"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
Most famous directors have a signature style that lets you know you are watching one of their films: David Lynch will give you red curtains and flickering matches, Scorsese will have “Gimmie Shelter” slipped somewhere in between the violent acts of mob crime, and Steven Spielberg … well, Steven Spielberg has a lot of recurring motifs. But at what point does a cinematic thumbprint turn into lazy self-plagiarism?
The answer to this theoretical film query has been answered by none other than Michael Bay, whose auteur work can be boiled down to “big things blowing up or hitting other big things.” But even with that not-too-original concept, Bay has gotten sloppy: allegedly taking direct shots from his 2005 flop “The Island” and putting them in “Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon.”
Last week, a viral-video pirate named Jermain Odreman spent a considerable amount of time watching Bay’s movies in slow-motion in order to catch almost identical sequences from both films. The footage is unquestionably similar, down to the type of car that flips over, the angle of the smoke from the explosion, and the damage done by flying shrapnel.
Considering the hundreds of millions of dollars Bay had to play with for his third “Transformers” movie, it’s an egregious insult that he’d recycle old footage. Sure, we may pack the theaters of his films because we want to mindlessly watch giant pieces of machinery go up in a massive fireballs, but the very least (seriously, the very least) that Bay could do is show us new machinery and new fireballs. Otherwise, what are we paying him for … his thought-provoking dialogue or fully developed characters?
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)