What a way to make my debut with my first editorial column here on Mania but on the day after the news breaks that Stan Winston has died. I can’t imagine that there would be too many Mania readers unaware of Winston and his film repertoire but just for the record here are the highlights: he created the robotic endoskeleton of the Terminator; he brought to life the Queen Alien in Cameron’s magnum opus Aliens; he was the creator of the Predator and of the special animatronic dinosaurs that populated Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. Most recently he and his team at Stan Winston Studios created the live-action Iron Man suit that looked so amazing in that film. The man was a titan of not just the imagination but a genius in being able to make the impossible look so real on film and seemingly so effortlessly (if it were only true in reality.) Such was the mantle that I placed Stan Winston on that when I first heard that Paramount was hiring him to design the real-life Iron Man suit I figured that was the defining moment when the movie suddenly had a decent shot of being something above the norm. And when that first still turned up showing the suit that Winston and his teammates had made, that sealed the deal for me that, no matter if Jon Favreau pulled off the rest of the film or not, at least the superhero look of Iron Man was guaranteed to rock.
I never met Winston nor did I ever get the chance to go check out his studio, so I’m sure that I’m like 99% of you out there and merely a fanboy/girl of his work. When the death of someone whose work that I admire happens but who also is essentially a complete stranger to me I find myself trying to not play up the importance of their passing to me. After all, I’m not a member of their family or a friend, so what kind of weight can I place on this kind of loss? In recent years I’ve had too much of my own personal grief to dwell on so I can’t help but think of that stranger’s family and how they are coping with their grief. Every day thousands of human beings depart this planet and none of us know anything about who they were as people, whether they were kind and loving or mean and unloved. We’re shielded from that thinking because when death makes a true impact in our lives it’s something that we would give anything to be able to look away from. But when someone famous dies who was an actor or a writer or someone like Winston, in what sort of context do you place your feelings? Checking across the web yesterday the vast majority of onliners all felt a sense of loss of someone whose work was our entertainment and of a talented pro who still had many years of creativity left to offer but now we won’t get to see any more of it. Nevertheless, even if we are left sad by the passing of one of the greatest visual effects maestros in cinema history, at the back of our collective minds we should bear in mind that this loss is much more personal to others. My sincere condolences go out to Stan’s family and friends.
So, why are you reading this?
I’ve been invited by Mania to do a weekly column where I can talk about whatever I want that is connected to the world of film. In the weeks leading up to my first post, I had been thinking about how to kick things off. Maybe I could make a strong impression by airing my gripes about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and how Lucas wasted another opportunity yet again to revisit a beloved franchise. Maybe I’d start things off by bitching about how unfair it is that Speed Racer had gotten the snot beat out of it by the summer blockbuster competition. Maybe I’ll get into those two points in a later column but looking ahead at the summer, I think that I’ll have lots of opportunities to find new things to talk about, both good and bad. I’m imagining that this is going to be a column where I can say what’s on my mind, for better or worse, and you, dear reader, are welcome to tell me to get lost, pat me on the back or find something to say inbetween those two extremes. For those that remember me from my time spent as the news editor of Cinescape or the guy that ran/will soon be running Corona’s Coming Attractions, you will probably get to see a different side of me in this corner of the internet than you’re used to seeing.
Let’s see what happens – and if I can dream up a name for this column. Is “Hollywood Bitchslap” taken?