests thought it was a perfect film. I disagreed, but it is very good one indeed. It is worth watching for the score, performances and period detail along.

But bad things do happen to children, so you've been warned....

Directed by Scott Derrickson

A true crime writer, Ethan Hawke, moves his family into a house that was the site of a horrible murder while he writes his next book. Things go from bad to worse, when he finds some home movies in the house which show a series of murders....

Blumhouse has become a powerhouse in the horror genre, and this is one of my favorites. Why? Maybe it is because Hawke finds some Super 8mm films. Being an old Super 8mm collector, that immediately bumped the film up a couple of stars. This is a genuinely creepy movie.

Directed by Drew Goddard
Screenplay by Josh Whedon  & Drew Goddard

A group of stereotypical college students head to a deserted college in the woods only to find themselves subjects in a much larger plan.

This is another classic "meta" film that takes a look at the typical tropes of horror films, and places them in a new context. This horror-comedy follows two story lines -- the fate of the college students in the cabin, and the fate of highly-organized government organization manipulating their actions from a bunker deep underground. To say more would be to ruin the film. Just watch and enjoy.

Directed by John Krasinski
Screenplay by Bryant Woods & Scott Beck and John Krasinski
Story by Bryant Woods & Scott Beck

Mankind has been mostly wiped out by an invasion of creatures that hunt entirely by sound. One small family must find a way to survive in this silent world.

Who would have thought John Krasinski would come up with one the decade's best horror films?  Not me! This film establishes the stakes beautifully with the killing of a child, and builds compelling suspense since mother Emily Blunt is pregnant and about to give birth. How could a crying baby survive in this world? Watch and find out.

Written and Directed by David Robert Mitchell

A woman is stalked by an unknown entity, only she can see, after a sexual encounter. The only way to evade the entity would be to have sex with someone else and pass the entity onward, though it would mean near certain death for her partner.

The slasher films of the late-70s and the early-80s always made a not-too-subtle connection between teenage sexual promiscuity and horrible death. This film makes the link much more explicit with its unexplained entity that passes between potential victims through sex. The entity itself is a great, slow-moving monster that rarely appears threatening but whose inexorable nature makes its all the more terrifying. An excellent film! I am looking forward to more films from the writer/director.

Written and Directed by Jennifer Kent

A weird children's pop-up book appears at the home of a single mother, and before long the demonic titular creature is terrorizing the family.

Australian Jennifer Kent brings something long too lacking in the horror genre: A female perspective. This chilling film conveys the growing dread of a mother who realizes she is battling something beyond the realm of her experience. I look forward to see more films from Ms. Kent.

Directed by Andy Muschietti
Based on the novel by Stephen King

A group of teens battle a shape-shifting creature, taking the form of a clown, which appears every generation to feed on the inhabitants of a small town in Maine.

Let's face it: Most Stephen King adaptations suck. Sometimes it is because events that you can buy on paper seem absurd when dramatized, i.e., Maximum Overdrive. But that's not the main problem. I think the main problem is that the producers who buy the rights to the books don't see the need to spend the money needed to make a good film. They are confident that King name alone will put butts in the seats. Fortunately, the producers of this film wanted to make a good film. And they did. My only problem with this film was that they weren't shooting both parts at once. We have to wait too long for part two!

Written and Directed by Ari Aster

The mysterious matriarch of a dysfunctional family dies, but her terrifying plans for her descendants continue.

When I saw this trailer, I knew I had to see the film and I was not disappointed. However, it was not the "horror" footage that had me riveted, as good as it was. It was the drama within the grieving family. This is a smart, extremely well-acted film  that compelling deals with the madness that often accompanies grief and guilt. It was those scenes which were the most effective.

Honorable Mention:

GET OUT, 2017. I really liked this film with biting social commentary, but I couldn't see it as a Best Picture nominee. Kept getting bumped from the Top 10 because the commentary works better than the horror.  THE CONJURING, 2013. Real life demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren hit the big screen in this film. I found their books very helpful when I was dealing with a haunting situation back in the late-'80s. TRAIN TO BUSAN, 2016. I had to choose between this taut Korean film or World War Z to represent the zombie genre in the Top 10. I went with WWZ, but this film is a must-see for fans of the genre. THE NIGHT WATCHMEN, 2017. Great little horror comedy about some inept night watchmen battling clownpires. It's a thing. IT COMES AT NIGHT, 2017. This film garnered a lot buzz and critical praise, but I didn't groove to it.  Overrated.  UNFRIENDED, 2014. A film told entirely via the perspective of what the lead character sees on her computer monitor? Count me in. Mostly works. THE RITUAL, 2017. A group of city friends going on a hiking trip through Scandinavia and run afoul of a cult worshipping an ancient god. Pretty good Netflix film. THE OPEN HOUSE, 2018. Speaking of Netflix originals, this film has atmosphere galore, but utterly blows it in the end. And, speaking of wasted opportunities, there's the lifeless 2010 reboot of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. That made the lamest sequels look good. The 2010 reboot of the Universal classic THE WOLFMAN is elevated by the performances, but no great shakes. INSIDIOUS, 2010, keeps the possession genre alive and well.

If you like horror, you should check out these sample chapters of my novel Chapel Street:

Sample Chapters:
Prologue - My Mother
Chapter 1 -
Chapter 2 - Elisabetta
Chapter 3 - The Upload
Chapter 4 - The Kobayashi Maru
Chapter 5 - Gina
Chapter 6 - Tombstone Teri
Chapter 7 - The Holy Redeemer Lonely Hearts Club
Chapter 8 - A Mourner
Chapter 9 - War Is Declared
Chapter 10 - The Motorcycle

Learn more about the book, click Here.

Other Lists:
Top 10 Horror FIlms of the 2010s
Top 10 Horror Films of the 2000s
Top 10 Horror Films of the 1990s
Top 10 Horror Films of the 1980s
Top 10 Horror Films of the 1970s
Top 10 Horror Films of the 1960s
Top 10 Horror Films of the 1950s
Top 15 Horror Films of the 1930s and 1940s
7 Guy Films
My 5 Favorite Westerns
20 Films, or Confessions of a Misspent Youth
Beatles Albums Ranked
My 20 Favorite Beatles Songs
My 5 Least Favorite Beatles Songs
My 5 Favorite Dylan Albums
Halloween Recommends

Friday, November 16, 2018

Yippee-Ki-Yay Mother Podcast #18: Beautiful Boy

On this episode of the Yippee-Ki-Yay Mother Podcast, an inter-generational look at the movies, our millennial  member Hassan Hassan, aka Hassan, brings us the 2011 drama Beautiful Boy by director Shawn Ku. This film, not to be mistaken with the 2018 film of same title starring Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet, deals with a couple forced to live in the live in the aftermath of a horrible act committed by their only son. It is a powerful film we will all praise, but express no desire to see again. Even though it also stars Meatloaf.  

Here's a trailer:

Here's the podcast on Soundcloud:

Or you can listen to it on our webpage: Yippee-Ki-Yay Mother Podcast
Our Podcast is now available for download on iTunes. Yippee Ki Yay Mother Podcast

Like us on Facebook: Yippee-Ki-Yay Mother Podcast.
Follow us on Twitter: YKYPodcast
Check out Wojo's webpage: Wojo's World
And follow her on Twitter: @TheMicheleWojo

Other Episodes:

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Writer Tip #26: Character Descriptions

What is a character description?

On the most fundamental level it serves as a brief sketch to give your reader basic information about your character, usually at least their age, race and gender -- although I can certainly see circumstances when you would want to exclude one or more of those characteristics. Character descriptions are essential. They humanize your story by painting a picture of your characters in the mind of your reader.  They are also one of the first things your producer will ask for when your film goes to casting. In a very real sense, those character descriptions may prove to be your last opportunity to influence the casting process, particularly of the supporting roles.  (The leads are often dictated by marketing and financial considerations outside of your control.)

More importantly, however, your character description should be a tool of seduction. Your brief description of the character should fire the imagination of an actor. They should read the description and say, "I have to play that role!" Of course, the seductive role of the character description is not always necessary. Particularly if the film is already cast before you write it. (That happens.) Then all you have to do is give the character a name and an age that flatters the actor's ego.

Here's another thing.  Make all your characters characters -- all of them -- including the minor ones. If you have a waitress who has more than one or two lines, please give her name. What's the harm? The actress will definitely appreciate it. Everyone prefers to play a role with a name rather than just a job title. Also, make them distinct. Use the description to give your waitress some personality. If you leave the description blank, the role will simply be filled by someone the producer or director would want to sleep with. Instead, write something like "The waitress, ALICE, 52, ornery and no nonsense, eyes them warily as she approaches the table." Suddenly, your scene is spiced up even if you leave the dialogue the same.

Rather than bore you with character descriptions from my own scripts, I thought it would be fun to show some from a variety of classic scripts. Some of the descriptions are very detailed and illuminating. Some are simple and no nonsense. There's no right or wrong way to write them, as long as they get the job done.  Enjoy:

Bette Davis as Margot Channing
The CAMERA follows the bottle to MARGO CHANNING. She sits at Max's left, at deWitt's right. An attractive, strong face. She is childish, adult, reasonable, unreasonable - usually one when she should be the other, but always positive. She pours a stiff drink.

George Saunders as Addison deWitt
ADDISON deWITT, not young, not unattractive, a fastidious dresser, sharp of eye and merciless of tongue. An omnipresent cigarette holder projects from his mouth like the sword of D'Artagnan.

Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
John Tuturro as Barton Fink
He is a bespectacled man in his thirties, hale but somewhat bookish. He stands, tuxedoed, in the wings of a theater, looking out at the stage, listening intently to end of a performance.

Written by Michael McDowell and Warren Skaaren
Alec Baldwin as Adam Maitland
The hand is ADAM MAITLAND'S. In his late 30's, he's a solid easy-going citizen. Capra used to make movies about him.
Written by Jerzy Kosinski
Peter Sellers as Chance
A MAN, handsomely dressed in a well-tailored suit of the 1920's, works in the garden. A gardener's apron protects his suit from the earth as he turns the loam along one of the walkways. He works slowly, precisely, obviously engrossed in his surroundings. This man is called CHANCE.

                                                 Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Jeff Bridges as The Dude
It is late, the supermarket all but deserted. We are tracking in on a fortyish man in Bermuda shorts and sunglasses at the dairy case. He is the Dude. His rumpled look and relaxed manner suggest a man in whom casualness runs deep.

Written by David Newman & Robert Benton
Faye Dunaway as Bonnie Parker
Blonde, somewhat fragile, intelligent in expression. She is putting on make-up with intense concentration and appreciation, applying lipstick and eye make-up. As the camera slowly pulls back from the closeup we see that we have been looking into a mirror. She is standing before the full-length mirror in her bedroom doing her make-up. She overdoes it in the style of the time: rosebud mouth and so forth. As the film progresses her make-up will be refined until, at the end, there is none. The camera pulls back and continues to move very slowly throughout the first part of this scene. As the camera continues to move away, we see, by degrees, that BONNIE is naked.

Written by William Goldman
Paul Newman as Butch Cassidy
He is BUTCH CASSIDY and hard to pin down. Thirty-five and bright, he has brown hair, but most people, if asked to describe him, would remember him blond. He speaks well and quickly, and has been all his life a leader of men; but if you asked him, he would be damned if he could tell you why.

Written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris
Michael Douglas as Schuyler Van Orton
In the steam-filled bathroom, we make out SCHUYLER VAN ORTON, now 38. He's handsome, fit and apparently in complete control of his world. He steps out of the shower, wraps a towel around himself and grabs the BATHROOM PHONE.

Russell Crowe as Bud White
December 24th. Wendell "BUD" WHITE, 30, stares at the enormous Christmas tree on the deco platform over Bullocks' entrance. An LAPD cop, Bud's rep as the toughest man on the force has been well earned.

Written by Paddy Chayefsky
Peter Finch as Howard Beale
CAMERA MOVES IN to isolate HOWARD BEALE, who is everything an anchorman should be -- 58 years old, silver-haired, magisterial, dignified to the point of divinity.

Written by William Goldman
Robin Wright as Buttercup
BUTTERCUP is standing, holding the reins of her horse, while in the background, WESTLEY, in the stable doorway, looks at her. Buttercup is in her late teens; doesn't care much about clothes and she hates brushing her long hair, so she isn't as attractive as she might be, but she's still probably the most beautiful woman in the world.

Burt Reynolds as The Bandit
A hammock is stretched from the cab of the truck to an oak tree. A man wearing a faded denim western shirt, open with the sleeves rolled up, levis and silver-toed cowboy boots is lying in the hammock. A cowboy hat covers his face. CLOSER ANGLE as shadows fall across the figure. The man slowly tips back his hat and we see he's in his thirties, boyishly handsome, with a cocky smile. Bandit LaRue.

Written by David Ayer
Denzel Washington as Alonzo
DETECTIVE SERGEANT ALONZO, in a flannel shirt, reading the paper in a booth. The gun leather tough LAPD vet is a hands-on, blue collar cop who can kick your ass with a look.

Written by Walon Green and Sam Peckinpah
William Holden as Pike
PIKE BISHOP, wearing lieutenant's bars, rides slightly ahead of the others. He rides stiffly, always slightly in pain. Pike is a not unhandsome, leather-faced man in his early forties. A thoughtful, self-educated top gun with a penchant for violence who is afraid of nothing -- except the changes in himself and those around him.

I hope you enjoyed reading those character descriptions as much as I did! I suggest that you read the whole scripts. Reading great scripts inspires great writing.

You can find a lot of great scripts here:  Drew's Script-O-Rama

Other Writing Tips:

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