' ' Cinema Romantico: Studio Logo Potion

Monday, May 26, 2014

Studio Logo Potion

My favorite film studio intro is Paramount’s. It is my favorite partly, of course, because of the intro itself, a snow-capped peak said to be based by original logo artist W.W. Hodkinson on Utah’s Ben Lomond Mountain and subsequently modeled after Peru’s Artesonraju for the live action version. And yes, the look of the logo itself is striking, not just the old-school version which stood fast dramatically, and which is preferable, but the new-school version which starts with the ribbon of stars dropping in from the sky and flying in and encircling the nameless mountain from the left. It seems a callback to the era when motion pictures were an infant concept stationed in that mysterious land known as Los Angeles, far, far away over some mystical alpine vista.

But, as is often the case with such things, I have a more personal connection to it, and that’s why it’s my favorite. It goes back to December 20, 1997, a date which lives in Cinema Romantico infamy, the Saturday I first encountered my hero, Rose DeWitt Bukater in “Titanic.” It was in the grand palace that was the River Hills (may she rest in peace) a two auditorium theater (emphasis on those italics), the screen was ginormous, wrapping around, the sort of screen in which you could become lost like Our Man in the Indian Ocean. Two trailers played. One was "Hard Rain", the other was "Firestorm." Then, silence. Then, the Paramount intro, but still silent. And it was like for but a moment time stopped and I considered where I was and what I was about to watch even if I didn't know what was going to happen and how much it was going to mean to me. Except, somewhere, in those places we don't talk about at parties, I did know. I felt it. Call me a pollyanna, because I am, but it was......spiritual.

I thought of this moment when I heard tigress Lake Bell on a recent B.S. Report talk about that same moment, that moment "in the beginning of the movie when there's the logo of the studio" and how that is the moment she "can look around and sort of experience being in a cinema." "That's the moment," she continued, "I take a breath." I nearly shed a tear in my cubicle. Because I always take a breath, too. Air high-five, Lake.

The studio logo can be a tone-setter, yes, like "Last of the Mohicans" dispensing with the infamous 20th Century Fox Studio Fanfare, conducted by Alfred Newman, to already kick in with its score, those drums - God, those drums - pulsing on the soundtrack and raising your heartbeat before you even realize it's been raised and surmising the entire movie you are about to see by saying with this strategic choice that is so urgent and so fierce and so important that it can't even wait for the opening credits to start. That's beautiful, but that's retrospection, and that's not what I'm talking about.

I hate "Armageddon." Lord, I've said mean things about "Armageddon", and I'm not here to take them back. But I remember watching it. I remember the moment it started. I remember seeing the Touchstone logo. And in that moment, I took a breath. Movies like "Armageddon" and the studios that make them threaten every summer to turn the movie business monstrosity craving the almighty dollar above all else while leading to incessant recitations of the woefully misleading pseudo-prophecy that they are merely providing "what the people want" since this statement implies that "the people" in the equation are also provided alternatives to make up their own minds which outside of the most major metropolitan areas they are not. Thus, quality cinema threatens to join the long gone dinos. Thus, the studio logo should theoretically be a symbol of fear. Yet.....

.....ironically, every time a studio logo appears onscreen, regardless of the film that follows, is always when I most believe.


Wretched Genius said...

Correction, sir: River Hills was only one screen. The second screen was the Riviera. RH was designed to show movies in CinemaScope, while the Riviera was built to show standard formatted films.

Nick Prigge said...

That's right, isn't it? I remember it always being referred to as River Hills/Riviera but my mind, as it so often does, confused matters.