This week we lost one of the true innovators of horror, a director whose works spanned six decades. Naturally for a man so well-respected in the business, there has been an outpouring of grief, thanks, and remembrance from family, friends, fans, and those who worked with him. Personally, Craven was the first horror director I was aware of and was of a massive influence in my love of the genre. His creation, Fred Krueger, was the first horror icon I learned of, and A Nightmare On Elm Street remains both my favourite horror film ever, and my favourite horror series. While I haven’t yet seen all of his work, now is as good a time as any to watch those and also catch up on old favourites. Craven crafted some of the most important horror films of his generation, with Nightmare, Scream, and Last House On The Left each a ground-breaker, but he also tried his hand at acting, appearing in a number of memorable cameos, and directing outside of horror, most notably in Music Of The Heart – another favourite of mine.
Few people that we don’t personally know will have a major impact on our lives, but Craven was instrumental in leading many directors into the business thanks to the nightmares and dreams he inspired, and he will always be someone I look to as being important in my past, present, and future love of film.
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Remembered primarily for appearing in all of the seven Police Academy movies as the socially shy, but overtly gun-totin’, violence lovin’ Eugene Tackleberry, David Graf was a mainstay throughout many, many 80s and 90s TV shows as a guest actor, and as a voice actor. As a fan of Police Academy my whole life, it was a shock when he died. I remember playing with friends in my younger days, pretending to be cops etc, and many of us wanting to pretend they were Tackleberry. It seems that he was a genuine and funny guy who is fondly remembered by everyone he worked with, a gent in an often cruel and spiteful business.
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One of the most recognizable voices of the Grunge era, a singer whose performances and vocals strike fear and inspiration into the hearts of any wannabe, Staley was the frontman of Alice In Chains – a band who always considered themselves to be Metal rather than Grunge. Like many performers of the era, Staley was catapulted into stardom over a short space of time and became embroiled in the difficulties which such experiences can breed.
Remembered as one of the most powerful voices of his generation, and should be noted as a gifted lyricist too as he penned many of the band’s songs, his tortured vocals suiting the often grim subject matter yet when blended with Cantrell’s harmonies and music, a sound unlike any other band was produced.
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As the gaming world becomes increasingly focused on budget and meeting releases over delivering quality, of AAA titles which feel more like interactive movies than games, of graphics over playability, of churning out yearly rehashes of the same hit formula rather than innovation, of alpha white male chauvinism and ignorance over fun, it seems like the directors and figureheads of the world’s biggest companies are looking more like Gordon Gekko, or your boss, or walking Platinum cards, than actual people with a love for entertainment. Satoru Iwata always looked like he was having fun, whether it was talking about numbers and sales figures, or unveiling a new piece of software or hardware, he looked like he relished every moment and genuinely loved the Business. The outpouring of grief and gratitude over the past week has shown the wider world that gaming isn’t all about sales, money, trolls, and young white men blowing stuff up, but that it can be about people seeing their dreams realised, and creating a brighter and better world for the rest of us.
Iwata was first and foremost a gamer, with a love of playing and creating fun experiences which anyone should be able to enjoy. Instrumental in the creation of such hits as Balloon Fight, Earthbound, Kirby, and Pokemon before he even joined Nintendo. Within two years of joining Nintendo he became the company’s first President outside of the Yamauchi family and dedicated himself to delivering new and unique experiences which other companies could not provide, leading to the creation of both the DS and Wii family of consoles. Whatever your stance on where Iwata led Nintendo in the past decade, they have nevertheless been successful and continued to release some stellar games. Dying as he started preparations to lead Nintendo into more uncharted territory, we can only hope that those who take over his position strive to fulfill his legacy, and dream that others can strive to be as dedicated a leader as he was without forgetting why they work in gaming – to make great games.
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John Ritter may be famous for being an accomplished TV and film actor and comedian, but most who knew him remember him as being a good, grounded, humble man. Appearing in countless TV series and films, winning an Emmy, A Golden Globe, and many more nominations, he was also an accomplished voice actor, is will be remembered fondly for his performances as a father figure and straight guy placed in over the top, ridiculous comic scenarios. Personally, I will always remember him in two of my favourite movies of all time – as Ben Healy in Problem Child, and as Ben Hanscom in It, and of course for his memorable performance as Ted in Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
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Christoper Reeve will go down in history as the most recognisable face of the superhero Superman, and his mild-mannered alter ego Clark Kent. Starring as the superhero in four films over a period of 10 years, Reeve arguably suffered from not being able to step away from that persona in the eyes of the public, making a relatively small number of feature and Television performances over his thirty year career, but the appearances he did make are memorable. After suffer a terrible, crippling accident in 1995, Reeve’s career took on a new phase as he fought, acting as an activist for stem cell research, and for Hollywood to become more conscious of tackling important issues. Even before the accident, Reeve was known for his charity work and contains to be remembered for trying, heroically, to make the world a better place. Superman IV was one of the first movies I ever saw at the cinema and Reeve is therefore an irreplaceable part of my childhood and will be sorely missed.
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Arguably the greatest stand-up comedian of all time, and one of the first and most successful to transfer his talents onto the big screen, Pryor’s wit was often rooted in tragedy and his ability to instantly win over an audience with his charm. Multi-talented, multi-faceted, his award-winning performances touched on subjects such as race, politics, and sexuality, often with a self-deprecating and shockingly vulgar approach which audiences continue to be bowled over by. With an alarmingly difficult early life, Pryor had a brief stint in the Army before setting foot on the stage. Eventually writing and performing on TV shows such as Sanford And Son and Saturday Night Live, he found find greater mainstream success in a number of major hits including Brewster’s Millions, See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Superman III. With the saddest eyes to ever look over an audience at a comedy show, and with endlessly energetic, manic performances, Pryor continues to make millions laugh uncontrollably.
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Conservationist, animal trainer, friend, and protector ‘Crocodile Hunter’ Steve Irwin was one of Australia’s most famous and beloved exports. His light-hearted yet emotive, and highly entertaining approach to sharing awareness on the plight of many endangered species raised him to the pantheon of greatest TV wildlife experts. Popular with everyone he met and anyone who saw his TV work, Irwin has been, and will continue to be sorely missed by fans, family, and friends. Growing up I always loved Nature and Animal documentaries, and I’ll always remember the first time I saw Steve Irwin on TV, lying tongue to nose with one of the deadliest snakes on the planet – the next day everyone was talking about it, including people who had shown zero interest in such things before. He made a difference.
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Vonnegut was one of a handful of 20th Century writers whose works speak to an ever-evolving youth counter-culture and which transcend time. The satirical voice through scenes of absurdity, war, carnage, the science fiction blending with absolute realism has placed him as a writer who will always find an audience with every new generation of disenfranchised teen, and his pacifist, anti-authoritarian stance ensures he is a favourite amongst those teens who move on to a larger interest in literature and politics. Outspoken both in his written and vocal words on many subjects, particularly war and politics which he saw as increasingly intertwining, he was a decorated veteran of WWII – the experiences of the war leading to his most famous works. An accomplished artist, free-thinker, and writer until his death, Vonnegut’s works are vital, funny, horrific, and contain all the lessons an angry young artist needs.
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With Heath Ledger’s boyish good looks and obvious charm, it seemed like his path in Hollywood was already laid out before him, as destined to appear as leading man or love interest in puerile romantic comedies and watered down dramas. A closer look at the actor’s short career uncovers some outstanding performances, proving that he was determined to avoid these trappings and emerge as one of Hollywood’s greatest actors of the new century. it almost seemed that he would follow up a light offering with something more meaty – The Patriot followed 10 Things I Hate About You, A Knight’s Tale came along side Monster’s Ball, while his final five performances may rank amongst the greatest quintet of performances without a dud that there has even been. Dying at the shockingly young age of 28, he had achieved more than most actors do in half a century of work, and it was painfully clear that he had the brightest of futures.
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