Thursday, June 19, 2008

Stan Winston (and how he contributed to my weirdness)

Aw. Movie creature maker Stan Winston died last Sunday. Since it's no secret that I love just about any movie with a sci-fi fantasy creature in it, Winston had a big effect on my psyche. He might be most famous for creating the Alien Queen in Aliens (Maggie Quinn's favorite movie, FYI), the Predators, and cyborgs of Terminator. Seriously, he worked on like 50% of my favorite movie list.

Here's a quote I really like, and I think why he was so awesome (four Oscars!) and had such an impact on the movies he worked on.

(From this article on arstechnica.com)
"I don't do special effects. I create characters, and I use the tools of special effects necessary to do it," Winston told the BBC. When speaking to the Orange County Register, he claimed, "Special effects, by themselves, don't mean diddley-squat in a movie. If the characters I created can't perform, can't act and aren't interesting, it just isn't going to work. It doesn't matter how good the technique is if you have not created interesting characters."

Which would explain why the characters he creates become such icons that they start franchises of their own, independent of the human stars. It's actually something that writers can take away. It doesn't matter how much action, gore, sex, angst, etc. you have in your book, if the characters aren't interesting, it's all just special effects.

LA Times has a short slide show of just 10 of his most famous creatures. The io9 blog has a nice entry with more photos, including a gallery of the scary monsters, which include the scariest of all horrible scary monsters, which is the Thing, from The Thing, which precipitated my coming completely unglued at a move watching party once. Like UNGLUED from the SCARY and I had to spend the rest of the movie in my friend's bedroom with the radio turned up so I couldn't hear the noises, and I'm sure people thought I'd disappeared with someone else and was having a much better time than I actually was, checking under the bed every five minutes for monsters.

Now, as I was reading about Stan Winston, I realize that our relationship goes back much further than Aliens, or even Predator, or my love of all things dinosaur, including his work on Jurassic Park, etc. It turns out he won an Emmy for working on this one movie that scarred me from early childhood. (And I'm not talking about The Wiz.) It was called Gargoyles and it concerned this anthropologist who discovers demon like creatures living in a cave in New Mexico. I saw this as a really little kid (thanks to my mother's love for 70's sci-fi and the UHF channels) and had all kinds of nightmares. I wasn't a kid who needed help thinking up things that could be lurking in the dark/desert/closet/etc. All of which were places I was convinced these things were going to come from and get me.

Anyway. Apparently it's got some kind of cult film status, because you can find lots of YouTube clips, like this one. Truly, this is 70's sci-fi television at it's finest.

So. Favorite Stan Winston movie. Here's the list. Sound off. 

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