4 Famous Artists Who Stole Big Ideas From Newcomers
Everyone knows artists are influenced by those who came before them. Would there be an Oasis without The Beatles? Would there be a Hemingway without Mark Twain? Would there be Cracked's own Felix Clay without his uncle who used to do that "pull my finger" joke while exposing his young nephew to pornography?
And we'll never forgive you for your creation, Uncle Henry.
But sometimes influences work the other way. Sometimes, artists who are already established masters are clearly influenced by young upstarts. People so striking that even the pros want a piece of it. Here are four old masters influenced by young artists.
Francis Ford Coppola Borrows Some Sam Raimi Evil Dead II Tricks For Dracula
Without question, Francis Ford Coppola is one of the most highly regarded American filmmakers of all time. If he never did another thing, he'd still be known as the genius behind The Godfather: Part I and II as well as Apocalypse Now. (But also The Godfather: Part III and Jack, but let's not talk about that.)
Like Benjamin Button, but the opposite -- meaning terrible.
In 1992, when Coppola set out to make an adaptation of Dracula, he was already ranked up there with the Spielbergs and Scorceses of the industry. But that didn't mean he was too big or immodest to learn some tricks from a newcomer. In this case: Sam Raimi. In 1992, Sam Raimi had not yet started the trend of superhero movies that didn't suck with his Spider-Man trilogy. He had not done his critically acclaimed A Simple Plan. In 1992, Raimi was just a young filmmaker most notable for Evil Dead II, and that movie was not yet the cult classic that redefined horror and black comedy it is today. It was still very much a low-budget horror flick known to teen and college audiences. The kind of flick maladjusted creeps like, um, me watched in high school. But clearly Coppola saw its importance.
There are a couple of shots from Evil Dead II that are, for lack of a better word, Raimi-esque. One is his use of sped-up footage from the point of view of the bad guy. This technique is used all through Evil Dead II to create a feeling of an approaching evil (seen at 46 and 56 seconds in during the trailer). Another technique would be extreme close-ups of leading men making way over-the-top crazy faces in the face of unspeakable evil. Coppola makes prominent use of both these techniques in Dracula, much in the way an accomplished filmmaker borrows techniques from a newcomer. Oh wait. That's not much of a metaphor -- that's exactly what Coppola's doing.
It's hard to prove these points precisely without a side-by-side viewing, especially with pesky things like copyright law, but let's do our best. Coppola's Dracula is currently on Netflix, and I'd encourage you to watch the POV rapid camera pans in the scene where Dracula approaches Lucy's estate with any number of scenes from Evil Dead II. That clip is not publicly available, but you do get a taste of it at 44 to 48 seconds in the trailer.
And let's enjoy some of the master Bruce Campbell's manic faces compared with Keanu's. We have the scene from Evil Dead II where Ash fully appreciates just how all-encompassing the evil that surrounds him is, compared with Jonathan Harker first realizing the depth of evil in Dracula's castle after witnessing his brides devour a baby. For those Cracked readers in class, at work, or donating blood for free Twinkies without the ability to watch videos, it looks a bit like this:
Sure, Bruce is better, but y'know when it comes to acting most people are better than Keanu.
The point is, the audience reaction to both these faces is uncomfortable laughter in the face of unspeakable evil. Not an intuitive combination. But copping a couple of techniques from a newcomer, Coppola was able to infuse new life into some very dead or undead material.
David Bowie Takes Inspiration From Trent Reznor In 1995
If you've read my column before, there is a tiny chance you know I'm a bit of a Bowie fan. But even if you're not me (and I'm sooo sorry about that), you'd have to recognize David Bowie as a rock legend, making lasting contributions to the glam rock, plastic soul, and electronic music movements. He is also the undisputed champion of sexually harassing Muppets with uncomfortably tight clothing.
By 1995, he'd been a star for over 20 years with nothing to prove. But an artist like Bowie, who had always taken influences from diverse sources such as novelist William Burroughs, drag performer Jayne County, songwriter Bob Dylan, vocalist Anthony Newley, and German electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk, stayed open to new influences. One influence was Trent Reznor, at the height of his gloomy, sexual dangerousness. (Which is a good thing, because being influenced by the new-wave Trent of five years earlier would have been terrible.)
"Hi, I'm Trent and I think tunes are fun!"
In 1992, Bowie was seemingly lost, reuniting with producer Nile Rodgers to release perhaps his worst album -- the poppy and uneven Black Tie White Noise. Reznor, however, was ascending with Pretty Hate Machine and his mix of keyboard programming, distortion, and angst. That carried on into The Downward Spiral, which was exploding as Bowie recorded his album Outside. You can feel its influence.
Although Bowie is too much of a talent to merely ape trends, the overall sound of the track above has far more to do with NIN than Bowie's previous work, and even the overall visual presentation of mixing high art, decay, and leather in one place clearly indicates Bowie was taking notes. After the album, the two would go on to tour together and even collaborate musically on "I'm Afraid Of Americans" in 1997.
*Little footnote here: Even though Bowie clearly took inspiration from Reznor, Reznor's music was also clearly influenced by Bowie's work -- particularly Bowie's Heroes and Scary Monsters. Indeed, if you have any doubt about that, compare Bowie's "Crystal Japan" to Reznor's "A Warm Place" -- a song that was obviously poached and which Reznor has admitted to unconsciously stealing. If you watch the video, you'll notice that even though Bowie was completely aware of the steal, he never mentioned it to Reznor until the two were on television, because he is a miserable bastard whom I will love forever.
Andy Warhol Shakes Up His Stagnant Art With Basquiat
In the 1950s and 1960s, Andy Warhol was at the forefront of the Pop Art Movement -- a concept of art as acts of expression beyond conventional art forms. Warhol rose to prominence from a commercial artist background with mass-produced images of American consumerism. Perhaps, most famously, he did a series of prints and paintings of the varieties of Campbell Soup cans. No, really. Ask your dad. No, wait. He probably won't know. Ask your insufferable Uncle Lester -- the one who wears the beret to Thanksgiving.
You must mix this painting with one can of water before viewing.
In any event, while some found pop art to be a mere joke masquerading as art, others saw a message about American commercialism. The mass production of high art spoke, perhaps, to the art of mass production. But by the 1970s, Warhol's star was fading, and many felt he himself was more concerned with commercialism than art. His collection of "Jewish Geniuses" -- which were essentially blown-up photographs with colors overlaid -- was not warmly received, and Warhol's alleged take on the collection was that "they're going to sell," apparently because "I'm a big sellout living off my name with a minimum of effort" was too many words.
Yes, that's a photo with crayon on it. One million dollars, please.
But then Jean-Michel Basquiat, graffiti artist turned fine artist, burst onto the art scene, putting forth socially conscious art. Basquiat portrayed "suggestive dichotomies" about wealth and poverty and integration and segregation. If you're not hip to Basquiat, just bookmark this page and come back to it after several years of very costly art school. Or maybe just take a gander at a Google Images screencap of some of his most famous works.
Just saved you $60,000 in tuition fees.
Whether you like that kind of art or not, most would agree it's more vibrant and immediate than the mere silkscreen doodlings Warhol was doing at the same time. And Warhol did more than just get influenced by Basquiat; he collaborated with him:
No, really. TWO geniuses made this.
The result was an obvious and striking mixing of styles: Warhol's silkscreen of iconic American capitalism (the Paramount logo) mixed with Basquiat's graffiti-style art. And even though you can see both styles, the final product certainly looks a lot more Basquiat than Warhol. Basquiat not only inspired an elder statesman of the art world, he overwhelmed in collaboration.
Stanley Kubrick Finds Inspiration In David Lynch's First And Weirdest Film
Stanley Kubrick is one of the most respected filmmakers of all time. Spartacus, 2001, A Clockwork Orange, Dr. Strangelove, The Shining, and Full Metal Jacket have all penetrated the fabric of our culture. It's hard to think of another director with work that is so revered on a technical, cinematic level, who has also been reduced to countless jokes, memes, and GIFs. This link in no way does his history justice, but it does give you a taste. It was Kubrick who first captured Nicholson's over-the-top evil before Jack started whipping that persona out for the next 40 years, chewing scenery for millions like it was made out of sugar-coated crack wallpaper.
"Here's Johnny ... and the end of subtlety in my acting career."
In 1980, when Kubrick was making The Shining, he'd already made most of his most iconic films. His place in cinematic history was secure. Which is why it is so amazing that he apparently took tremendous influence from a bizarre first-time filmmaker from Montana, David Lynch, and his surreal, batshit first feature Eraserhead. I could say that's like Meryl Streep taking acting lessons from former YouTube sensation Fred, but Kubrick taking pointers from a glorified student film is even harder to believe. For those of you not familiar with 1977's Eraserhead, here's just a taste. But even though it's just a sample, it's enough to make you see the influence on The Shining and to explain why Kubrick called it one of his favorite films.
Apparently, Kubrick was so impressed with Eraserhead that he played it to the cast of The Shining to get them in the mood for performances. But Eraserhead did more than inspire Kubrick. One of the most notable things about Eraserhead (as even made clear in the clip above) is its sound design. Weird industrial droning noises pervade the film, and the same can be said for The Shining. Although a side-by-side viewing of both films would be most instructive, the similarities even come through in the trailers.
People have also pointed to the rug patterns:
Funny how even a rug pattern can be scary with the right sound and light design.
... and the sexual encounters between protagonists and women who turn out to be monsters.
Funny how it can murder your erection when the bathtub chick you're making out
with turns out to be a monster.
Somehow, a first-time filmmaker left his mark on one of the most celebrated directors of all time. And while that's a testament to Lynch's talent, it also says something important about Kubrick and perhaps all the masters in this article who continued making vibrant work by never becoming too important to learn new things.
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