Posts Tagged ‘ Science Fiction ’

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.

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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.

Thirty-Day Movie Challenge: Day Eleven

30 Day Movie Challenge:

Day Eleven: Favorite Children’s Film

E.T. (1982)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Dee Wallace

One of my most random memories from childhood involves E.T. It’s the first thing I think about. When I was a kid the best place in Lake Cowichan, British Columbia to get comic books and magazines was a little Chinese restaurant that also doubled as a convenience store. It was a good place for such essentials as those stupid plastic paratroopers, designer chopsticks dusty children’s books. It was a small store, so going inside could be an overwhelming, claustrophobic experience. I wondered for years if anyone ever threw anything in the store away. It was a good place to get egg rolls, and censored copies of “Hustler”, but the trinkets never really caught on. I lived in Lake Cowichan for seven years. I can’t remember a time when I would go in, and everything around and behind the counter wasn’t exactly where it had been before. I have no idea if the store is still there, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it was, and not a single thing had changed.

The first things I’d look for would be the E.T. key chains that were sold right next to the condoms, and expired Chinese bikini calendars. I didn’t have the faintest desire to buy them, but they remained in their place, from around age three to when I moved away in 1995.

E.T. was released in 1982, so it had been already a part of the culture for three years, by the time I came along. I can’t remember the first time I saw it. I just know it was a movie I watched constantly, and this goes back as far as memory will allow. It was a lot like Ghostbusters. I just can’t imagine it not being a part of our VHS library.

It’s not hard for me to get pulled into a kid’s movies, and I’ll still go out of my way to see the ones, that I think are capable of being something special. That’s not a claim that looks really fits a single, childless man in his mid-twenties, but people would think I’m desperately strange whether or not I watched them. I may as well watch whatever the hell I want. If you want to blame anything, then you can blame having four younger siblings over a ten-year-period. Living with them meant living alongside their own childhoods.

Now, I have godchildren, so I may be watching this stuff (whether I want to or not) until roughly 2021, 2022.

That’s a scary thought. I already look like I slept a three-day bender in a bad Halloween costume. Time isn’t going to be kind to that image.

Children find me soothing. The reason for this remains a mystery to me.

A couple of things put E.T. above all the others. I firstly wanted to try and go out of my way to pick something that wasn’t animated. That thins out the list a bit. E.T. came to mind more than once, because it was the only one that really didn’t feel like a children’s movie. Of course, that’s the movie’s first and most obvious audience. Look it up on Netflix, and it’ll be under Children and Family. I’m not saying it isn’t foremost that kind of movie. It just never felt that way to me. When I was little I was aware that there were films distinctly for children, and others that were clearly meant for an older crowd (I tried to watch them all). E.T. never felt like it belonged in either group but rather somewhere in the middle. It’s one of those rare movies that can claim to have a shot at appealing to anyone, and actually have history and monstrous success to back that claim up.

My response to the movie has naturally changed through the years. It doesn’t mean the same thing to me now as it did when I was three. The last time I saw E.T. was late last year, and it never felt like a nostalgia trip, or as something that can only be enjoyed within the context of its decade. Timeless is not a word I’m terribly fond of using in any context, but I think we’re stuck with it in this case. It’s the easiest way to explain why this is still the movie it was in 1982. Some movies can both represent their era, and tell a story that doesn’t favor one decade over the other. E.T. can be as significant a viewing experience the first time around (and I do know people who haven’t seen it) as it is for someone like me who has seen it more than a couple of times. Not every single Spielberg movie has pulled this off, but the ones that have are going to be around a lot longer than any of us will be. That won’t make everyone happy, but it works for me.

In any other movie this wouldn’t end well for the lad.

The story is something anyone reading this should already know. I think part of E.T.’s enduring charm is that it’s not so much the story itself (In fact Spielberg has been accused in the past of lifting much of E.T. from an unpublished screenplay called The Alien), but in the way it’s told. Spielberg knows how to open a movie, and his best films are the ones that are beautifully, perfectly paced across their running time. E.T. has a time of almost two hours, and not one second of that slows down the forward moment that is established within seconds of the opening. We’re almost immediately introduced to everyone, and everything we’re going to need to decide if we’re going to stick around. I still think the movie has some of the best child actors I’ve ever seen. Henry Thomas delivers a simple, effective performance over the course of his developing friendship with the stranded alien. He’s not precocious, smug or so sickeningly cute hat he rots the movie from the inside-out. As Elliot his friendship with E.T. is what the film lives and dies on above all else. Through Thomas it’s doing a pretty good job of continuing to live. The entire cast provides the human element that connects with the special effects and science fiction story of an alien getting stuck on earth and trying to find his way home. It remains an example that a Hollywood film can also have some genuine personality behind it.

Cynicism comes easily to me at this point in my life. I wish it didn’t. That kind of thing is cute (to you) when you’re sixteen, but it’s a little more disheartening when you’re closing in on thirty. E.T. is one of the few things that have endured that feeling. I can still be pulled in by the beginning, in which E.T. barely escapes the faceless, cold U.S Government. I still laugh when the physic connection between E.T. and Elliot is revealed when both E.T. gets him drunk while Elliot is at school dissecting a frog. I remain capable of greeting the U.S. Government finally tracking E.T. with dread.

I still love the hell out of the escape sequence that brings us to one of the most satisfying conclusions to a movie I can think of. John Williams’ legendary score enhances it so beautifully that I can’t imagine any of the film without it.

Great movies under the Children and Family banner are still being made. I’ve catch them here and there, and I’d even go so far as to say that the best ones are proving how well-written, and well-acted these films can be. That’s good, but for me E.T. remains an entity separate from anything else in its intended genre. I’d measure it against anything coming out today. I might enjoy it, but it doesn’t have the slightest chance, of having the impact on me that E.T. had when I saw it for the first time. I think one of the reasons why I can still watch it is because I like to remember that I used to be a much more hopeful person. There was plenty of room for a movie like E.T. to grab me. I miss that.