Normally, I wouldn’t write about something that almost
everyone else is writing about; eventually, it all begins to sound the
same. But in this case, I’ll make an
exception. On Monday afternoon I fell
upon the news that Stan Winston had died.
As soon as I read the headline on CHUD’s homepage, I just sat there and
felt a little hollow.
Instances like these are very peculiar. These are people that you don’t know
personally, but the work that they did had an impact on your life. It’s similar to the feeling you get after
hearing that a relative, who you only see once or twice every five years, has
died. It’s sad and affecting because
those short memories paint a broader picture, making you realize how much of an
impact they really had on you.
Without question, I am an unabashed film geek. Others have their cars or their sports- I
have my movies. Some of my fondest
memories of going to the cinema more often than not involve seeing a flick with
my father, mother and brother. Certain
movies, whether they are good or bad, bring me back to the day in which I saw
them. Take Batman Returns,
for example. On a warm Sunday night in
June of 1992, the four of us went to the now defunct Sheridan Mall Cinemas to
catch a screening of Tim Burton’s sequel.
We went after a soccer tournament that lasted the entire weekend, so a movie
with the parentals was definitely in order.
And what better film to see? The
hype was huge, the lines were long and my anticipation was about ready to
pop. The film itself was great (for a
Tim Burton film, maybe not so much a Batman film), but when I
watch the film I am always taken back to that summer of ’92- the sounds, the
smells. That’s what makes movies
special, the feelings they stir up inside of you. Every single film that I see brings me back to a particular point
in my life, some good, some bad. But
overtime, they become as much a part of your childhood as your first kiss or
loss of a friend or family member.
Needless to say, when I came upon the news of Winston’s
death, I wasn’t sure how to feel. Hell,
I didn’t know the guy, but he was responsible for some of my favorite childhood
memories in the cinema, Batman Returns being one of them. The Terminator, Terminator
2, Aliens, The Monster Squad, Edward
Scissorhands, Predator, Jurassic Park,
others too countless to name. This was
the guy who put his dreams on the big screen so we could have our own. In many ways he felt like a family member.
I’m not going to talk like I’m an aficionado of the special
effects industry, because I’m not. I
admire those men and women for what they do and how their contributions impact
the industry as a whole. There are only
three names that I know when it comes to practical special effects: Ray
Harryhausen, Rick Baker and Stan Winston.
These men are well respected in the industry and among their peers for
being the best, plain and simple. They
create what we dream up. They laid the
groundwork for everyone that followed in their shoes.
Yes, Stan Winston Studios is still around, but without the
man himself, it won’t feel the same.
I’ve always dreamt that someday, I would have the honor and privilege of
working with Winston on one of my screenplays, bringing odd and wonderful
creatures to life. In my opinion, he
brought a very mysterious profession (at least, in my eyes) to the
foreground. Everyone wants to create something for a living, make something that’s uniquely their own. Winston did
that and then some. He created memories
that we can all latch onto and never grow tired of. It’s incredibly difficult to create something that is both
personal and widely accessible to the masses.
With his endless imagination, Winston brought a whole generation to the
realization that such a feat is possible.
And for that, I am entirely grateful.
Wherever Stan Winston is now, I can only imagine the
creations he’s conjuring up as we speak.