History is filled with influential artists -- people who were so talented, they inspired hordes of others to create. But sometimes an artist creates a work of art so masterful, it simultaneously defines a style while shutting the door on others who would follow. Sure, people still try, but rarely can they succeed without their attempts being compared, unfavorably, to the masterpieces.
This week, I kept the intro short instead of bitching about people not reading it. Here's a picture of my psychiatrist, who helped me accept things beyond my control, and prescribed me illegal quantities of E. Thanks, Dr. Segosian!
5 2001: A Space Odyssey Creates Profound Cinematic Science Fiction Like No Other
In 1968, a year before man even went to the moon (or didn't go to the moon, if you're wearing a tin foil hat right now), Stanley Kubrick delivered 2001. For those of you who haven't seen it, you're either very young and forgiven or old and stupid. According to people who don't want to be wrong, 2001 is the greatest science fiction ever made. Not just because it's staggeringly accurate scientifically, not just because it's almost impossible to compare it to any other film before or since, and not just because of its groundbreaking special effects, but because of its scope. Here is a science fiction movie that attempts to do nothing short of defining man's place in the universe, and it succeeds.
2001 starts at the dawn of man and jumps to 2001, when man as a species is ready to evolve into Homo superior.
No, it's not a junior high school insult. (That's "Homo so-queer-ia.")
Never again would science fiction films -- even good science fiction films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Blade Runner and Total Recall -- come close to having that kind of impact. Kubrick inspired Spielberg and Lucas to become filmmakers, to explore space in art, and yet, despite the massive successes of their careers, none stand on the same plane as 2001. It is science fiction as science and art and philosophy. Here are the only 10 minutes I don't like, but people who get super high all the time assure me it's awesome:
Although it's fun to write about Stanley Kubrick as a batshit mad genius terrorizing actors on a whim, it's important to remember that this is a man who had the intellectual capacity to have deep science-based brainstorming meetings with co-collaborator Arthur C. Clarke -- one of the giants of science fiction. Name a director working today who has that kind of analytical stamina.
I was going to end this section by noting how even a talented director like Ridley Scott fell on his face with Prometheus when trying to make a sci-fi film with deep philosophical implications, but my research tells me that he's already articulated my thesis statement.
4 David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust Mastered Glam Rock/Made It Moot
When people think of glam rock, they might mention Gary Glitter for sheer kitsch value, and they will definitely throw T. Rex into the mix for a handful of pop gems and a killer look, but you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn't believe that Ziggy Stardust is the benchmark of glam rock.
OK, maybe Satan (or some douchebag dressed up like him in our photo library).
In 1972, David Bowie released a group of loosely related songs about an androgynous Martian rock 'n' roll messiah who lands on our dying world and descends into the trappings of success before committing suicide (maybe?) amidst the adoration of his fans. Stupid concept album? Yeah, you're right, that one the Who did about a deaf, dumb and blind kid who was great at pinball made a lot more sense. You're just gonna have to accept that, thematically, most concept albums are a bit silly.
But musically (and lyrically, in a song-specific sense), Ziggy is a stellar album. Unlike some glam rockers, who used makeup merely as a gimmick, Bowie has had a 40-plus-year career, illustrating his songwriting diversity and prowess. These songs are fantastic with or without the lipstick. Can you say that about everything the New York Dolls ever did? How about retro throwback glam bands like Suede?
And not only did Bowie out-write his peers, and not only did his amazing band, led by the criminally underrated Mick Ronson, outplay his peers, but he also won the day with presentation. Mismatched eyes, waif body, injury-inducing cheekbones, all coming together as the epitome of androgyny. Anyone else attempting to rock that look just looked stupid, like Marilyn Manson did with Mechanical Animals.
Your career disappeared shortly thereafter? You don't say.