Tag Archives: Harrison Ford

Modern Blockbusters: Cowboys & Aliens and GI Joe: Retaliation

Cowboys & Aliens
There is a version of Cowboys & Aliens that exists in the mind of Steven Spielberg (who serves as producer here) that bears his visual wit, his economic ingenuity, and his zippy romanticism for the long-lost regions of the childhood imagination. A childhood imagination that positively flies as high in the sky as a rocket ship when it hears the wonderfully matter-of-fact title “Cowboys & Aliens”, a shouldn’t-be dream-come-true exploitation film out of the ’80s that happened to manifest as a big-budget Frankenstein’s monster of disparate parts in the modern era. This hypothetical version has weight and buoyancy, snark and ballast, and a yippy camaraderie and film-fried joy to please and have fun with itself for, say, 100 minutes, so as to not over-stay its welcome. This hypothetical version is scrappy and spoiling for a fight but never dour and never gloomy, and certainly, its children-playing-in-the-sand sense of draped-on imagination knows no limits. Continue reading

Film Favorites: Blade Runner

blade-runner-1982If we are being honest, Ridley Scott is not a director worthy of his reputation. His 1970s were certainly pretty sterling; he entered the world with a very good, if inessential, period-piece parable in the under-seen The Duellists, and then down-tuned sci-fi to elemental levels of fear with the masterful Alien, one of the greatest genre films ever made. Not wanting to be type-cast at the turn of the ’80s, he upped himself through transposing his native science fiction into another genre, not quite as openly horrific, but with no less to say about humanity’s fears: the noir. The resulting film, Blade Runner, is his masterpiece. The ensuing three decades and more have seen him shoot sloppily back and forth between chasing former glories unsuccessfully and entering the bold, exciting new territory of … stripping the cinematic magic whole cloth from the period piece and turning the genre into a drab excuse for materialist rationalism. Again. And again. And again.

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American Imperialism New Wave (AKA Ronald Reagan New Wave Part Deux): Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

 

Updated June 2016

After the completion of my American New Wave series, I found myself hungry for more, and with the rather stark delineation of mainstream ’70s American and ’80s American cinema, continuing chronologically seemed a fair idea indeed for it’s ease of access without necessarily plumbing the same self-consciously raw, arty cinema I generally stuck with to define American film during the 1970s. This is an opportunity for me to plum an type of film I have almost entirely avoided thus far for the purposes of this blog: classic genre filmmaking, or pop fare as we call it when we’re feeling particularly feisty. The series will continue, albeit with a generally more slap-dash rule set fitting the parameters of the generally lighter, airier cinema of the ’80s like a glove. Essentially, I’ll go by year, but within each year, I can cover one film in depth, or a few in smaller review format, or any mix in between. Whatever suits my boat, for, after-all, personal satisfaction was de rigueur in the halcyon ’80s, wasn’t it?

As for publication schedule, It’ll be more compact, a sort of Holiday treat to myself where I get to focus on “fun” movies in place of all the doom and gloom I force upon myself cinematically (I’m such a masochist aren’t I?). In other words, I want to keep things coming fast and loose, to give myself a filmic sugar rush, and to have a little fun with it. My estimation will be the series will continue into the very early ’90s (being that the first few years of the ’90s were basically the ’80s culturally and cinematically anyway, before the New American Independent bubble really blew up big time mid decade). And I’d like to have it all done by the New Year, or slightly afterward. So that’s one month of the poppiest pop I can find. Survival, without cavities, is not an option. And do excuse the titles; sometimes I like to have fun with myself, even against myself. The titles are Holiday Present Part B. 

Firstly, it must be said before anything else, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark is a fairly stupendous lark, a work of cheerful insouciance at minimum, and a sky-high stratosphere-piercing pop machine at best.  As a pure action-adventure, it’s an apex of economical storytelling, from-the-hip visual stylization, and  gloriously unstabilized anarchy that owes as much to Chuck Jones (of Looney Tunes fame) as John Huston. This is true not only for its wit and physicality (Chuck Jones was a maestro of movement above all), but in how it is a master-class in editing and framing on-screen action (and it climaxes with a wry, none-too-subtle jab at the protagonist that wouldn’t be out of home in either malevolent John Houston molasses or a spring-stepping Chuck Jones firecracker). Almost unthinkably so thirty years on, it is palpably, vigorously indebted to the Midnight Cinema tradition, the so-called reprobate genres epitomized not only by Jones but more live-bodied directors like Fritz Lang. In straying perilously near the B-serial, it unearths a morbidity that stresses how – 21st century bloodlust aside – children’s entertainment was quite a bit more scarlet in the olden days. Populist though it may be, the thing about Raiders is how it turns the disreputable into the divine.

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The Ronald Reagan New Wave: Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Edited June 2016

After the completion of my American New Wave series, I found myself hungry for more, and with the rather stark delineation of mainstream ’70s American and ’80s American cinema, continuing chronologically seemed a fair idea indeed for it’s ease of access without necessarily pluming the same self-consciously raw, arty cinema I generally stuck with to define American film during the 1970s. This is an opportunity for me to plum an type of film I have almost entirely avoided thus far for the purposes of this blog: classic genre filmmaking, or pop fare as we call it when we’re feeling particularly feisty. The series will continue, albeit with a generally more slap-dash rule set fitting the parameters of the generally lighter, airier cinema of the ’80s like a glove. Essentially, I’ll go by year, but within each year, I can cover one film in depth, or a few in smaller review format, or any mix in between. Whatever suits my boat, for, after-all, the ’80s was all about personal satisfaction, wasn’t it?

As for publication schedule, It’ll be more compact, a sort of Holiday treat to myself where I get to focus on “fun” movies in place of all the doom and gloom I force upon myself cinematically (I’m such a masochist aren’t I?). In other words, I want to keep things coming fast and loose, to give myself a filmic sugar rush, and to have a little fun with it. My estimation will be the series will continue into the very early ’90s (being that the first few years of the ’90s were basically the ’80s culturally and cinematically anyway, before the New American Independent bubble really blew up big time mid decade). And I’d like to have it all done by the New Year, or slightly afterward. So that’s one month of the poppiest pop I can find. Survival, without cavities, is not an option. And do excuse the titles; sometimes I like to have fun with myself, even against myself. The titles are Holiday Present Part B. 

So much has been written about Star Wars it’s almost impossible to add anything new to the corpus, and I won’t try to, except to say that everyone who criticizes it and everyone who adores it are really speaking past one another. Their arguments enjoy fundamental similitude. It’s no secret that a great many people loathe the Star Wars prequels – I’m none too heavy a fan myself – and the reasons are obvious and multitudinous: indulgent filmmaking, superficial visuals, self-serious, haphazard dialogue, druggy, ham-bone acting. As a rule, I won’t argue with these flaws, but I will say this: many of them, particularly in the writing and acting department, are true with as full a force in the original three films as in the prequels. Insofar as people wish to pump up the Star Wars films as implacable, fertile, drip-fed drama in the traditional way people discuss drama, they’re out of luck come their proof.  Insofar as the Star Wars prequels misunderstand or avoid the human condition, so too do the original films.
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Review(s): Summer of 08 Short Reviews Round-up Part 1

Iron Man

For all Marvel’s self-imposed weight as a blockbuster big-wig machine, Iron Man is rather shocking for how it’s essentially a chill-out superhero movie. A good portion of the film, particularly in the middle, has a surprisingly solid time enjoying itself as an old-school “hanging with movie actors” film, where the “event” mostly consists of watching Robert Downey Jr have fun playing with toys on screen and generally being snarkily amused in a way that pings between caustic and genial. It’s not quite a Bill Murray 80’s comedy, but being within reaching distance is pleasing in a way I hadn’t realized I missed. Continue reading