Thursday, May 21, 2009

Riding Coattails

The biopic is an interesting concept – you get the whole life story of an individual in the span of one movie and by the maker’s of such a film and the quality of the performances you walk away feeling more or less impressed with the real life figure.

There had been much talk about creating a biopic on the Charles Cross biography of Kurt Cobain – and if you’ve read the book it’s an all right read. There have been several parts of the book that have been disputed by many – and the fact that several important figures in Kurt’s life refused to participate – leaves the story incomplete. When you take into account Kurt’s widow Courtney Love has been scraping the bottom of his fortune – you almost have the question the validity of such a story. From all outwardly appearances Kurt’s story is being sold (as well as his journals and song catalog) to keep Courtney afloat financially – is this the best reason to tell Kurt’s story?

If we were to take his story at face value – and there seems like an awful lot of questions still remaining to be answered before I personally can do that – but if we take Courtney’s word as truth – then shouldn’t Kurt’s story be told as a cautionary tale? It should be told with an underlying theme of the sadness of success – as that’s what the public has been told for the reason for Kurt’s death. If it plays out as Charles Cross’ book tells us – his life is almost a prelude to his “suicide” – and that’s not how anyone should be remembered.

Even though I’m a big fan of Nirvana and would love to see a poignant film on Kurt’s life - the reasons for telling Kurt’s story are in the wrong place – therefore shouldn’t be told in my opinion.

I bring this all up because there’s been some movement on the biopic on Martin Luther King Jr. – and it would seem that one of his children who acts as the executor of his estate - is selling the story without the consent of his siblings. They say in the article that he has made profitable – yet questionable decisions regarding licensing their father’s memory. The story of Martin Luther King is an amazing one – that’s for sure – but it is also a very cautionary tale that everyone can gain something from – but it has to be done in movie form - for the right reasons.

What better reason would be than unity? Of equal rights? Of the historic moment our country experienced with the improbable election of Barak Obama? This is a great time to tell his story – and I would welcome it given a competent production. Most certainly the film will feature his speeches and protests – and what he’s been able to do to push human rights to the forefront from his life and also after his death. With that said – it’s extremely important that his story is told for the right reasons and from what it sounds like it’s not.

I bring up Cobain and Dr. King in the same posting as I’m more familiar with the Cobain story – and know that in the rush to tell his story shortcuts were made by people looking to profit from it. I’m drawing a parallel between the two and infer that in a rush to tell Dr. King’s story that executors don’t always look out for the memory as much as they do their own pocketbooks. Last thing we want is an incomplete or inaccurate take on Dr. King’s life in order to make a buck.

Yes, I am not naïve enough to believe movies are made for reasons other than money – and both biopic’s if they are made will make money – but it isn’t wrong to believe that even the movie industry should show some respect and not make films to line the pockets of executors who have a history of selling out loved ones.


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