Archive for December, 2011

Thirty Day Movie Challenge: Day Twenty-Six

I’m still determined to be finished with this by the end of 2011. Useless, completely unwarranted and unreasonable depression aside, I’m ready to move on, and I’m hoping to actually do that.

The fact that the year is almost over is just a coincidence. I’ve been ready for substantial change for a long time, and I’ll make a decent move of some kind as soon as I can. It’s just a question of when, and if it just happens to be in the opening moments of 2012, then that’s just the way it’s going to be.

Coincidences, I promise you. I still actively loathe and try to avoid New Year’s resolutions.

And Jesus, are these some weird, intense thoughts to play around with on a relatively quiet Christmas Eve. It’s probably best for everyone, if we just head into the first of the final five reviews for the Thirty-Day (well, a day or two more than thirty at this juncture) Challenge.

Let’s save the intense stuff for Valentine’s Day.

Or something.

I don’t know. Let’s just save it for some other time.

I’m actually in a passable mood at the moment.

30 Day Movie Challenge

Day Twenty-Six: Movie You’re Embarrassed to Say You Like

End of Days (1999)
Directed by: Peter Hyams
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Byrne, Robin Tunney

There’s something vaguely perverse about having a movie list that includes both Seven Samurai and one of the worst movies to ever star a Governor of California (“one of” being the key phrase there). It’s kind of funny to me. I can’t lie. It’s not something I set out to do on purpose. This movie didn’t make the cut, out of a need to create a list that looks an awful lot like an extremely pretentious mental patient ran through it. I just strive to be completely honest in my selections, and this movie, like it or not, must be included on a list that features films by people like Jonathan Demme, Lars Von Trier and Akira Kurosawa.

In case anyone’s curious, End of Days currently holds an eleven-percent approval rating out of ninety-eight reviews. I don’t anticipate it being one of those films that magically find an audience later on down the line. You could probably fit the number of people who remember it onto a single Greyhound bus. You could then cut that number considerably by just keeping those who are willing to admit they liked it.

I do like it. I like it the way I like certain aspects of the bondage community. I’ve got too much in my life that deserves my sense of shame. Life is too short to include movies in that. The idea of being embarrassed by a movie you like is as inane to me as the guilty pleasure category.

But man oh man, does End of Days come awfully close to proving me wrong.

It’s not like I can blame liking this movie on youthful stupidity (I was a fan of Insane Clown Posse when I was fourteen, so anything was possible). I vividly remember watching this the night it premiered on HBO, and then immediately confronting the reality of having just seen one of the worst movies of all time, and yet somehow still feeling as though it was not time wasted.

It also gave my youngest brother nightmares, so that was a nice, sadistic windfall.

Nothing about this movie represents a better time in my life. I’m pretty sure I was even more miserable at fourteen than I am now. There isn’t some memory of watching it with a long-gone friend or family member. I can’t remember a single detail from the day. Yet if it comes on TV (and it does, because it apparently qualifies as one of AMC’s “classics”) I will indeed sit down and watch it. Why? What the hell for? At best, it’s a B-movie idea that sounded like it could at least be ridiculous, dumb ass fun on paper. Instead, it couldn’t even accomplish that, and wound up being a career low-point for almost everyone involved. Almost everyone, because as much as I like Rod Steiger and Udo Kier, calling this a career low-point for them is saying an awful lot.

It’s not even very good by the standards of its leading man.

So, why watch it now?

I think this movie is hilarious. It’s the only explanation I can think of. A concept this absurd played so humorlessly is just funny to me. Rod Steiger and Udo Kier were both old hats at this kind of garbage by 1999, and Steiger is sadly no longer with us, but the rest of what’s mostly a pretty good cast (Robin Tunney and Gabriel Byrne) were clearly struggling to find something that could salvage this wreck of an idea. They fail, but watching them try is still entertaining. It’s like watching an eighty-million-dollar Ed Wood production.

He closes the hand, opens it again and delights a child with a shiny, red ball.

It’s a funny movie. That’s the only argument I can come up with, as to why I sat through this movie once and have actually sat through it a couple of times since. Gabriel Byrne as Satan is not a terrible casting decision, and I love how seriously he expresses some of the worst lines ever written for Satan. I love the deliriously stupid, over-the-top (even for one of Schwarzenegger’s movies) finale. I love the idea of Kevin Pollack being a minion of Hell, and also just the general concept that he could ever be a threat to anybody or anything. I even love the idea that we’re expected to be sympathetic towards Robin Tunney’s character in spite of the fact that she gives one of the most annoying performances of her career (and I like Robin Tunney). I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know I was ready to turn her over to the forces of evil after about three minutes.

CCH Pounder pops up at some point. Pounder is a great actress who is capable of a lot more than the roles she usually gets. Then there’s Kier and Steiger. Both were often a sole saving grace of many an awful horror film. Unfortunately, with End of Days he doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time.

Best (or worst) of all is Schwarzenegger. I actually like some of his films a great deal, and will defend them as good movies for what they are, but it’s hard to believe even he could be this hammy, this comical. It’s not that he’s even trying to do something as an actor he’s never done before. The best of his movies are the ones that have a lot of other good things going for them. He’s not a guy who can salvage a truly awful movie all on his own. It’s almost sad watching him try to do that here.

There is scarcely an original thought or filmmaking quality in End of Days that gives it a chance of finding redemption along the lines of what Schwarzenegger’s character finds at the end (Sorry to ruin it for you). It’s a wretched mishmash of religious insanity, bad filmmaking, unintentionally hilarious performances and action sequences that fail to provide any real excitement.

Arnold looks intense as always. Kevin just looks kind of sleepy.

But then it comes back to the whole thing about finding this movie funny. It’s one of those contradictory movies that are so bad that I can’t help but love the ugly bastard anyway. Everyone has those movies on their lists. This is one of mine. And like most people I can’t offer up much in the way of a logical reason for why that is. I can only shrug and laugh my ass off every time Arnold battles Byrne in a battle of spiritual wits. As far as I can tell I’m the only winner.

I’m also pretty sure this is the only Schwarzenegger movie in history to feature a threesome between a mother, a daughter and The Devil. I don’t know. I’ve never seen that secret director’s cut of Twins.

Thirty-Day Movie Challenge: Day Twenty-Five

I don’t feel like I’m rushing through these, but it may seem that way to anyone paying attention to these. I’m still giving these the reviews the same attention. It’s just apparent that getting close to the end has buoyed my enthusiasm, and that I’m ready to finish up this self-imposed project, tell myself that I can still see things through to the end and move on to next thing.

Can the next thing have a few bucks somewhere at the end?

Maybe so. It would seem that it depends mostly on me, and at least a little bit on good luck.

My luck has been better lately. We’ve been over this a few times now. I’m looking to take that luck into larger areas. It’s just a question of finding a way to get out the door.

Out the front?

That might work. I’m more of a kitchen window kind of guy, but I can be a gentleman once in a while.

Five more reviews. I hope everyone’s having as good a time with film reviews as is possible.

Hopefully, there will be a non-review between this and day twenty-six. We’ll see how things go. I’ve got a little bit of travel coming up, and that sometimes distracts me from active, responsible endeavors.

I’m getting better about that though.

30 Day Movie Challenge

Day Twenty-Five: Movie with the Most Beautiful Scenery

Manhattan (1979)
Directed by: Woody Allen
Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Michael Murphy

It’s a good thing the entire run of Woody Allen’s classic Manhattan is so perfect in every way. It would be a shame to have nothing to look forward to after those glorious, moving first few minutes. There are numerous stellar qualities to Manhattan, but it just wouldn’t be possible to enjoy them quite as much without those opening moments. This is my favorite Woody Allen movie, and there are at least partially ridiculous reasons for that. In just five minutes, Allen created the clearest, most stunning visual definition of New York that I have ever seen. It works beautifully as an opening to the movie itself and nothing more, but its personal meaning to me is greater than that.

And in terms of building on that initial image of the city Manhattan gets better and better as it goes on.

When I was little, I had serious doubts that I would ever get to see New York City for myself. Lake Cowichan, British Columbia was a long way indeed from many of the cities I saw in films and dreamed of one day visiting myself. Not one place fueled those dreams more than New York.

Yeah, I totally do idolize it all out of proportion.

I guess that makes sense considering Ghostbusters was the first movie I ever remember seeing. Big was another film that I saw around that same time, too. Both movies presented a view of a city that not only seemed limitless in its fantastic possibilities and history (I was a weird kid) but were also supposedly very real. I wanted to know for myself. I wanted to stand amidst an ocean of noise, and look up at buildings that were taller than what I was actually capable of seeing.

I probably saw Manhattan when I was seven or eight, so it came a bit later in my early and continuing love affair with New York. It’s one of my mom’s favorite movies, so I’m pretty sure she rented it at some point in that time period. It wouldn’t have been the kind of movie I would have gone after on my own at that time. My mom has a deep love of movies, too. She’s not as hopelessly and pitifully obsessive about it as I am about it, but it was through her that I discovered a great many films as a kid that I still love to this day.

It doesn’t really matter when I found Manhattan. Strictly in terms of presenting the city at its most electrifying, most extraordinary and most romantic, Manhattan blows Ghostbusters, Big and just about anything else out of the water. It sends them somewhere in the neighborhood of a million miles into the sky.

It’s all that gorgeous black and white set against beautiful shot after shot of the city. I don’t think it has ever lost its potential for being whatever a person wants it to be. Tourist talk? Possibly. It might be easy for me to say all this, because I don’t live there, but I’ve been there a few times. Enough to at least be aware it’s nothing even close to perfect. It doesn’t have to be. Everything I’ve ever experienced in my few trips to New York still equals out to the most amazing city I’ve visited so far. The “So far” part is my favorite. Because New York reminds me that it’s impossible to ever see and do everything in this world that you would ever want to do. That can be alarming to some. It can even be depressing. It doesn’t worry me as much as it used to. This knowledge is not a big deal. The fun is in trying. New York is a perfect representation of that.

Of course you can’t forget that George Gershwin score. “Rhapsody in Blue” is unrelentingly gorgeous. Along with Allen’s voiceover that opening sequence is one of my favorites of all time. It sets a standard that only a truly perfect film could meet.

Thankfully, Manhattan is indeed quite perfect in every sense I can think of. The story leisurely moves us around the city, but it’s a good, funny, well-written and constantly entertaining story. It’s a story that is populated by the very best of Allen’s creativity. As both an actor and a creator of strong characters that are all at once capable of being amusing, neurotic (there’s a word that never, ever appears in an Allen film), annoying, petty, strange, moral, pathetic, hysterical and a thousand other traits and quirks that vie to be at the surface of everything going in their world. These are characters that could only exist in a story about New York, and it’s even possible that they could also only exist in a Woody Allen film. They are as much a part of the city’s constant, frantic heartbeat as the buildings, bridges, pollution and all the rest of it.

This is my favorite Allen performance, but more often than not, he’s overshadowed by what may well be the best assortment of actresses that can be found in any of his films. Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep and Mariel Hemmingway are all fantastic as three completely different women from three completely different ideas of what Allen’s character (not to mention his mostly useless friend, played quite well by Michael Murphy) thinks he wants. Each of them is worth their talent in gold for what they bring to the story. In a lot of ways they define the story. Between Allen’s writing and their performances I can’t imagine anyone else playing them. Allen’s best films, and I’d say there are quite a few that qualify as great, are examples of casting a movie to perfection. He has rarely taken a misstep in this area, and Manhattan is one of the best examples in his work. Even brief, supporting roles from Wallace Shawn and Michael O’Donoghue have a necessary place in my feelings on this film.

What amazes me is how much Allen supposedly hated Manhattan when he completed it. He even went so far as to try and have the film kept from release, in exchange for making a different movie for free. We’ll probably never know what his problem was with it. It’s well-established legend that he’s his own worst critic (or at least he wants us to think he is–Who knows?). None of that really matters. My ability to love a film is not contingent upon whether or not the people involved liked it, too. I consider Woody Allen to be a genius in his field. He’s entitled to think whatever he wants to. I’m not a genius in even the most kind-hearted sense of the word, but I still think I’m entitled to my opinion. People agreeing with my opinion is not essential, but it’s a nice plus that by and large, the general consensus on Manhattan is that it’s a pretty wonderful movie. Too bad Allen doesn’t seem to agree. It does make you wonder what would have been different from what we have, if he had been able to make the movie to his complete satisfaction. Maybe, it wouldn’t have been nearly as well-received. Maybe, it would have been even better. It’s not like we’re ever going to find out. Do you care? I sure don’t. Any change to this movie would be a small, film-related tragedy.

Thirty-Day Movie Challenge: Day Twenty-Four

The home stretch continues, even with my temptation to write several lengthy rants about Christmas.

This is probably better. You’re just going to have to trust me on that.

30 Day Movie Challenge

Day Twenty-Four: Movie with the Best Soundtrack

Clerks (1994)
Directed by: Kevin Smith
Starring: Jeff Anderson, Brian O’Holloran, Marilyn Ghigliotti

It’s possible I’m being way too literal, but I kind of wish this category had been a little less specific. I’m probably wrong, but I do tend to differentiate between a soundtrack put together for a film as opposed to a score created for a film. Literal is probably not the right word for this. Insane, asinine are probably better ones.

Nonetheless I’m going with soundtracks that were culled from previously crafted material. I’m at a loss to explain why I’m interpreting the category this way. We’ll just pretend we all understand the reason. It could be that I just like playlists more than scores.

I’m not taking that second group into consideration, but I’m still pretty sure Clerks would come out on top. It was one the first soundtracks I ever went out of my way to buy, and the one that has probably spent more time on my playlist than any other film soundtrack. Every scene with one of these songs is enhanced because of that song. It’s impossible to imagine any of them not being there.

It’s pretty impossible to imagine these guys not being there either.

Music is the first thing that really gets the ball rolling in the film. Silence can be wonderful in a movie, and I can think of countless films with scenes that would have been ruined by music. Of course, there are just as many with scenes that are unforgettable. In part because of the song being used (Martin Scorsese movies have a lot of those scenes). Clerks sets a fantastic tone for what we’re about to watch. It’s an energetic theme song for Dante’s introduction ad half-dead morning routine. Bringing all these elements together instantly infuses the film with a personality that appealed to me even more than the first Kevin Smith movie I saw, Mallrats several months earlier (I was ridiculously pleased to learn that Kevin Smith had made other movies). From there it only gets better. Of course, we’re paying attention to Kevin Smith’s phenomenal, breezy dialog, the seemingly laid-back pace and style, the amazing, natural performances by Jeff Anderson, Brian O’Holloran, Jason Mewes, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Lisa Spoonhauer, Smith himself and numerous smaller roles filled by Smith’s friends, family and local actors. I saw the movie in 1996, and the impact it had on me was immediate and tremendous. It had never truly sunk in before that point that a movie could be so strong on pretty much dialog alone.

Things do happen in Clerks, but it’s generally nothing significant. This is a day in the lives of these characters, and there’s certainly a plot to be found, but in the end the appeal for Clerks as a film (besides the music) comes down to that dialog. Credit Smith’s screenplay, but also credit the actors. Could someone else have played Dante and Randal? Maybe. Possibly. It’s certainly not worth putting a whole lot of thought into that. O’Holloran and Anderson are not only solid actors, but the chemistry they create from Smith’s script is some of the best in all of Smith’s movies. The formula of two buddies rambling largely about nothing in particular as they go about their day is a staple found in many of Smith’s movies. Jay and Silent Bob make their first appearance here, and they certainly qualify as two buddies rambling largely about nothing particular (in spite of the fact that Silent Bob, obviously, rarely opens his mouth to speak), but my favorite pairing in all of Smith’s movies remains Dante and Randal. In Clerks, the tone of their friendship is established as soon as Randal wrangles into the store. O’Holloran and Anderson from the first moment on deliver some of the greatest casual conversations I’ve ever heard in a film while simultaneously building on that relationship. Watching them banter is as funny to me now as it first was nearly sixteen years ago. I never get tired of it, and therefore I never get tired of the movie itself. This is a critical aspect of why I love Clerks.

I’ve come to appreciate the inner workings of a facial expression like this.

But at the same time we’re also aware of the music. At least I know I was. I read somewhere once that Clerks has a soundtrack that can be best summed up as “The Golden Age of Grunge.” I guess that works, but I don’t think that term should be applied as a means of dating tracks like “Kill The Sex Player” (there is not a better song out there to introduce us to Jay and Silent Bob for the first time) or “Leaders and Followers” (which fits perfectly with the moment where Dante and Randal’s visit to a funeral parlor goes horribly wrong). It’s always been my assertion that good music in your opinion is good music in your opinion. Changing tastes of the world have no say in the matter. You don’t have to take into consideration the year the song might have come out or whether or not people still view it as relevant. All you have to do is enjoy the song.

There isn’t a single track in Clerks that I don’t enjoy. As both a part of why Clerks remains one of my favorite films of all-time, and as music I enjoy in general. I don’t even like Fleetwood Mac all that much, but I can’t help but dig Seaweed’s cover of “Go Your Own Way”. Maybe, it’s because for the better part of fifteen years now I’ve come to associate the track with a guidance counselor smashing eggs (and that’s an image that eerily matches the personality of my old high school guidance counselor). The same thought goes for Golden Smog’s cover of Bad Company’s “Shooting Star”. I actually like Bad Company a lot, but this is one of those rare times when I’ll take this cover over the original any day. Good luck listening to it, and not bringing to mind the hilarious tragedy of Randal’s poor, idiot cousin. Thinking about it even now makes me smile. Very few things as simple as that have kept up such an act in my life for so many years and counting.

“Chewbacca” is the best song I’ve ever heard about Star Wars. I refuse to consider any opposing arguments (and I know at least what some of those arguments would already be, and I still stand by this opinion).

I also don’t think any song could have better ended the movie than “Can’t Even Tell”. The music video is a worthy companion to the film, and it’s worth watching a couple of times. The song ends the film on a flawless note, and the video itself jams a good deal of the movie’s humor into a song that’s over in less than five minutes. Watch the video after the movie, and you may even want to go ahead and watch the movie itself all over again (if you’re evening social calendar is looking kind of sparse). You probably won’t, but you’ll be tempted to. It’s a classic movie besides, but the soundtrack is an absolutely essential part of that. Something vital would be missing otherwise.

Thirty-Day Movie Challenge: Day Twenty-Three

30 Day Movie Challenge

Day Twenty-Three: Film That Inspires You:

Slacker (1991)
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Starring: Richard Linklater, Stella James, Marc Weir

Slacker was another one of those glorious accidental discoveries. I couldn’t sleep, I switched on what I believe was IFC, and there it was. The movie had just started. Had just opened on that wonderful, completely random scene of a man (writer-director Richard Linklater, who has almost always managed to blow me away) getting in a cab, rambling through some story about how he should have stayed at the bus station. There’s more to it than that, but I won’t go into it, if you haven’t had the distinct pleasure of seeing it for yourself. Describing and much of the movie is difficult. Impossible in the sense that it’s immensely tricky for me to relate with words what you should see for yourself.

For example, wouldn’t you like to know which one of these guys has probably been drinking a bit too much coffee?

Obviously, I’m going to try and relate my love of this independent (back when that meant something, or at least back when it meant more than it does now), but I’m just saying that it’s going to be difficult. It might help if you take my word for it now, see the movie and then get back to me.

Maybe.  It couldn’t hurt. This is one of those times when I feel as though I can only write for the people who have already seen it. I’ll try to keep the rest of you in mind.

Anyone who has ever successfully managed to listen to me for more than five minutes without running me over knows that the eventual goal of all this writing I do is to eventually get a chance to make a film. Hopefully, you’ve been paying attention to these rambling thoughts on films, but if you haven’t it might be worth noting that my greatest creative passion through the years has been filmmaking. I’ve never been to college (and there’s a good chance I probably never will get to go), so I’ve tried to give myself the best education possible with the vocation I’d like to spend the rest of my life in. Acting is fun, but I want to put the whole thing together. I watch movies for pure entertainment, but I also try to pay attention to the ones that really blow my hair (what little of it there usually is) back. Should I ever get an opportunity I want to at least have a rough idea of what I need to do. It’s an overwhelming, intimidating vocation. I barely know where to begin. Just writing the scripts I’ve written has had a difficult learning curve going for it.

Film inspires me for all kinds of different reasons. Some encourage me in the whole ridiculous thing of making a movie. Slacker has been a fixture on that last since seeing it in on TV that night. It was around 1999, and it’s unreal how much time has just flown past me since. The film is certainly a product of its time in certain ways (the way Austin was at that time, the whole Generation-X vibe), but in its most important ways, it doesn’t seem like something that belongs in a time capsule. This is largely due to the fact that I know people like this still exist. Slacker captures a long-gone time and place, but people like the character’s of the film’s world haven’t gone anywhere. Take out the inspirational aspect of the film, and it’s the characters that I love the most about Slacker. I know people along those lines. I’ve known a couple of guys like the Kennedy fanatic. I’ve seen friends compel a buddy to hurl something that belonged to his ex-girlfriend over a bridge (it was a moving car in my experience). I’ve run into people trying to sell things eerily similar to a piece of Madonna pap smear.

I’ve encountered dozens of real-life counterparts for the wide array of wonderful, believable and engaging personalities that make up Slacker. They’re one of my favorite things about traveling so much. Linklater uses non-actors and unknowns to bring them to life. That helps considerably with the realism and strength of their portrayals. Almost every performance here gets me in some way. A few are more interesting than others, but all are memorable.

Slacker is one the films I’ve paid the most attention to as an on-again, off-again unofficial film student. It’s also served as a long-standing influence on not only the few screenplays I’ve written but also on a great deal of the other things I write. It’s living proof of function winning out over form. At first glance it looks like a two-hour vacation film. Everything about the movie suggests a concept that just barely managed to be realized. Linklater is still going strong as a filmmaker. He would use this loose, multi-character story structure again in Dazed and Confused. He then moved from that to make a startling range of films. His resume includes the surreal adaptation of A Scanner Darkly to the straight-forward, commercial remake of The Bad News Bears. Slacker is still the reigning champion for my favorite of his filmography. It was not the first film to use this kind of wandering structure, giving us one character’s life for a moment, and then switching to another when they pass someone on the street. Not the first, but it’s one of the best. I think that’s because Slacker represents a mindset and culture unique to not only its era but to the city in which it was filmed. There aren’t twenty or thirty films exactly like Slacker (although I know there are numerous films and documentaries that certainly seek to evoke a similar spirit).

As far as I know, this is the only one.

That doesn’t automatically grant it greatness, and there will always be some who just can’t get into a movie like this. Slacker feels like the sort of thing in which a camera just happened to be around by coincidence. That kind of thing can annoy tastes that prefer stories to be a bit more linear and focused. Slackers is pretty easy to follow, and it has a linear form of sorts, but it’s not the kind of linear everyone tends to expect from their movies. To some Slacker may just seem like a whole lot nothing. Nothing in the way of the point and nothing in the way of a real story or meaningful, deep characters.

The structure, story (such as it is) and characters work just fine for me, and it seems to work pretty well for a lot of others. Slacker opts for a far-less traditional breed of storytelling and filmmaking at almost every turn. Less-than-traditional, but it works as both a compelling, funny and strange story, and as a lesson to anyone who wants to make movies on their own time. It proves that a good story, a great cast and an endless amount of creative enthusiasm can potentially override anything else that might be working against you. There isn’t a suggestion of a guaranteed artistic victory, but at least it conveys the fact that it can be done.

Slacker comes out of a different filmmaking era. This is very true. It’s also true that a whole lot more has to happen than what I listed above for a movie to go from idea to finished cut. I keep this mind, and I still choose to consider Slacker an inspiration.

I’ll watch Slacker because it’s just a great movie. My favorite scene remains the one in which a young man (Michael Laird) has his life changed by breaking into the home of an old anarchist (the great writer and Philosophy teacher, Louis H. Mackey). It’s the most appealing scene in the film, and one that had a tremendous impact on me. That kind of thing can indeed happen in the real world, and it perfectly illustrates a fundamental about Slacker that nothing in its celluloid world is artificial. Coincidence can change someone’s life, and we are sometimes most altered by the random. I’d love to know what happened to that burglar the next day.

I love this movie, but I continue to pay the most attention to its biology. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance someday to see if I can create something worthwhile out of what’s available to me. Filmmakers are out there doing that right now. That gives me a steady line of hope. It reminds me that it’s not easy, but it’s not impossible either.

Thirty-Day Movie Challenge: Day Twenty-Two

Think we’ll get to thirty before the end of this year?

That’s the plan, so be kind enough to forgive a little repetition. I’ll try to break things up with a poem.

2012 is breathing down my neck, and I’m not going for a mixed bag kind of year (like this one). I hope that will be most strongly be reflected in what I do creatively.

We’ll see. I’m vicious and optimistic these days, or at least I’m more of those two things than I have been for a long time.

30 Day Movie Challenge

Day Twenty-Two: Film You Wish You Could Live In:

Blade Runner (1982)
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Starring: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young

Blade Runner is a great movie. I want to say I first saw it on TV as a kid, but the truth is that I just can’t remember the time or place. I don’t know the time or place matter to me. I guess I just like to trace the chronology of when I first saw a movie to what I think of it now. That’s the only explanation I can think of. People love to define things, create timelines, and I like doing with even the most casual or mundane things.

I don’t remember the where and when of Blade Runner (as is the case with a good portion of the movies I’ve chosen for this list), but I remember being sucked into the world of this film about a minute in. I think the biggest reason why I’ve seen it so many times over the past twenty years is because of that strange, beautiful, terrifying and contradictory city. It’s a weird, chaotic mash-up of film noir, futurism, New York, Gotham City, Hong Kong, Hell and probably a wide array of other influences that are lost on me. I’m not shocked that the famous “Nighthawks” painting was part of that visual influence on the film. I’ve spent most of my writing career trying to recreate. I don’t think I’ve ever come close. I don’t have the budget, but it also doesn’t help very much that I also don’t have the imagination. That’s not meant to be a self-deprecating comment. It’s just a question of limitations. I can only watch a movie like Blade Runner, be completely spellbound by its universe and then carry that over into my own creativity as best I can. I don’t mind failing. Being engaged that strongly by sometimes is enough for me.

Don’t  worry. There’s still Build-a-Bear Workshops.

Blade Runner is quickly approaching its thirty-year anniversary.  It will have passed the mark by this time next year. I don’t see those thirty years as much as I possibly should. It could be a bias on my part that I’m rarely aware of what age may or may not have done to my favorite films. Is that a bad thing? Does it hurt my opinion to see a movie the same way I saw it ten, fifteen or even twenty years ago? I really can’t say. That’s likely a question I should try to answer through the essays and reviews I write about film, but I’m not sure how to go about that. All I can do is watch something again, and see what parts of my standing opinion have held up, it and what might have changed.

This one is no exception to that, and very little about it has changed for me. I don’t think it’s shown very much age at all, if any. That could be due to the noir plot, one of the more enduring story arches out there. It’s been said that Robert Mitchum was originally the guy in mind when the script was being written by co-author Hampton Fancher. I don’t have a lot of trouble believing that. Mitchum was a legend of the noir films. The fact that the script was written for that kind of actor and persona reflects not only the casting of Harrison Ford (who is phenomenal) but of the film’s grim, rainy atmosphere as well. It’s also reflected in the other characters represented throughout. The movie is, of course, tied pretty strongly to science fiction roots as well, and those two genres exist in almost every character. Science fiction has leant itself well to noir on many occasions. Strong supporting performances from Sean Young (as the noir dame in distress), Rutger Hauer (who doesn’t need to work very hard at making me believe that he is at all times moments away from a killing spree), Daryl Hannah (the hard-luck gal for this story), M. Emmett Walsh (as the sleazy cop), William Sanderson and Joe Turkel round things out. Style aside, it just wouldn’t be a great movie without their performances with the support of a great screenplay. I’d probably still watch it though. Having these other things just enables me to love it on more than one level.

It’s not a detriment that the great screenplay comes from an even greater story, by the iconic Phillip K. Dick, whose stories continue to find relevance long after his death (and Dick reportedly approved of the script before passing) constructed the blueprint for everything this film is. The heart and humanity within his story survived to make its way into the movie adaptation, and that has helped Blade Runner be more than just a dated science fiction movie.

The cast (especially Ford) and writing have large roles in Blade Runner’s endurance. I’m grateful they exist to give the movie depth and soul, but I suppose I always come back to the city. The tone and visual impact of the movie is the biggest reason why I can be pulled into this turbulent weirdness as though it’s the first time. I occasionally feel like we’re beginning to see little bits of pieces of Blade Runner in the world today. I know, I know. We still don’t have those cars, but I do feel like we’re getting closer to this kind of cold, garbled and confused reality. We’re not too far off from having cities that match Blade Runner in terms of size, scope and dangerous eccentricity. I’ve kicked around the country enough to have the suspicion fueled and inflated. Travel is one of my great passions. It’s on that small list of things I’m relatively good at. Getting lost in the shuffle of the film’s neon dementia would be a hell of a fun way to spend a few years. I might want to leave after that, but I kind of doubt it.

The fact that this is such an amazing film in every regard helps watching it for the twentieth or thirtieth time considerably, but the infinite potential for imagination that can be found in its backdrops would keep me watching even if the rest of the movie failed to compare. There isn’t another movie I can think of that has so beautifully captured the contradiction of a city that is both a technological marvel and a hopeless throwback all at the same time. Those familiar with my writing know it’s my kind of town.

Reportedly, director Ridley Scott is at work on a sequel. That’s fine. I’m sure today’s technology could take what Blade Runner showed us and multiply that dazzle by a thousand. It might be a worthy successor, or it might not be. I’m sure I’ll go see it, and I’m sure I’ll hope that it’s a successful continuation of not only Blade Runner’s great writing, directing and acting, but of this universe that is critical to my own creative leanings as ever before. I can still be amazed.