Tuesday, September 14, 2010

betelegeuse, betelegeuse, betelegeuse

Originally published on Associated Content ...

From astronomy to Tim Burton and beyond ...

The other night I woke up around 2:30 am to answer nature's call and looked out of the window and there was Orion, the constellation, lying in the night sky, the same angle as I was lying in my bed. I thought I must be dreaming, as I had never seen the constellation quite so large or close or vivid before. But after I came back from the bathroom he was still there. We're not exactly closer to the sky in Florida, but sometimes it sure feels like it—in a good way. A little internet searching to find out a bit more about a constellation that I have been familiar with since my childhood (but not quite this familiar) reminded me that the constellation has two large, well-known stars, Rigel and Betelgeuse.
... Red supergiants like Betelgeuse ("The Armpit of the Giant") are gigantic bloated globes of cooler gas. If such a star were to replace the sun in the solar system, it might extend beyond Mars' orbit. ... Betelegeuse is near the end of its career, some 522 light-years away, but not shining with a steady light. It is a "pulsating" star, expanding and contracting spasmodically with a diameter that varies from 550 to 920 times that of the sun, but so irregular are these pulsations that no one can predict exactly when it will expand or contract. ... In trying to describe Betelegeuse many years ago, a lecturer at New York's Hayden Planetarium noted that it is "like an old man with his strength almost entirely spent, panting in the asthmatic decrepitude of old age." ... Betelgeuse is in its final stage and could explode in only a few million years.Space.com

Betelegeuse, betelegeuse, betelegeuse! Now I remember that's where Tim Burton got the name.
Beetlejuice, one of Tim Burton's good movies. Sigh. His is a career that I follow, but it has been filled with disappointment (for me) recently. I guess I expect too much. Since Ed Wood, which I still adore, I don't just go to enjoy his movies, I want brilliance. Maybe that's unfair. But movies aren't churned out by directors today the way they used to be. The budgets are bloated. The special effects are de riguer. And Burton has always been of the auteur variety, with huge budgets (since Batman) and huge expectations. He always delivers on the visuals. And there are definitely flashes of brilliance.  

TiM from Ken Turner on Vimeo

Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and even Batman (although I have no desire to see that again) are all good, even great, movies. Ed Wood, brilliant. In Batman Returns, Michelle Pfeiffer was great, both with Keaton and in that slinky shiny cat suit. Mars Attacks was dumb as a stump, but had fun moments and works on television. Both Sleepy Hollow and Sweeney Todd have great moments, but some of the gore/decapitation becomes tiresome. But Planet of the Apes and Big Fish were huge misfires, only cool in that Helena Bonham Carter joined the party. As much as I love that Burton and Johnny Depp are BFFs, their Charlie and the Chocolate Factory totally creeped me out. I'm sorry, but I'll take the Gene Wider's Willy Wonka any day over Depp's weird pseudo-Michael Jackson impersonation. And the Corpse Bride, eh. Let's just say it's no Nightmare Before Christmas. This year's Alice in Wonderland was very hit and miss—mostly miss. I still hold hope for next year's Dark Shadows, and I'm intrigued by the idea of his telling a fairy tale from the witch's (Angelina Jolie?) point of view in Maleficent. I'm a glass half-full kinda gal.

But back to Beetlejuice. There was something about the combination of Burton's wacky vision, Keaton's acerbic humor and winona Ryder's morose heroine that really clicked. Not to mention Catherine O'Hara, Jeffrey Jones, Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin—all perfect. And it was just fun. Nasty in spots, but still great, silly fun. Actually, the nastiness was part of the fun. I even liked the animated series, which Burton also produced. But what I didn't know was that there was a sequel planned, and that the script is still out there, waiting. The title sounds cringe-worthy, just at first, but if you take a moment and think about it, it could have worked. Maybe. Instead of Hollywood always churning out the next comic-book-turned-action flick, maybe they should consider ... Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian!
Burton hired Jonathan Gems to write a sequel titled Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian in 1990. "Tim thought it would be funny to match the surfing backdrop of a beach movie with some sort of German Expressionism, because they're totally wrong together", Gems reflected. The story followed the Deetz family moving to Hawaii, where Charles is developing a resort. They soon discover that his company is building on the burial ground of an ancient Hawaiian Kahuna. The spirit comes back from the afterlife to cause trouble, and Betelgeuse becomes a hero by winning a surf contest with magic. Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder agreed to do the film, on the condition that Burton directed, but he became distracted with Batman Returns. ... Burton was still interested with Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian in early-1991. ... In March 1997, Gems stated that the "Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian script is still owned by The Geffen Film Company and it will likely never get made." ... On June 6, 2010, while promoting Toy Story 3, Michael Keaton mentioned he would do a sequel for Beetlejuice in a heartbeat and it was the only role he would love to do again. In April 2010, Geena Davis as well expressed interest in returning for a sequel.—Wikipedia
Or ... maybe not.

But back to Betelguese, "but so irregular are these pulsations that no one can predict exactly when it will expand or contract but so irregular are these pulsations that no one can predict exactly when it will expand or contract." Hopefully Tim Burton's star is not a red giant that has peaked and is on the wane, with erratic pulses of brilliance. I'm hoping for a more steady glow, with upcoming Dark Shadows and even the animated version of The Addams Family. Here's hopin' ...

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