Book Review: The Art of Drew Struzan

Sometime in the last 20 years or so, the movie industry lost a bit of magic. Once upon a time we hardly had movie trailers on television. Instead, we’d see posters for upcoming movies that would try to snag a bit of our imagination. As much as the script, the actors, the soundtrack… the posters were an integral part of the moviegoing experience. And typically they’d be painted by hand, not edited on a computer or massaged as a photograph. The posters I remember from my youth were just as worthy of hanging in a gallery as they would be hanging on your bedroom wall.

Between 1977 and 1981, I must have had two or three different variations of the Star Wars poster on the walls of my bedroom. They were all in vibrant colors and captured the magic of “a galaxy far far away” better than any of today’s movie posters do. It’s become so bad that I hardly even look at posters any more because they all look the same – a miasma of faces and logos thrown together by a marketing department somewhere.

During this seemingly bygone era, one of these artists seems to have done an influential movie poster for every movie I loved in that time. Drew Struzan. Through the years, he captured a part of my imagination with posters for Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Big Trouble in Little China, Hook and many many more. It was through his talents I was drawn to many movies in my youth – with his art acting as a Pied Piper tune to lead the way.

The Art of Drew Struzan provides a glimpse into the magic his movie posters captured during his career spanning more than 30 years. But along with that you see the tragic tale of how the marketing machine of Hollywood has left the artistic tradition of movie posters in favor of a fast-food style that makes nearly every modern poster pale when compared to those of the past.

A foreward from acclaimed director Frank Darabont sets the stage with a discussion of how the “suits” have lost their way in marketing and a bit about how he came to know Struzan over the years. The artist did many pieces for Darabont’s movies, though some never made it to the public. And an introduction from author and film critic David J. Schow provides a glimpse into the life of Struzan and a lifelong appreciation for how much of his soul the artist puts into each piece. These are well known men in movies and the admiration for Struzan’s work is obvious, but more than that there’s an appreciation for how he works as well.

After that, the book progresses from Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981 to Hellboy II: The Golden Army in 2008, showing black and white sketches, partially done pieces, and final artwork along the way. Struzan tells stories of each period as you go through the years, offering explanations for why certain things happened the way they did.

Struzan’s relationships with Spielberg, Lucas, Darabont and Guillermo del Toro through the years, along with other actors and directors makes for fascinating reading. But you can tell it’s all told with a touch of sadness the more recent you get. The fact that marketeers commission art from him but don’t use it is a travesty in my view and that seems to be the case more and more frequently as you go through the book. It’s no wonder that he retired in 2008.

The art alone would make this a worthwhile book to pick up – but it’s the context and history you get along the way that seals the deal. The Art of Drew Struzan should be on the reading list of any movie buff. Be sure to check it out at your local or online bookseller!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up books about Drew Struzan below!

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Book Review: Discord’s Apple by Carrie Vaughn

Hey there…

There’s nothing like the feeling I get when I discover a new writer. It’s like opening a door to a brave new world. Sometimes I have to admit I don’t like what I find on the other side. But then there are those rare moments when I get there and don’t want to leave. Discord’s Apple from Carrie Vaughn drew me in from the opening chapter and didn’t let me go until I finished the book just a few hours later.

This is the story of Evie Walker, a successful comic book writer from Los Angeles, and her trip home to Hope’s Fort, Colorado, to help her father Frank face his own mortality. It’s also the story of Alex, a stranger who has truly seen it all who is looking for something he can’t seem to find. Together, Evie, Frank, and Alex face new challenges as the mysteries around them deepen and things really hit the fan.

Let me start by saying that, though I love Colorado authors, I’d never read anything by Vaughn. She lives in Boulder, Colorado, which is only a couple of hours away from me in Colorado Springs. And evidently she’s been writing about a werewolf named Kitty for a while now in a series of urban fantasy novels – the latest of which is called Kitty Goes to War. So how have I managed to miss her?

Discord’s Apple was paced amazingly well. From the subtle beginnings of Evie’s drive into the tiny town of Hope’s Fort to the way she slides characters from myth and legend into play alongside the heroes of the comic book Eagle Eye Commandos, the plot builds and beckons the reader ever forward and back from present to past and back again.

But not since reading Dan Simmons‘ books Illium and Olympos, which managed to weave the Trojan War and Greek gods together with a far flung science fiction, have I seen those stories made relevant. Vaugn masterfully tangles the tale of Sinon, the liar who encouraged Troy to open its gates, with a different spin on the Greek gods that grants Sinon the curse of immortality.

Somehow she also manages to mix in the tales of Longinus, Arthur, and the glass slippers of Cinderella while bringing in elements of the warehouse from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark where a nameless government employee stashed the Ark of the Covenant. Add to that a sprinkle of a world where the balance of power has tipped enough to make everyone paranoid…

However, at no time in the novel did I feel that any of these elements was ever out of control. Somehow she tames these tornadoes, each of which has their own Oz attached, and pulls them into a coherent tapestry of plot, character, and story. I don’t know how she did it. I only know that I really enjoyed it and want to know what happens next!

So if you’re looking for a book for summer reading, be sure to add Discord’s Apple by Carrie Vaughn to your list. It’s a fun ride. Now I have to go back and see what all the fuss is about this werewolf named Kitty…

For more information about Vaughn, be sure to check out her website at CarrieVaugn.com and look for her books published by TOR/FORGE!

This review first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other Carrie Vaughn books below!

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Indy Week is Here!!!

Indiana Jones and the Temple of DoomImage via Wikipedia

Hi all…

It’s Indy week. Can you believe it?

It’s nearly been 20 years since The Last Crusade graced the screens.

And Indiana Jones is still able to move. Harrison Ford is an amazing man to still be making an action movie in is mid-60s!

That said… I have to say a few things.

I’m looking forward to this film. Unfortunately I will not see it on opening day due to the fact that my youngest is having her tonsils removed that day. However, I will probably see it on Friday or Saturday and post my review after that.

So of the three prior movies of the adventures of Dr. Jones, I would have to say that Raiders of the Lost Ark is my favorite, followed by Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and lastly Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Doom just never did anything for me. But Raiders epitomizes the best of all adventure movies. Humor, excitement, danger, explosions, ancient Egypt, and bad dates. ūüôā

I’m hoping that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull comes anywhere close to Raiders, but will be happy if it’s in the same league as The Last Crusade. Temple of Doom was more than a little disappointing for me, so if it stoops that low, I’ll be very disappointed.

Music-wise, I was stoked to hear that John Williams will once again be scoring Indy’s travels. Raiders has such an iconic theme that it would be tough to envision anyone else doing the soundtrack.

Of the Indy movies, what was your favorite? Let me know!

–Fitz

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