The Voight-Kampff Self-Test: Rethinking Blade Runner

“If only you could see what I’ve seen with your eyes.”

-Roy Batty

Even at the time, it seemed all too fitting that my first experience with Blade Runner came as an undergraduate.  There’s something in the film’s mix of genre tropes, in a visual universe that’s at once startling and familiar, and in a philosophical subtext that’s so blatant it’s practically text, that appeals to the young intellect trying to assert itself before it’s really earned the right to do so.

But that I still revisit it today, some 20 years on, suggests that there’s something more to the film, something in the alchemy of all those elements.  Why does Blade Runner still have that hold on me?  Why is its power stronger now than when I first saw it? Continue reading

The Rainbow Connection Restored: Thoughts On The Muppets

One of the things I love about seeing a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse is the pre-show entertainment.  So when the time came to see The Muppets, there really wasn’t much question of where I’d go.

Of course, as I walked into the auditorium, a clip from The Muppet Show was playing: Harry Belafonte’s transcendent performance of “Turn The World Around”.  With just a few frames, I was a kid again, in that time when the Muppets HAD me with every show.

And when the movie started, they had me all over again… Continue reading

Exhibit A In The Perils Of Mass Transit

I’ve written before about the whole concept of certification, the idea (put forth by Walker Percy in The Moviegoer) that some places only become real to us once we’ve seen them onscreen.  And I’m hard pressed to think of a place for which that’s more true than New York.

Of course I’ve never actually been there.  But I can’t be the only one who feels like he has, because I’ve seen it in so many films and shows, heard it in so many songs, read it in so many stories.  In the best of those, the city becomes a living character in his own right.

Which brings me to a certain subway train… Continue reading

The West’s Journey West: Thoughts On Lonely Are the Brave

Even in my younger days, as I remember them, my favorite Westerns were always the films that dealt with the passing of the West.  I’ve always been drawn to stories of cowboys who struggle to come to terms with a time and place that no longer seem to have time or place for them or their values.  John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and – more subtly – The Searchers are classic examples of this kind of tale.

The one that has really stuck with me, though, is a film that distills that theme to its essence.  Its star still cites it as one of his favorite performances.  It helped launch the career of one of film’s greatest composers.  And it might just be my favorite Western. Continue reading

The Sci-Fi Epic That Time Never Actually Forgot

I really should know better by now.

For years I’ve repeatedly been able to convince myself that I’m one of but a happy few who know about Silent Running.  Yet when I try to introduce it to people, the response is almost invariably “Oh, I LOVE that movie!”  If a film screens in the forest and everyone’s there to see it, is it still a cult film?

This time, I think it is… Continue reading

Cinema’s Last Great Moralist

While the goal of all movies is to entertain, the kind of film in which I believe goes one step further. It compels the spectator to examine one facet or another of his own conscience. It stimulates thought and sets the mental juices flowing.

– Sidney Lumet (as quoted in his New York Times obituary)

At PDP, we have a reading list of essential books about the art, craft, and business of entertainment.  A couple of years ago, during our Scene From Both Sides class, Nikki and I updated it for the students, and have kept up with it ever since.

I take that list pretty seriously.  And when we were preparing it for that class, I knew that there was one book that had to be on it, the one book that for me is not merely essential, but necessary for everyone who’s serious about film: Making Movies, by Sidney Lumet. Continue reading

You Always Remember… Usually…

“That is the kind of life I’ve had. Drunk, and in charge of a bicycle, as an Irish police report once put it. Drunk with life, that is, and not knowing where off to next. But you’re on your way before dawn. And the trip? Exactly one half terror, exactly one half exhilaration.”

That brief excerpt from an essay by Ray Bradbury has been the heart of my near-former MySpace profile for a long time.  Beyond being a really cool (to say nothing of painfully Obviously Meaningful) profile quote, it’s a reminder of one of those key moments that set me on the path to becoming a writer. Continue reading

The One That Got Me

It’s been a long while since the network formerly known as American Movie Classics has been anywhere near worthy of its original name.  And its current on-air lineup (series like Breaking Bad excepted) hasn’t quite helped matters.  Something like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is not really a classic, it’s not exactly American, and I’m not entirely sure it’s even a movie.

But there are always exceptions, and even AMC can have a lucky shot, as in the last couple of weeks it’s been running one film that may actually deserve the Classic label.
Continue reading