My Take by Jim Carl - December 28, 2011
MY TAKE is a blog about my funny life experiences that happened to involve movies, and how I found myself in charge of programming films for a living. I’ll discuss how certain movies came to be responsible for my bad attitude, memories, associations, personal beliefs, and plain stupidity. Yes, I fully intend to trash films considered sacred in certain circles, and will probably offer a poor explanation for doing so. I also intend to squander praise on movies considered awful by most everyone, even if it makes me sound ridiculous, because I have a funny memory to share about them. Again, I’m not writing reviews. All I mean to do here is tell some good stories, and perhaps a clever lie or two. No one has ever accused me of suffering a shortage of ways to make a fool of myself, and because blogging is one I haven’t tried, at least this is one most of my friends haven’t yet seen.
BLADE RUNNER (1982)
If you were old enough to read magazines about upcoming movies during the summer of 1982, I can almost guarantee you don't remember reading much about Ridley Scott's Blade Runner in advance of its release. There were seemingly hundreds of great movies that summer, and my 43 year-old memory has to open quite a few locks to now recall those films, but that particular summer was indeed one to remember. It was the summer we learned that extraterrestrials can phone home, Vulcan funerals are accompanied with bagpipes, Mr. T sure could box, and girls named Carol Anne should never, ever run toward the light. I have not a single memory of a positive discussion with my middle school-aged friends about Blade Runner, a film which I did indeed see at a drive-in in Los Angeles, and one which didn't much impress any thirteen year-old boys in my school. And why should it have? Most of the reviews for this film were mediocre at best. Much like that summer's Tron, it was considered a box-office bomb; although that film had tons of advance marketing. It makes no difference these days how many "Best of" lists Blade Runner now frequents; I'm telling you as someone who was there in 1982, this film was a non-event. It took a full decade before people started claiming it was a misunderstood movie, ahead of its time, a "rediscovered" classic, and all that what-have-you. (A smiliar fate befell John Carpenter's The Thing, but I agree with that revision. I liked the film very much in 1982. I like it still today. It makes me happy that John eventually got the recognition he deserved.)
My original opinion? I thought Blade Runner was a stylish but boring film, filled with nifty special effects, and Harrison Ford having no fun, whatsoever. For having such a cool plot involving replicants and flying police cars, Blade Runner sure didn't have any breath of adventure, especially not after witnessing Spock give up the ghost and E.T. sail across the moon. Yes, I understand that good science fiction does not necessarily need to be mindless entertainment, and not every sci-fi movie desires to compete with the high-water pop culture marks created by Kubrick, Lucas, and Spielberg, but give me a break. What frustrates me most about Blade Runner is not its newfound reputation as a brilliant piece of filmmaking but, instead, this revisionist history that suggests it was considered a classic in 1982, always had been, no matter what those of us who lived during that time period say to the contrary, because we were fools who didn't recognize a masterpiece when we saw one, being so blithely hypnotized that summer by shiny, insignificant movies about poltergeists, light cycles, Texas whorehouses, and hard-luck life lovin' ginger-haired orphans. In other words, my generation was too stupid to recognize a great piece of art. If you're over 40 and this argument sounds familiar because of your frustration toward what nowadays constitues a "great movie" or a "great movie star", then you know what I'm talking about. (George Clooney, I have a special app just for you.)
Blade Runner marks the first time in my life that a movie I originally deemed unworthy arose, Lazarus-like, from its own ashes to become another generation's phenomenon. To re-evaluate the unwise decisions made by our parents was, so we felt in the early 1980's, our own generation's hard-fought right, especially after Watergate and Vietnam. Now that it's happened in turn, to us, by the next generation, I wish we'd kept that right to ourselves because---I'm being honest here---having your opinion second-guessed by someone younger than yourself plain sucks. (Alas, if this hasn't all ready happened to you, just wait. It will.)
Do I hate Blade Runner? Not at all, never did. It has one of the prettiest one-sheets ever made, just magnificent. The score by Vangelis is beautiful; I own the soundtrack on CD. And yes, the special effects are indeed quite impressive, pure artistry for its time. And yet, to me, the film is cold. This is one of the few films from the early 1980's whose revisionist reputation, I believe, is undeserving. Instead, I'll stick to my guns when I write that we, those of us in 1982, gave Blade Runner the reception it deserved, considering what was screening in theatres that same summer. I resent when members of my own generation go turncoat over Blade Runner, claiming love for a film they first overlooked, just to feel in tune with modern times. It renders an entire generation into hypocrites.
If you're a Ridley Scott fan, I'll throw you a bone. I did like Alien.
Do you have a film which, over time, has become another generation's "rediscovered" classic? And you don't understand why? Tell me about it.
JIM CARL is Senior Director of the Carolina Theatre. He has been in charge of its film program since 1995. Some of his favorite contemporary movies include True Grit, Jaws, True Lies, Postcards from the Edge, Star Trek, Aliens, The Fog (1980), Private Benjamin, What’s Up, Doc? and almost anything involving Great White Sharks, Jamie Lee Curtis, Gilda Radner, Kurt Russell, or is set underwater. His favorite movie of all time is Ordinary People. Some of his least-favorite contemporary movies include 300, Alien 3, Brazil, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Moulin Rouge, G.I. Joe, District 9, Take Me Home Tonight, The Tourist, Sherlock Holmes, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Scarface (1983) and almost anything involving Ben Stiller (except Flirting with Disaster), British gangsters, or a toy that transforms into a loudmouthed robot. His least-favorite movie of all time is Pulp Fiction. He is a film believer in the presentation and preservation of 35mm film and will book any movie he suspects will make money, even if he hates it.