Sunday, July 16, 2017

Character Analysis: Max Shreck

Character Analysis: Max Shreck
By: Brian Cotnoir

Hello Friends, Long time no post.  Life’s been very busy for my lately as I continue to work towards my Masters, AND I started a new job, that I am very happy with, so I’ve had very little time to watch movies, let alone write new reviews.  Well, I’m here to talk to you today about one of my favorite film franchises of all-time; The “Batman” Films.  I’ve always been a fan of Batman, ever since I was a little boy.  I grew up watching Kevin Conroy voice Batman on “Batman the Animated Series”, I watched the Joel Schumacher Batman films, when I was a little, and I even watched a little bit of the Original Batman TV series, starring the late and great Adam West.  I did not see the original Tim Burton, Batman movies.   I’ve wanted to do a Character Analysis on a Batman Character for so long, but I kept running into the same issues every time.  Most of the Characters in the Batman films are directly inspired from the DC Comics, which would require some extensive research so I could discuss the differences between the characters in the Comics and the same characters in the films.  Not to mention that as of this date there have been 8 different Feature Length films featuring Batman, not to mention countless Direct to Video/DVD Animated Films, and would require a ton more research and would take me too long to complete.  But at last I finally came across a character from a Batman film—My Favorite Batman film actually—that is worthy of a Character Analysis; a character who never appeared in any prior Batman comics and was specifically created for a one time film role only.  So without further delay please enjoy my Character Analysis of Max Shreck from “Batman Returns”.

CHARACTER: Max Shreck from “Batman Returns” (1992)

Christopher Walken plays Max Shreck in "Batman Returns"
Max Shreck is the millionaire owner of Shreck’s Department Store in Gotham City.  Shreck’s displays acts of generosity around the Holiday Season, donating loads of toys and money to those in need all over Gotham City.  Many people refer to him as the Santa Claus of Gotham City.  However beneath his generous exterior lies a manipulative and malevolent man.  He has plans to expand his business empire by constructing a large Power Plant in Gotham City, with a little financial and political backing from the Mayor of Gotham City and the wealthiest man in the city, Bruce Wayne.  However, Shreck has some sinister motives for his power plant.  His plant isn’t going to supply power to the residents of Gotham City, but rather suck and store power, leaving the residents of Gotham City powerless (pun intended).  However, Shreck’s incompetent secretary Selena Kyle, accidentally uncovers Shreck’s evil plan, for which he tries to kill her by tossing her out a window near the top floor of his building, for having figured out his nefarious plan.      Shreck ends up being kidnapped and blackmailed by an evil underground villain known as The Penguin, who threatens to expose Shreck’s sinister deeds—including murder, fraud, and pollution—if he doesn’t help him with his own evil plans.  Shreck agrees to help The Penguin (whose real name is Oswald Cobblepot).  Using his money and power Shreck helps the Penguin stage a fake kidnapping where the Penguin will heroically rescue the Mayor of Gotham City’s infant child.   Once The Penguin has found favor and popularity amongst the residents of Gotham City, Shreck plans to use his money and power to get The Penguin elected Mayor of Gotham, so that he can get the approval he needs to build his power plant.

THE ACTOR:

Max Shreck is played by Hollywood Legend and Academy Award Winner, Christopher Walken.   “Batman Returns” was the first time Walken ever collaborated with writer/director Tim Burton.  Walken and Burton would work again together on the film “Sleepy Hollow” (1999), where Walken played The Hessian Soldier/Headless Horseman.  
    
CHARACTER IS SIMILAR TO OR INSPIRED BY:

Actor Maximillian Schreck as Count Orlock in "Noseferatu"
Unlike many other characters that have appeared in the Batman films, Max Shreck had not appeared in any prior Batman Comics.  He was created specifically for the film to fill the villain void left by actor Billy Dee Williams after he opted to not reprise his role as Harvey Dent in “Batman Returns” (…at least according to Wikipedia).  Shreck’s name is nod to the German Actor Maximillian Schreck who played the fiendish Count Orlock in the 1922 Classic German Horror film, “Nosferatu”.  Other than a name Max Shreck shares no similarities to the actor of the same name.          I honestly think Shreck shares some similarities and was possibly influenced by Donald Trump (before he became President of course). When you look at the similar hair styles, their ruthless business savvy minds, their use of Power and Money to achieve their own personal gains, while seemingly trying to pass themselves off as Regular Joes with caring, generous hearts, I definitely think Christopher Walken was trying to channel some Donald Trump into his acting performance.

I see it, Don't you?! 


FATE OF THE CHARACTER:

The End of Max Shreck 
After betraying The Penguin, who fails to get elected Mayor of Gotham City, Shreck tries to return to Business Empire like nothing changed.  Shreck is now being pursued by three persons, Selena Kyle (who has no donned the alias Cat Woman) for trying to murder her, The Penguin for welching on their deal, and Batman/Bruce Wayne, who has uncovered that Shreck and The Penguin were in cahoots together.  Shreck sacrifices himself to save his son, Chip (who had saved his life earlier in the film) and agrees to go with the Penguin where he will be killed.  While a fierce battle goes under the Gotham Zoo between Batman, the Penguin, and Catwoman, Shreck tries to escape unnoticed.  After trying once again to finish off Selena Kyle/Cat Woman for good, Shreck is brutally electrocuted to death by Selena Kyle, thus is the last we ever see or hear of Max Shreck in the Batman films. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

YET ANOTHER 5 songs you probably forgot about until you read this article

Yet Another 5 Songs you completely forgot about until you read this post
By: Brian Cotnoir

     Wow, my last post—and third in this edition—got such positive feedback that I just had to write another one, where I attempt to remind you songs that you—may have—completely forgot about.  Now, one thing I often overlook to when I compile these lists is artists who were semi-popular in the US, but were huge in their home countries.  So for some of these artists, you may be saying “Who the hell is that”?, but I do distinctly remember them having moderate—at best—success in the US.  So let’s not waste any more time, and let’s just have some fun memberin’.

1.) Southside by Moby ft. Gwen Stefani

oooooooooooooooooooooooo k??? 
Many things come to mind when you think of Gwen Stefani.  Some people remember her as the bada$$ lead singer of the band No Doubt, other people are more familiar with her pop songs and solo career, while other’s know her as one of the co-Hosts on the popular American reality show “The Voice”.  There’s no doubt (pun TOTALLY intended) that Gwen Stefani is one of the best and most influential female singers of all-time, and I believe that one of her most underappreciated works she has done was her collaboration on the song “Southside” with Moby.  I have no idea what genre of music Moby qualifies under.  I’ve heard some people say he’s a DJ, other people tell me he’s a producer, while others say he’s an experimental artist, but one thing is for certain, his song “Southside” is probably his greatest contribution to music, and including Gwen Stefani on the song was a brilliant move on his part. 



2.) Are you Jimmy Ray?- Jimmy Ray

It’s so weird to see how musicians today like Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars, Meghan Trainor, and the late Amy Whinehouse all seem to have that Retro-Inspired Sound in some of their music.  You know that sound that’s hybrid of pop-music and old 50’s and 60’s rock music?  Well, it’s amazing that everyone talks about how influential these artists are in creating and developing that sound, and yet never hear anyone talk about Jimmy Ray!  Now, you’re probably asking yourself, “Who the hell is Jimmy Ray?”.  Jimmy Ray is in English Pop/Rock Musician (so that’s probably the biggest reason you never heard of him, but what’s cool and interesting about Jimmy Ray was that he was creating Pop Music with a Retro sound style all the way back in 1998!  Jimmy Ray’s one and only hit “Are you Jimmy Ray” got some popular airplay (largely thanks to his music video) in early 1998.  The best way I can describe Jimmy Ray’s look and sound is early Elvis Presley meets Johnny Cash’s Man in Black, meets Buddy Holly, and meets George Michael’s “Faith” years.



3.) Blue- LeAnn Rimes

I grew up in a household with parents who loved country music.  Two country musicians I remember listening to a lot as a kid are Billy Ray Cyrus and LeAnn Rimes.  And you would think with the popularity of Female country singers like Miranda Lambert, Gretchen Wilson, Carrie Underwood Faith Hill, and ladies from Little Big Town, and Lady Antebellum that someone in music world would say “Hey, what about LeAnn Rimes?”.  You rarely hear people mention her name today, but “Blue”—a cover song she sang and recorded—when she was only 13 years old, blew up all over the radio in the 1990’s.  My parents had this album, all my aunts and uncles had this album and played it, and she was good.  She has a lot better voice than a lot of other women in country music today, so I just want to know why we don’t hear anything about LeAnn Rimes anymore, especially her early work on the radio.



4.) Gotta Tell You–Samantha Mumba

Another Irish Pop-Star that just couldn’t find a lot of success in the U.S. was Samantha Mumba.  Her only real success musically in the U.S. was her song “Gotta Tell You”, which I remember got a heavy rotation down at the roller rink the music video was featured a lot of Disney Channel in the 1990’s back when they used to play music videos for songs that were featured in some of their upcoming movies.  Samantha Mumba may not have found a lot of success in the U.S. as a musician, but she has found some success in her native Ireland...as an actress!  She’s appeared in a few films, and I actually saw her in a zombie horror-comedy film called “Boy Eats Girl” (believe me, the title is not as erotic as it sounds).  I couldn’t believe it was her when I saw it, but I’m glad to hear she is having some success.



5.) Sunny Came Home- Shawn Colvin

Originally, I was going to put “Where have all the cowboy’s gone” by Paula Cole on this list, but after consulting a few friends of mine, who told me that they still remember this song, and can actually sing the chorus to the song, proves to me that it’s a song that isn’t too far removed from people’s memories, but another song that I mentioned, from the same year that “Where have all the cowboy’s gone” didn’t ring a bell for any of them.  The other song I mentioned was “Sunny Came Home” by Shawn Colvin.  What’s crazy is this song one two Grammy’s for Song of the Year and Record of the Year—it actually beat out “where have all the cowboy’s gone” for both awards, and yet less people remember it.  When Shawn Colvin, I hope Sunny Come’s Home, and more people begin to remember your one hit song.




Well there you have it again, I hope once again that these songs brought back some good memories for you, and be sure to click the links below to check out the other songs we’ve talked about in the past.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

ANOTHER 5 songs that you've probably forgot about until you read this article

Another 5 Songs that you’ve probably forgot about until you read this article

By: Brian Cotnoir

Hello friends, how have you been?  Continuing my series I attempt to retrigger the memories of certain songs and musical acts from not too long ago, so I can bring on a feeling nostalgic euphoria.  Now, I’ve talked multiple times in the past about One-Hit Wonders on the blog, and attempt to figure out why makes them one-hit wonders, and discuss how it is possible we can actually forget some of these tracks for so long, and one day randomly think about it, and wait for the flood of memories to come back.   Well I’m hoping once again to attempt to help you recapture some of those feelings right now. 

1.) C’est la vie by B*Witched

This is the song that actually inspired this list.  You see the other day I was having a co-worker, and at the end they just through their hands up in the air and said the term “C’est la vie” (French for “such is life”) and then the next thing you know I’m walking through the halls singing “say you will/say you won’t/say you’ll do what I don’t/say you’re true/say to me c’est la vie”.  Yes “C’est la vie” the one hit song from the Irish girl group B*Witched.  You probably remember this song from the Disney Chanel original TV movie “Smart House”, you know the one where the boy wins the robotic house, that’s voiced by Katy Segal, and then he reprograms it, and she goes all Hal-9000 on them?  See a double Nostalgia Whammy for you, you’re welcome.  It’s clear that B*Witched was trying to be like the Irish equivalent of the Spice Girls, but they came way up short, and I think they have more in common with the A-Teens then they do the Spice Girls.  Still not a bad song though.



2.) Crazy for this Girl by Evan and Jaron

Before the airwaves were dominated with faux-sensitive, soft sing, piano playing whiny babies like Lukas Graham and Charlie Puth, there faux-sensitive soft singing, guitar playing fools like Evan and Jaron.  I will give these twin brothers some credit, this was a really catch song, and you got the feeling that they actually were trying to write a good song and not just some commercial pandering love ballad.  I haven’t really heard much about them as of late, but I had a friend in college who told me that Jaron has since gone solo and now performs as a Country act.  I’m not really into country music, but I can only hope that for those who go to see him perform live that he breaks out this song he wrote and performed with his brother at the end of his set.



3.) If you’re not the one by Daniel Bedingfield

     For the longest time I—along with many other people—thought that this was a song by Savage Garden, but years later I learned that it was not Savage Garden who wrote and performed this song, but rather a British singer/songwriter by the name of Daniel Bedingfield who is the brother of Brit-Pop Singer, Natasha Bedinfield.   Well, when you have a more famous sibling, and a majority of people think that a song you wrote and performed was played by another group, you can’t really expect to have much of a music career, and I think Daniel Bedingfield should be happy that his career made it this far.



4.) Handlebars by Flobots

I know people who absolutely despise Rap and Hip-Hop music, but still thoroughly enjoy and will sing the lyrics to the song “Handlebars” by Flobots.  I can’t really blame them, the song starts off simple guitar riff, and just gets louder and more bombastic as it gets on.  It’s a song that tells the story of two different paths taken by friends to become somebody in the world, and you know what it’s super catchy, enjoyable, relatable, has message that I think we all can understand, and you know what: if you don’t like this song, I think there’s something really wrong with you.



5.) Together Again by Janet Jackson

I feel like a lot people forget that Janet Jackson was an accomplished singer in her career.  You don’t really hear a lot of people talk about her musical career, when compared to her famous brother Michael, and her other brothers in the Jackson 5.  Even when people do talk about Janet Jackson, it’s mostly about her early tracks, but she was still making good music even in the late 90’s.  One such example of her great songwriting comes from the song “Together Again”, a ballad that was transformed into a Pop song.  It’s a song she—supposedly—wrote to deal with the grief after losing a good friend of hers to AIDS, but surprisingly has an optimistic beat and melody to it.  I feel like when some people are sad their first instinct is to play out their emotions with something sad and somber like Adele to help them get through whatever it is they are dealing with, but I honestly think Janet Jackson’s “Together Again” would be a much better choice, because you could not only sing along to it, but you can also dance your bad feelings out to it as well.




So there you have it Another 5 songs that you’ve probably forgot about until you read this article.  Did this list bring back any fond memories for you?  What are some other songs that you feel like people forget about too often?  Let me know in the comment section, and as always thanks for reading and be sure to check out some of our other articles on Asylum for Nerds

Friday, February 10, 2017

Character Analysis: Rotwang

Character Analysis: Rotwang

By: Brian Cotnoir

One of the earliest and most successful films of all-time has to be Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis”.  For a film that is almost a century old it still receives praise for its style, set, practical effects, and story.  The film only has 5-6 actual characters that you get to know from watching the film.  There’s the bitter Joh Fredersen, the sweet-natured Freder, and of course the lovely Maria, but as I learned through a quick search of Google, there have already been tons of Analysis’s done on these characters, but much to my surprise, there was one character that not—for the most part—has gained little fanfare, so today I am here to do my analysis on, Rotwang, the mad scientist.

CHARACTER: Rotwang from “Metropolis” (1927)

    Rotwang is a scientist and advisor to Joh Fredersen, the Master of Metropolis.  Rotwang, is a peculiar man to say the least.  He lives in a small, dumpy house in the center of the city.  This house has only one door and one window, and also has access to the cities catacombs via the basement.  Rotwang spends most of the day in his home performing his various experiments and mourning the death of his former lover, Hel, who left him for Joh Fredersen, and perished during childbirth.                       
Rotwang has a contentious relationship with the industrialist Joh Fredersen, to say the least, and surprisingly is kept as a top advisor by Joh Fredersen.  Rotwang shows Joh Fredersen, his latest creation, a “Man-Machine” that he intends to use to bring Hel back from the dead (by trapping her soul in the robot).  Rotwang actually lost one of his hands while working on the Man-Machine.  Joh Fredersen sees potential in Rotwang’s newest invention and instead instructs him to construct the Man-Machine in the image of his son’s lover, Maria—the powerful and influential leader of the Working Class—in hopes of disrupting there movement.  Rotwang reluctantly obliges, but double-crosses Joh Fredersen, by programming the Maria-bot (That’s just what I’m calling her) to only obey his commands.

THE ACTOR:

Rotwang is played by German Actor Rudolf Klein-Rogge, who has appeared in some of the earliest and most influential German films in History.  He has an uncredited role in “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”, and also played the role of Dr. Mabuse.  Rudolf Klein-Rogge is known most commonly for playing Mad Scientist roles in films.

CHARACTER IS SIMILAR TO OR INSPIRED BY:

Rotwang is a one of the earliest incarnations of a Mad Scientist in film, and thus, he has played a huge influence as to how the role is played in films.  Rotwang obviously shares a lot of traits with Victor Frankenstein from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, both are mad scientists with the desire to try and bring a person back from the dead, albeit, two completely different methods.  And both are said to have a God-Complex and are, “mad”.           

Dr. Victor Frankenstein
          
     I see similarities between Rotwang and Hjalmar from “The Black Cat” (1934).  Both are German men who have an unhealthy obsession with trying to bring back their dead lovers.               
     I also see similarities between him and Jack Dante from the film “Death Machine”, as are reclusive scientists, with mental instabilities who live in their own little world, but are still gainfully employed by rich and powerful companies, where they are paid to create godknowswhat in their laboratories and then use their robot creations to unleash death and destruction on their masses. Oh yes, Rotwang is probably the most influential Mad Scientist character in the history of film.

Jack Dante from "Death Machine"


FATE OF THE CHARACTER:


After his Maria-bot orders the workers to unleash untold destruction on the Metropolis, Rotwang goes to reap the benefits of his work.  He is unaware that the workers have come to their senses and have burned the Maria-bot (believing it to be the real Maria).  Rotwang eventually comes across the real Maria, but believes she is actually his Man-Machine.  Rotwang partakes in a chase and epic fight on top of the cathedral, with Freder (the son of Joh and Hel Fredersen), where he is knocked of the roof and plummets to his death.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Character Analysis: Maximilian von Mayerling

Character Analysis: Maximilian von Mayerling

By: Brian Cotnoir

     Award show season has kicked off again in America.  People are marking their predictions as to what films will win what awards, and the best and brightest of Hollywood anxiously await to hear their names called at Award Show ceremony’s, waiting for their moment in the sun.  Many Hollywood celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Hellen Mirren, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jack Nicholson have stood the test of time.  But for every Hollywood icon there are thousands more whose 15 minutes of fame has run out, and their left to reflect on their former fame and glory.  Yes, the “Hollywood Lifestyle” is often viewed as world of glamour, privilege, and absolute perfection, but there is also a dark seedy underbelly of the Hollywood life that not a lot of people like to talk about or see.  One of the best films that captures the Hollywood lifestyle after the limelight fades in the 1950 classic “Sunset Boulevard”.  This is one of those films that not everyone sees, but still knows the plot and still understand pop culture references being made about it (similar to “Jaws” and “Star Wars”).  The film doesn’t have a large cast, but does feature some very memorable characters, and I’m here to talk about probably the most overlooked character in the film, and that would be, Max von Mayerling.

CHARACTER: Maximilian von Mayerling from “Sunset Boulevard” (1950)

Max from "Sunset Boulevard" (1950)
Maximilian “Max” von Mayerling is the loyal and dedicated house servant to Norma Desmond, a former silent film star.  Max is the only employee of Miss Desmond.  He serves as her butler, chauffer, and special assistant.  It is revealed towards the end of the film by Max, himself, that he was a film director.  He discovered Norma Desmond when she was 16-years-old, and “made her a star”.  Max boasts to Ms. Desmond’s house guest, Joe Gills, that years ago he was as good of a director as Hollywood legends D.W. Griffinth and Cecil B. DeMille (who also has a cameo in the film).  Max also confides to Joe that he was also Norma’s first husband, and after she left him, his life became unbearable, but he returned to be her house servant, and vows to do anything he can to protect her.    It’s blatantly obvious to anyone watching the film that Max still loves Norma, but one can’t help with wonder if he’s also suffering from some delusional disorder like his employer.  It really makes you wonder if Max is also losing a grasp on reality.
      It’s also safe to say that Max is an enabler.  He constantly praises Ms. Desmond for her works, and constantly reassures her that she is still a star, even though her fame and popularity have been pretty much extinguished.  Max is so bent on keeping Ms. Desmond happy that he even handwrites and mails Ms. Desmond hundreds of fake fan letters. 

THE ACTOR:

Max is played by Austrian-American Actor Eric(h) von Stroheim.  Stroheim’s family immigrated to the U.S. in 1909, and six years later he was working in Hollywood along legends like D.W. Griffinth, just like his character in the film.  For his role of Max, in “Sunset Boulevard” Stroheim earned his only Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor (which he lost to George Sanders who won it for his role of Addison De Witt in “All About Eve”).  Stroheim had a lot of directorial positions early on in his career, and towards the end he took on more supporting actor roles in films.  With all his experience and expertise in the field, it goes without saying that Eric von Stroheim was the most qualified person to play the role of Max in “Sunset Boulevard”.

CHARACTER IS SIMILAR TO OR INSPIRED BY:

I believe Max is probably the most famous movie butler of all-time.  And yes, I’m saying he’s more famous and well known than Alfred Pennyworth from “Batman” because he was originally from a comic book and did not appear in films or television until much later on.  How many times have you seen a butler on TV or in a movie named, Max.  It’s kind of become the generic butler name. Seriously, he’s been parodied in children’s films such as “Cats Don’t Dance”, and children’s TV shows like “The Rugrats” and even “Tiny Toon Adventures” did a whole episode parodying the movie “Sunset Boulevard” with Hampton Pig playing Max.  Eric von Stroheim set the standard of how butlers are shown and portrayed in film in television in the same way that Anthony Michael Hall showed everyone how to play a sympathetic nerd in every movie.

FATE OF THE CHARACTER:


After Norma Desmond murders Joe Gillis (Spoilers!), Max finds her in a delirious state.  It has appeared that she has finally snapped.  Max is the person who helps the police convince Norma to head downstairs by—once again enabling her—and convincing her that they were all there to start shooting her new film.  With Max acting as the (fake) assistant director, he coaxes Ms. Desmond downstairs, and that’s really the last we see of him.  If I had to make an assumption as to whatever became of Max, I’m sure he must be visiting Ms. Desmond every day at whatever Psychiatric Hospital she was brought to, and is still enabling her delusions of grandeur.