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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

When I was 30, I found myself back in school for theater while divorcing my abusive husband and early in my relationship with my partner, Ben, and the opportunity to direct a production of this beautiful little musical fell into my lap and shaped me more than I realized in the moment. Little Shop of Horrors means a lot to me.


I didn't know/remember that Frank Oz directed this until the title card came up this viewing. I was a little skeptical (even after seeing this movie many many times) but hot damn, he directs the hell out of this film! The framing, the lighting, the pacing: all excellent. I paid a lot of attention to the set elements this time around. It takes a really deft hand and excellent collaboration to dial in that kind of subtle but present artifice. I loved how cognizant I was of it being a movie set and that all of it was practical. It's a myth, allegory, but it's tangible. Really remarkable work. Some of my favorite "heightened reality" or "magical realism" on film.


Rick Moranis is adorable and so talented. Rather than lament his understandable retirement, I celebrate the films we have with him. Sadly, there are only one or two left on my list.


I love the Greek Chorus so much. I'm glad so much of their snappy dialogue made it to the film but I wish it was a little more. The way they emerge from the darkness in Suppertime gives me chills every single time. The combination of their movements and the costumes and the lighting is divine.


IMDB tells me this is the only movie Bill Murray and Steve Martin appear in together and that is BONKERS to me. One of the best parts of this film is seeing a lot of artists/comedians who love and respect each other just playing. That's the dream.


And then there's Audrey. Lovely Audrey. I relate a little too much to Audrey and I'm torn between exploring that in writing right now and not. I guess suffice to say that I found my Seymour and avoided that nasty plant business and now we've found our somewhere that's green. I don't love the Disneyfied ending of the movie, but I'm deeply grateful that it spares me from the exchange between Audrey and Seymour as she's dying. That "Somewhere That's Green" reprise wrecks me. A quick appreciation for the Audrey's I've known: the excellent Ellen Greene, Kerry Butler, Hayley Mason, Caitlin Rowe. You ladies rock.


(I've seen this movie so many times but I still always forget this moment exists.)


Marker on watercolor paper, stain on wood





I'm very glad I got decent shots right off the bat because I paused to go to the bathroom during this and the largest frame fell off the wall and broke. My superstitious mother would tell me it means someone has died. I think I just didn't use adequate mounting putty.


Takeaways:

-I bought Tombow markers my first semester back in school because I'd seen people do really cool watercolor like effects. I watched a ton of YouTube videos but could never really make it work. I decided to try again because I wanted watercolor but also a vibrancy I can never quite achieve with watercolors and after I found an Instagram account (@frauleinfischer - such lovely work) doing beautiful flowers this way, this seemed like the project to try again.

-I thought a lot about architecture on this viewing and the lovely, late 19th-century elements that persevered in Skid Row and then thought about Victorian solariums and the idea of literally framing Audrey II in the trappings of that time came into my brain. I wanted a sense of it bursting out but when I thought about building three dimensional vines, it felt contrary to the heightened realism Frank Oz created. I almost wish I would have pushed those vines further? But ultimately I think it's got decent balance.

-The pods were maybe/probably/definitely unnecessary to this art but they made me giggle every time they showed up so pbbbbbbt


Additional Content:

This scared the poo out of me which is why I know I had to do it. I've been thinking a lot about what I want from doing any of this and the old, cynical part of my brain is like "to monetize your art!" and that's just not true. I want to share bits of myself and learn to be vulnerable and singing has so long been part of who I am, I had the impulse to record myself singing this song... so I did it. And all I want to write now are apologies and excuses. But that's not helpful. So here's this thing.


Shannon sings "Somewhere That's Green" This is ultimately for Ben. I love you, Seymour. Sorry about all the glittah. AND SPEAKING OF SINGING: See you next week for our first Christopher Guest flick, A Mighty Wind

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