"Sergio Leone and the Spaghetti Western"Written by Sarah Anne Polsinelli
Clint Eastwood should have thanked Italy's film industry when accepting his second Best Director Oscar for this year's critically acclaimed Million Dollar Baby, because without advent of Italian-born Spaghetti Western in 1960s, Eastwood wouldn't have a career. Italians didn't invent Western, but they took an American staple and made it their own. By 1960, US film production companies had exhausted good-guy-fighting-for-justice storyline, and film sales dwindled. Italian filmmakers capitalized on lucrative American market by tweaking conventional plot, adding a few crucial stylistic elements (including memorable musical scores) and selling them back to Americans.
It was golden age of Italian Cinema (1956-1971) and between years 1963 and 1973, over 400 Italian-style Westerns (dubbed "Spaghetti Westerns" by American audiences) were made.
Italian Western director Sergio Leone got tumbleweed rolling. He was first to make a huge impact in United States, with quintessential Spaghetti Western The Good, Bad, and Ugly, making a star out of a young, relatively unknown (but incredibly handsome) American TV actor named Clint Eastwood.
The graphic violence attributed to series of films that Leone would complete may have had something to do with Vietnam War, which took place during this phenomenon.
Leone's first film, 1964's breakthrough hit A Fistful of Dollars (Per un Pugno di Dollari) was based on Akira Kurosawa's samurai epic Yojimbo. Leone was a postmodern mannerist, exaggerating artistic elements of a film to make a profound impact on viewer, like close-up shots that would fill up entire screen and exceedingly slow movements.
In contrast to Spaghetti Western genre, American Westerns abided by an unwritten ethical code called Hays Code, which prevented shooter and victim from being in same frame together (so if frame was focused on victim, shot would come from off-screen for example). But with an eye for arresting violence, Leone had a different view on censorship. The Roman director once said: "My representation of death is moral as well as intellectual."
Take psychedelic opening sequence for A Fistful of Dollars: It begins with a hazy white spot on a blood-red screen, accompanied by sound of gunshots combined with Ennio Morricone's unique music. Morricone became instantly famous for his one of a kind musical scores - The Good, Bad and Ugly theme is most familiar of these.
"Beatles for Dummies"Written by Sarah Anne Polsinelli
When someone says "The Beatles", what images come to mind? I see a black and white picture of four guys onstage, sporting mop-top haircuts and grey collarless suits. To many people, that's what The Beatles are - a black and white TV image of their performance on The Ed Sullivan Show. In spirit of unbiased journalism and avoiding clichés, I will not tell you that The Beatles were greatest and most influential rock band ever. Nor will I tell you that their talents have been unrivalled for 35 years, since their breakup in 1970. I prefer facts, so here's one: The Beatles are best-selling group of all time, with worldwide sales exceeding 1.3 billion records Here's another one: During record-breaking week of April 4, 1964, singles by The Beatles were in Billboard's top five positions in singles chart -"Can't Buy Me Love", "Twist and Shout", "She Loves You", "I Want to Hold Your Hand", and "Please Please Me". The following week, 14 of their songs were in Billboard Hot 100.
Beatlemania exploded in America in February, 1964, just months after President Kennedy's assassination, when John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr arrived at New York's JFK airport. They were greeted by thousands of screaming teen girls, and foursome had no idea that they were there for them. They appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show later that week to an audience of 73 million people, still one of highest-rated programs of all time.
Within first few months of Beatlemania in 1964, United Artists quickly produced A Hard Day's Night to capitalize on their infectious popularity. The comedy starred all four Beatles, and is an exaggerated version of 36 hours in life of The Beatles. It was a massive hit and was followed by Help! next year, which was produced in colour, but not nearly as "colourful" as first.
They toured for only a few years, recording their albums in interim. To escape throng of hysterical young girls that followed them around, they were forced to sneak out of bathroom windows and swiftly duck into limousines. Many of their concerts were even drowned out by high-pitched shrieks and squeals of girls.
In a March 1966 interview with The London Standard, John Lennon said, "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue with that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first? Rock ‘n' roll or Christianity".
Naturally, this upset a lot of people, despite fact that Lennon's tongue-in-cheek remark had been quoted out of context. Lennon was making a social commentary about an overall decline of Christian faith, but nonetheless radio stations in South and Midwestern US banned their music. The Vatican denounced Lennon's words and South Africa banned Beatles music from radio. The media circus surrounding event and stress from touring led to band's decision to quit performing live, and in August 1966 they put their final "official" live concert.
They spent rest of their career as a band, writing and recording music, taking best elements of rock, pop, folk and psychedelia and making it their own. On June 2, 1967, they released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, first popular concept album. This was album that raised their reputations as musical innovators and was a big catalyst, starting art rock movement while remaining incredibly popular.
But feelings of success from album quickly turned to sorrow when long-time manager Brian Epstein died on August 27, 1967. He was proverbial glue that held them together. There are many different rumours pertaining to breakup of band, but this was key event that eventually led to their demise.