So Bad Its Good: Josh Olson on His Favorite Cult Movie Musicals

WRITER’S NOTE: This article is about a screening which took place back in 2012.

Writer Josh Olson, best known for penning the screenplay to David Cronenberg’s “A History of Violence,” dropped by New Beverly Cinema to introduce two of his favorite cult movie musicals: “The Apple” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” These films were not well received critically or commercially when first released, but they have since gained a cult following, and the fans have come to appreciate them for reasons the filmmakers did not exactly intend. This was especially the case with “The Apple” which has since become one of the most unique movie musicals ever made.

Olson thanked those who came to this double feature and made clear to us he worships at the altar of “The Apple” and shows it to those unfamiliar with it (a.k.a. virgins) everywhere. He even remarked how two close friends of his, after they saw it, had a baby. The movie tells the story of two young Canadian musicians, Alphie (George Gilmour) and Bibi (Catherine Mary Stewart), who travel to America to participate in an infinitely popular music festival. They are approached by the powerful entertainment agent Mr. Boogalow (Vladek Sheybal) to sign with him, but Alphie sees the dark side of the music industry and refuses to be a part of it. Bibi, however, finds herself caught up in the wild lifestyle this industry has to offer, and it is up to Alfie to rescue her from Boogalow’s evil clutches.

In addition to screenwriting, Olson works for a website run by filmmaker Joe Dante called Trailers from Hell, and he talked about how the trailer for “The Apple” was one of the first he did a commentary track for.

Josh Olson: I stand by almost everything I said on that commentary except at one point I did use the phrase “it’s so bad it’s good,” and I regret that today. This movie has taught me that that phrase is meaningless. Intention does not matter. There are great movies out there that are so much better than the filmmakers intended them to make or had a right to make. Everything is accidental in this business so I don’t think it matters. I think either a movie is great or it is not, and there are movies that people think are wonderful that just won’t entertain you one iota as much as “The Apple” will.

Olson made it clear to the audience he will never again use the phrase “so bad its good” in reference to “The Apple” as he considers it to be one of the greatest movies in the history of the world. Once it was shown, he came back to the front of the audience to introduce the movie version of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and said there was no way to top “The Apple,” so he wasn’t going to even try.

Olson talked briefly about “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” before it started. It was directed by Michael Schultz who previously made “Car Wash” which Olson described as a “weird, urban Robert Altman film,” and also “Cooley High” which he called one of the most formative films from his childhood. Olson told the audience at the New Beverly how Schultz got involved in making a cinematic adaptation of the Beatles’ classic album.

Josh Olson: Robert Stigwood (one of the most successful movie producers of the 1970’s) came to him and offered him “Grease” to direct, and Schultz looked at it and said, “This is fucking horrible and I don’t want anything to do with it.” So, he passed on “Grease” and it then went on to make a trillion dollars, and Robert Stigwood came back to him with the idea of turning the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” into a movie starring the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton. To this, Schultz said, “Wow, this sounds like a worse idea than ‘Grease.’ But what do I know, I passed on ‘Grease.’”

After watching the “Sgt. Pepper” movie, we were all in agreement with Olson that it was one of the most “batshit” ideas for a feature film, and it remains one of the biggest critical disasters in motion picture history. Olson, however, did try to rationalize this particular movie’s existence as it was made back in the 1970’s.

Josh Olson: It was a better time back then, and you have to have the yin to balance out the yang. The really good ones (movies) were almost indistinguishable from the really bad ones. But we had people thinking “Sgt. Pepper” was a good idea for a movie, and we also had people who were making “Apocalypse Now” back then, so it was a small price to pay.

Big thanks to Josh Olson for putting this crazy double feature together. “The Apple” isn’t so much a movie musical as it is an experience, and you won’t find another one quite like it. As for “Sgt. Pepper,” we may never get another opportunity to see it on the big screen again, so those who stayed could not quite say they regretted sitting through it. But yeah, it really was a bad idea for a movie.

Anna Kendrick on Singing Take After Take in ‘The Last Five Years’

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It should be no secret by now that Anna Kendrick has quite the singing voice. Whether it’s the independent musical film “Camp,” “Pitch Perfect,” “Pitch Perfect 2” or “Into the Woods,” she consistently dazzles us with her singing whether she’s appearing on the silver screen or on Broadway. In “The Last Five Years,” Richard LaGravenese’s adaptation of Jason Robert Brown’s Off-Broadway show, she plays Cathy Hiatt, an aspiring actress who falls madly in love with the very talented writer Jamie Wellerstein (played by Jeremy Jordan). But as Jamie’s star quickly rises, Cathy finds herself struggling in her acting career to where she begins to feel invisible around Jamie. Essentially, “The Last Five Years” looks at a relationship’s exhilarating highs and its emotionally draining lows, and it proves to be a musical which is far more character driven than one which thrives on spectacle.

I was lucky enough to attend the press conference for “The Last Five Years” held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, California, and Kendrick was in attendance along with Jordan and LaGravenese. I was particularly interested in how Kendrick was able to keep the songs she sang fresh for her in each take. By this, I mean how she kept the songs alive for her to where she wasn’t just giving us something which felt emotionally dead or sounded over-rehearsed. You can perform a song or a monologue so many times before it becomes stale and uninteresting, and you have to keep shaking things up so you don’t end up looking like a robot.

According to “The Last Five Years’” IMDB page, Kendrick had to sing “Still Hurting” 17 times straight through. I brought this up during the press conference and LaGravenese quickly said it was because of all the different camera setups which had to be done for the scene, and this led Kendrick to joke about how much easier it would be to make movies without the camera. When it came to keeping “Still Hurting” fresh from take to take, her answer was complex to where it sounded like she is still trying to figure out how to do that.

Anna Kendrick: You know, if I trained at RADA I might actually be able to verbalize that kind of thing and the fact is I didn’t and I have only learned by working, and I’ve been working since I was a kid,” Kendrick said. “I don’t know and to try to put it into the words would be to destroy the thing. I guess you try to find a balance between going into the material and going to a personal place because you never want to tip it too much in one direction. I feel like I drew a lot of energy from the support of the crew who were unbelievably compassionate and understanding, and nothing gave me greater inspiration than seeing the 40-year old dolly operator in his classic Hawaiian t-shirt listening in. He had the same earpiece in his ear that I had, and watching his face as he counted and I could feel his body counting, all these people are honoring a thing that you’re trying to do and that gives you an unbelievable reserve of energy.

So, after all these years as an actress, it still sounds like this is something she is still working on, and that’s okay. An actor’s, or actress,’ work is never done as the best ones continue to work at their craft year after year to improve upon it dramatically (no pun intended), and it was refreshing to hear Kendrick admit she doesn’t have all the answers because most actors do not. If you think you’re the only one who is struggling with trying to keep a piece you have performed several times fresh and meaningful for yourself, you’re not. Every actor does whether it’s a movie, a play or a TV show they’re working on, but they keep going because they’re passionate about their work. Kendrick may have accomplished a lot as an actress so far, but her work as an actor is never done. Once it is, she may have to retire.

“The Last Five Years” is now available to own and rent on DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital.