Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt
swashbuckler332

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Noggin'

VARIOUS UPDATES


My grandparents enjoyed the Goslings very much... so much that half the bottle is already gone. They have just made some eggnog which I am sampling at the moment.

waystone has posted a very amusing account of her adorable little doggie's encounter with a bird. I love reading stories like these.

Tim and I finished X-Men Legends last night, although there are a bunch of Danger Room discs for us to go through. Oh, and Tim's daughter's name is going to be Sally Elizabeth. I still think that children would be more interesting if they were called something like DEATHMASTER 2000, although Tim has commented that he believes that is, in fact, the literal translation of "Elizabeth" anyway.

I handed in the second to last paper due before the end of the term yesterday. The light at the end of the tunnel regarding schoolwork is in sight. There is still quite a bit of work to be done.

My grandparents couldn't sign on to the Citibank website to manage their account. They had called Citibank's tech support, whom I spoke to for them for a bit... we ended up downloading Netscrape and updating Internet Exploder. They can access their account on either browser now, but the upshot is that I can now use Netscrape on their computer (that is, this computer). This allows for much smoother operation during LiveJournal postings because I don't have five or six separate browser windows running.


Recutting



I have just finished re-reading Jack Mathews' The Battle of Brazil, which is a detailed account of the public war waged by Terry Gilliam and Sidney Jay Sheinberg over the release of the film. For those who are unaware, between the time that the film was approved by Universal (who would be distributing the film in the United States) and it was completed, a regime change had occured at the studio. Brazil was considered by many to be a huge marketing problem because of how unique it was. Gilliam, however, had final cut. Sheinberg took it a step further, and tried his best to have the film recut.

An interesting wrinkle here is that the film was only co-produced by Universal. Twentieth Century Fox put up the remainder of the money in exchange for world distribution rights, and they accepted and released Gilliam's version upon delivery. It did pretty well, both critically and financially. Gilliam refused to just allow Universal to do what they wanted with his film, and fought the studio both publically, in interviews and in Mathews' column, and secretly, by arranging clandestine screenings for critics. Eventually, the film won the Los Angeles Critics Association awards for best screenplay, direction and picture, and Sheinberg had no choice but to release Gilliam's cut of the film.

This remains an interesting conflict for two reasons. The first is that Brazil itself, being a portrait of a man who ends up pitting himself against a system that favors a mind-numbing conformity, is a perfect parallel to the struggle to get the film released*, although the true story is the one with the happier ending. The second is that the Criterion laserdisc and DVD have the fabled "Love Conquers All" version of the film, allowing everybody to see exactly what it was that Sheinberg had planned.

As it turns out, Sheinberg had two editors working to try to make a version of the movie that was more commercially viable. What they produced was discovered when they had to make a 97 minute syndicated version of the film for television broadcast (the American cut of the film ran 132 minutes), and somebody found that they already had a 94 minute version...

The "Love Conquers All" version is a complete mess. First of all, every point of Brazil is inverted in order to present the protagonist in a more positive light and emphasize the romantic elements. The satire is completely gone, along with the main theme of the picture. Sheinberg was hoping to turn Brazil into Raiders of the Lost Ark, which shows how little he understood the it.

Gilliam ended up winning that round, and Brazil has gone on to be acknowledged as a masterpiece, and one of the most important and influential films of the 80s. The difficulties surrounding the production of his next film, the whimsical The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, briefly damaged his reputation, but his subsequent successes with The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (the latter two Universal pictures) have shown that he was right and Sheinberg was wrong.



Legend was, like Brazil, an Arnon Milchan production that was co-produced by Fox, who had world distribution rights, and released the first cut immediately, and Universal, who wanted it changed for domestic distribution. The differences between the American and European versions of the film are huge, although, except for the pervasive aspect of the music, (which is different) not as drastic as they were for Brazil. Here, Sheinberg was wanted to make the film more accessible to teenagers, only this time, he was working with a more cooperative director, Ridley Scott.

In attempting to make the film more slick, Jerry Goldsmith's masterful score was jettisoned and replaced by interesting, but completely inappropriate electronic music by Tangerine Dream. The film was simplified, which had a detrimental effect on what was an already very simple film.

Scott's so-called "Director's Cut" is essentially a slightly embellished version of the European cut of the film (with Goldsmith's music), and the DVD has the American version as well, which plays very lame in comparison. While the European and "Director's Cut" versions of the film have an enchanting fairy tale quality to them, the American version never gels, which is one of the main reasons why this film was so easily dismissed by so many (including this author) for so long.

What is interesting here is that Sheinberg felt that he could improve both films, and in both cases showed that he didn't really know what he was doing.


Sidney Jay Sheinberg (right) with highly
overrated filmmaker Steven Spielberg


What is so obnoxious is that The Battle of Brazil, and its video counterpart on the Brazil Criterion laser and DVD sets, has many transcribed and recorded comments by Sheinberg in which he denounces Gilliam for making him the villain of this piece, defending his decision to make the film shorter, and lying about his intent to change what the movie was about. He says he felt like a victim. He also rather smugly comments on the film's meanings, getting them all wrong. Sheinberg was and remains a suit, despite his self-delusions.


_________________________________________________________


* An interesting aspect of filmmaking is that sometimes the movies themselves are altered versions of the story behind them. One of the most publicized examples of this was Francis Ford Coppola's journey creating Apocalypse Now, which has been chronicled in many places, but perhaps most succinctly in George Hickenlooper's documentary Hearts of Darkness.
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