My previous post about London led to a conversation with a friend about London, and I wanted to look at the pictures I posted in my blog post about the London Film Museum. When I went to look for the post, I discovered to my vast surprise that I never wrote a post about the London Film Museum, I only wrote a paragraph in one of my previous London posts. In August of 2012, I said the following in a longer post about London:
I quite enjoyed the London Film Museum, which had a lot of neat stuff, including Daleks, a TARDIS, the superman suit from Superman Returns, the Batman Begins batsuit, and a large variety of props from other movies. There was an entire room of Harry Potter stuff, and a large exhibit dedicated to Ray Harryhausen, including a full sized original Bubo. This was a highlight for me.
That’s it- just that one paragraph. All the pictures I took at the museum, which I thought I had posted years ago, were still unshared. I will now correct that oversight.
When I visited the London Film Museum, it was in a section of County Hall, right near Westminster Bridge, close to the London Eye along the Thames River. I have since learned that it moved to a location in Covent Garden in April of 2012- my visit was in July of 2012, so I suspect the museum was still moving, and I saw only a fraction of the entire exhibit. What I did see was pretty dang cool though.
Harry Potter props and costumes- A variety of items were present here, including some costumes, the Tri-Wizard cup, and Harry’s Nimbus 2000.
Star Wars stuff – London is the home of Pinewood Studios, which has been a production facility for most of the Star Wars films. There were a few Star Wars artifacts on hand during my visit. I saw much more at the Star Wars exhibit in Tokyo a few years later.
Alien – They had a sculpture of a Xenomorph and some facehuggers from the Alien franchise.
Doctor Who – A film museum in England would naturally have some Doctor Who items. Not as much as the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff, but still- a Tardis and a handful of Daleks were still neat to see.
Superman and Batman – Pinewood has a long history with DC Comics, and there weer a number of Superman and Batman artifacts on hand. First up, some costumes!
Next, we have part of the ship that brought Kal to earth in Superman (1978) and a newspaper from Superman II.
Braveheart, Hellraiser, and various animation – The Dangermouse cardboard stand was my favorite in this part.
The Ray Harryhausen Exhibit – This was my favorite part, to be honest- they had a special exhibit in plae called “Ray Harryhausen: Myths and Legends.” It contained various items from Harryhausen’s stop-motion work, but I was most interested in the Clash of the Titans items, particularly the full-sized Bubo the Owl!
Have you ever been to a film museum? What’s your favorite prop that you’ve seen in person?
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always liked comic books. When I was growing up, there were always comics around- old tales of the Green Lantern Corps, silver-age Superman stories with Jimmy Olsen, and even some Legion of Superheroes stories with Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, and Saturn Girl. The Greatest American Hero hit television when I was eight years old, and it was a foregone conclusion that I’d love it. With my nascent love of music already running strong, I also loved the theme song by Joey Scarbury. I remember sitting on the end of my mom’s bed, singing along to the song on the radio. Mom was super amused that I knew all the words.
Along with my love of superheroes, I have a long-standing fondness for all things Disney. One of my earliest Disney Music loves was the Main Street Electrical Parade. This goes beyond mere Disneyana. I used to have a tape of a 1983 album by Michael Iceberg, the composer of the theme, with all kinds of neat stuff like a Robot Revolt theme. One year, Michael Iceberg brought his pyramid-shaped synthesizer cubicle, the Amazing Iceberg Machine, to the South Florida Fair. I got to meet the man after the show, and I remember someone commenting that he was spectacularly drunk at the time. In any case, the original parade is long gone from Disney, but the music lives on as an amazingly persistent earworm. Mua ha ha!
Speaking of all things Disney, let’s talk about EPCOT. When I was ten, my dad drove both of us up to Orlando one weekend to go to the theme park for the first time. I brought back two souvenirs from that trip. The first was a brochure book about the park, detailing all of the pavilions, including the still unopened Horizons (coming soon!) and also detailing the planned but never built World Showcase pavilions for Israel, Spain, and Equatorial Africa.
The second souvenir from that trip was The Official Album of Walt Disney World EPCOT Center. On vinyl. I listened to that thing so much it’s a wonder the grooves didn’t flatten out. I can still sing large swaths of the original music from memory, and the vocals in the American Pavilion song “Golden Dream” are directly responsible for an ill-fated and poorly considered audition for the Voices of Liberty that I may or may not have attempted in the early 1990s.
Some of the album is very, very dated – “The Computer Song” specifically comes to mind- but I will always love it anyway. “Makin’ Memories” is another long-time favorite, left over from the early days of EPCOT when the pavilions were all sponsored by corporations. See if you can guess which mega-corporation sponsored this one:
As an aside- anyone who has ever gone on Journey Into Imagination with me can attest that I will always-and-forever sing the ORIGINAL version of Dreamfinder and Figment’s song, very very loudly, over the current iteration.
I’m skipping around my personal timeline a little bit, but I wanted to talk about 8-track recordings. When I was a wee lad, cleaning day was a family affair. We had an 8-track player in the living room, and we got those Columbia House shipments of new titles every so often. On family house cleaning days, we’d fire up the stereo, throw a tape into the 8-track player, and everyone in the family would pitch in to clean the house.
I suspect that a hefty percentage of my readers have probably never heard an 8-track tape, so you may not know that an 8-track splits the album up into four sections. Our player had no fast-forward or rewind, but you could switch between the four tracks, and the music would loop. If you let it play all the way through, our player would automatically switch from track to track in sequence. It’s because of the 8-track of the original Star Wars soundtrack that I whenever I hear The Cantina Band theme by John Williams, I expect to hear a fade-out, track change, and fade-in at roughly the middle of the song. That’s what it did on the 8-track. You can hear the fade-out at one minute and 40 seconds in the video below.
I’ll say it again: I love music. I need music. If I don’t listen to music for a while, I can get downright cranky. It’s as vital to me as breathing, and I go to concert after concert after concert for the love of music, even though I hate crowds and I have a fair amount of travel anxiety. I can’t not go. (FOMAC, or Fear of Missing a Concert, is an entirely different blog post that I may come back to later. Shut up, it’s a real thing!)
With that introduction in mind, I want to talk about music throughout various parts of my life. I’ll start at the very beginning.
My earliest memory of music, any music, was all the way back in 1978. I was five years old, and I remember being in some sort of a school or daycare center or something along those lines- it wasn’t a usual place for me. I was waiting near some other kids while we picked up one of my siblings. The kids I was hanging out near were playing with original first-generation Star Wars action figures. I remember they made me be C3PO. While we played with the Star Wars toys, there was a radio on.
There were two songs in heavy rotation on the radio at that time, and they were the first songs to ever penetrate my tiny little head. Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana,” and John Paul Young’s “Love Is In The Air.”
Those two songs played back to back. I can’t remember ever hearing music before that day. I’m sure I did, but I don’t remember it.
I also recall the very first album that I ever owned. When I was ten years old, there were advertisements in the back of comic books that said that if you sell stuff from their crappy catalog, you could win prizes. This company sent an army of tiny Willy Lomans (Lomen?) door to door to sell magazine subscriptions, Christmas cards, pecan turtles, and wrapping paper. With enough sales, you could get yourself a tent, a bicycle, or any number of other “fabulous prizes.” It took a hell of a lot of sales to get anything substantial, but in 1983, I used my hard-earned prize bucks to get a voucher for a cassette tape from one of those music places like Columbia House or BMG, only not quite as obnoxious. That first album? I was grooving to “Future Shock” by Herbie Hancock.
I had seen the video for Rockit, of course, and the kicking-pants robots made me want to dance. Or something. The entire album turned out to be really phenomenal, but I didn’t appreciate it nearly as much in 1983 as I do now.
My mom got me the second album I ever owned- we were in a Richway, which was sort of like the larval form of the retail chain now known as Target. Richway’s parent company sold all of their stores to Dayton-Hudon Corporation around 1988, and that company closed all the stores, stripped them for parts, and then reopened most of them as Target stores. The specific Richway from this story is actually some other non-Target store, according to Wikipedia.
But I digress. We were in Richway, in West Palm Beach, Florida, in 1984. It was an amazing day for eleven-year-old Steven because not only did I get my first transforming toy there, a red Gobot sports-car named Turbo, but Mom also bought me a cassette of Rockwell’s first album. Again, I was familiar only with the first single released, a popular song called “Somebody’s Watching Me,” which had Michael Jackson on backup vocals. The rest of the album was a lot of fun, though, and I still listen to it sometimes. “Obscene Phone Caller” was always one of my favorites songs, even though it would be years before I actually understood how pervy the song really is.
What was your first album? Your first concert? The first song you remember hearing?
Labyrinth, the musical fantasy epic from Jim Henson and Brian Froud, has long been one of my favorite movies. I loved it the first time I saw it in 1986, and I love it now. A few months ago, Fathom Events brought Labyrinth back to movie theaters for a few days. While I was enjoying a new viewing on the big screen, I started thinking about the life lessons encoded in Henson’s Bowie-filled masterpiece.
For those who haven’t seen the movie, here’s the basic premise for the start of the movie- Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) is a teenage girl who clings to the fantasy life and toys of her childhood. As the film opens, she is late to babysit her brother Toby, and she’s a whiny brat about it. She complains about having to babysit to her Stepmother and father, “It’s not fair!” Once they go out, she is frustrated by Toby’s constant crying, and she super dramatically wishes for the Goblin King to take the baby away from her. Jareth the Goblin King (David Bowie) appears, and takes the baby as she requested.
When she says that she wants him back, he gives her thirteen hours to get through the Labyrinth to the castle beyond the Goblin City. This is where the story really kicks in- and the lessons.
Pretty isn’t always good, and monstrous isn’t always bad.
When Sarah first meets Hoggle outside the Labyrinth, he’s cheerfully killing faeries with a pump-spray filled with of some sort of pesticide. She picks one up, thinking it’s a poor abused thing, and it promptly bites her. Later, she first encounters Ludo suspended upside-down and being tormented by goblins with biting-sticks. Ludo looks and sounds like a ferocious beast at first, but it’s an illusion. Once he’s right side up, his fierce expression turns out to be sweet and friendly.
The idea that pretty things can be dangerous and that helpful or good-natured things might be hiding behind ferocity is repeated throughout the Labyrinth, and that leads us to…
Take nothing for granted.
Early in the film, Sarah is following an outer track of the maze but she struggles to find an entrance to the Labyrinth. When she slumps against the wall in frustration, she meets an adorable worm who invites her in for a cup of tea, and to meet the missus.
Sarah is too preoccupied with getting through the maze to stop, and she says as much to the worm. He tells her not to take anything for granted, and points her to a place that looks like solid wall. She realizes after a moment that it’s an illusion, and that there are openings all over, and rushes off.
Don’t be in such a rush that you miss the important things.
The worm isn’t done with the lessons there, either. At the end of their exchange, the worm tells her not to go in the first direction she chose. She doesn’t question it, thanks him, and races off in the other direction. Once she’s out of earshot, the worm says, “If she’d have kept on goin’ down that way she’d have gone straight to that castle.”
If she hadn’t been in such a rush, she would have gotten to the castle much faster. and the movie would have been considerably shorter.
Life isn’t always fair.
Throughout the movie, Jareth sends obstacles to keep Sarah from reaching the castle to reclaim her brother. When he speeds up the clock and changes the conditions of her challenge, she impetuously complains that it isn’t fair. Jareth’s dry retort is one of my favorite lines in any movie: “You say that so often, I wonder what your basis for comparison is.”
It’s important to have perspective about the problems in your life- fairness rarely enters into it. Whining about how things haven’t been fair to you will accomplish nothing at all.
You can get used to any bullshit if you spend too much time around it.
When our intrepid heroes reach the Bog of Eternal Stench, they meet Sir Didymus, the stalwart defender of… a tiny rickety bridge across the bog. While we never find out why Sir Didymus has pledged himself to defend this bridge, we do realize that he must have been in the Bog for quite some time. Everyone else in the group is recoiling with disgust at the stench, but Sir Didymus doesn’t notice at all. Think of it as the olfactory equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome.
This is also true in real life- if you have a terrible job or a bad relationship or a friendship that is withering on the vine, it’s easy to get used to it. Inertia is sometimes difficult to break through and we often let a less-than-ideal situation go on for far longer than we should because it’s what we’re used to.
Sometimes you just need a new quest to get out of the Bog.
Your stuff is just stuff.
During the requisite drugged-peach hallucinatory trip segment of the movie, Sarah finds herself in a junkyard with no memory of what she was doing. She encounters a Junk Lady with all of her possessions on her back. There’s a moment where Sarah returns to what she thinks is her room, surrounded by all the things she loves – her old games and books and toys and stuffed animals.
The Junk Lady starts to hand her the things she loves, and begins stacking them up on her back- after a moment, Sarah starts to have an improbable stack of her things resting above her shoulders, just like the Junk Lady. She realizes after a few minutes that her things are all just junk- the belongings aren’t that important, and she quickly resumes her quest to reach Toby before the clock runs out.
This is a recurring theme in many of my favorite movies- the things you own often wind up owning you. They can pull you down, and weigh heavily on you. And at the end of the journey, it’s really all just junk- the important thing is the people you meet along the way.
Love can be a subtle control.
In one of the most subtly nasty moments in the entire film, Jareth says a thing which summarizes the tricky control of many a psychologically abusive relationship. Gaslighting, in a nutshell: “I ask for so little. Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave.”
In a way, this is the same lesson as most of the others- you can get used to any situation, no matter how bad. The things you love can control you. Pretty things are often bad for you.
The way out is to remember your own strength, as Sarah did when she stopped playing Jareth’s Goblin games at the end of the movie: “You have no power over me.”
Last week, I went to see the remake of RoboCop. The movie itself wasn’t bad, as remakes go, and I think it was a pretty fun flick. That’s not what this post is about.
After the movie, I had a discussion with a bunch of people about the movie, and one of them asked about the rating- apparently some of my friends hold the viewpoint that RoboCop with a PG-13 rating instead of 1987’s R rating just isn’t acceptable. Never mind that the things you can do with a PG-13 in 2014 would make an R from 1987 toss its cookies. That’s not what this post is about either.
The exact question posed was, “Was the rating over there the same as here?” This, I immediately realized, would be an excellent topic for a blog post.
In the US, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has been giving films those familiar ratings since 1968: G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17. In Germany, there’s a similar organization, the Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle der Filmwirtschaft, or FSK. The FSK classifies films under the following categories for both movie theaters and television broadcast:
Ohne Altersbeschränkung (FSK 0): This means no age restriction. This is pretty much the same as a G rating in the US.
Freigegeben ab 6 Jahren (FSK 6): No children younger than 6 years admitted. This is similar to the PG rating in the US.
Freigegeben ab 12 Jahren (FSK 12): Children 12 or older admitted, and children between 6 and 11 only when accompanied by parent or a legal guardian. Films in this category can generally be broadcast on TV all day. This is similar to our PG-13 rating.
Freigegeben ab 16 Jahren (FSK 16): Children 16 or older admitted, and nobody under this age is admitted. This rating can be broadcast on TV only after 10 PM unless approved by special permit or re-edited to secure an FSK12 rating. This is similar to our R rating.
Keine Jugendfreigabe (FSK 18): “No youth admitted”, only adults. This is the local equivalent of the NC-17 rating in the US. Movies with this rating can be broadcast on TV after 11 PM. However, nudity isn’t all that unusual on broadcast television here, especially later at night.
All the above ratings also contain the phrase “gemäß §14 JuSchG” (in accordance with §14 of the Youth Protection Law), which means that they are legally binding. This differs wildly from the MPAA’s ratings, which are merely recommendations and are not actually legally binding.
Oh, and RoboCop has an FSK12 rating here, in case you were curious.