Tuesday, August 2, 2016
In the 1990's, for reasons that involve a lot of co-option of black culture by suburban white kids, and waffling between irony, genuine appreciation and I think a sincere love for the score - young white America somehow became invested in the 1971 film that was considered one of the best films to come out of the blaxploitation movement, Shaft.
Context free, a lot of us cracker kids watched I'm Gonna Git You, Sucka on VHS or HBO, maybe understanding that this was riffing on movies of a prior era, but I hadn't seen them, nor had my peers. I think the closest I got to taking in any blaxploitation film until the early 90's was tuning into Super Fly one night as a kid in middle school, believing from the title that it was a superhero movie I'd somehow missed. If anything, I got a clue as to what the spoof movie had been on about via reruns of TV shows that lifted from blaxploitation, but I confess to being mostly ignorant of the genre until maybe 1992 or when I got to college.
Kids hipper to a wider variety of music than what I listened to picked up pop-culture references as 80's and 90's hip-hop name-dropped and sampled from 70's actioners and that bled over to other genres of dance music. The curious kids picked up some of those movies to rent and saw a lot of stuff I didn't catch until others got me to take a look or I heard about it word of mouth (the internet was just Star Trek fan pages and lo-fi porn then, you see). Other kids who had gotten into soul and funk music tracked down Isaac Hayes and wanted to actually see Shaft. I do know that by the time I left high school, I was at least aware of who Hayes was, but that was about it. Had maybe heard of Shaft, but this was also an era in which your local Blockbuster likely didn't carry movies that were older than 7 or 8 years from the theater.
As a good, sorta-hip white kid of the 1990's, I caught Shaft at some point during film school. I don't remember if it was before or after a unit on blaxploitation as a genre and my first exposure to Pam Grier (something a young man never forgets).
The funny thing is - watching it this last weekend, I didn't really remember Shaft all that well. Once the one guy gets tossed out the window, I couldn't really piece together what the plot had been, just snippets here and there. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find out - Shaft is actually a strong private detective story in a classic pulp-crime style (deeply appealing to this viewer), with a fascinating protagonist who is literally not playing by anyone else's rules - if'n you should ever want to see what that actually looks like, you with your anti-heroes.
And, of course, Shaft is a Black superhero who cuts through white culture through the sheer power of not giving a good goddamn.
Sunday, June 26, 2016
It had been some time since I'd watched the 1973 sci-fi classic, Westworld. I'd rented it with Jason some time back in the late 80's, and I think we both really liked it (but, if memory serves, he'd seen it before). I've only seen it again once in college somewhere along the line, enjoyed it, but not watched it again anytime in the last 16 years at least. I've tried to watch the sequel, Futureworld, but just couldn't watch the 1976 film. Something about the pacing lost me the one time I tried to give it a whirl.
It seems HBO is launching a TV series also titled Westworld which will greatly expand on the ideas presented in the movie. It's got an all-star cast and looks to be the sort of thing I find interesting in science fiction.* I'll be checking it out, certainly, and have high hopes. Anyway, it got me fired up to review the original film once again.
Monday, June 20, 2016
At the risk of sounding super creepy, what I really remembered from this movie was Jane Seymour. I knew I hadn't seen this one during my Bond-sprint post 7th Grade because I was totally shocked to find out, in high school, that Paul McCartney and Wings had offered up a song for a Bond movie when Guns N' Roses covered the song on Use Your Illusion I. While I'm certain I'd heard the Wings version, I don't think I'd ever quite put 2 and 2 together (because I could not have cared less about Wings until about that point).
When I was in college I lived in a dump of an apartment that happened to be (a) close to campus, (b) furnished and (c) featured cable. And, in that year ('94-'95), TBS started showing Bond movies on an infinite loop, and it was then that I finally saw Live and Let Die (1973). And, as a 19 year-old, it was kinda hard to ignore Jane Seymour, who I was mostly familiar with from Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and Somewhere in Time.
|"It shall be I and Yaphet Kotto that you will remember from this movie, for very different reasons!"|
But, as they say, I showed up for the Jane Seymour, I stayed for the bat-shit plotting and boat chases.
Sunday, May 29, 2016
This may be the true start of "silly Bond". Or, at least, a more lighthearted Bond franchise.
Diamonds Are Forever (1971) saw the return of Sean Connery to the role after the George Lazenby experiment (and, yes, we skipped On Her Majesty's Secret Service because we'd watched it just prior to starting on the chronological viewing of Bond films, but we'll get back around to it). He looks comfortable in the role, picking up the thread of revenge for the death of Diana Rigg at the conclusion of the prior movie. Oddly, it's not stated directly, but Bond tracks Blofeld to a secret lair where he manages to dispatch him before the credits even roll.
Saturday, April 30, 2016
It had been some time since I'd seen Alien, and I had never seen it on the big screen. The Alamo Drafthouse was doing double-bills of Alien and Aliens, and then Alien3 and Alien Resurrection. I showed up for the double-bill, but I've been exhausted all week, and when SimonUK, my movie buddy, announced he'd seen the two movies on 4/26, I felt like I had an out. So, we watched Alien, grabbed a pint at the bar after skipping out on movie #2, and then I went home for 40 winks.
Saturday, February 27, 2016
Last week I noticed Disney had put out a trailer for a new version of Pete's Dragon starring Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford. "Hey, that's a movie that could stand a re-make," I said to myself. And then I realized - I'm pretty sure I haven't seen the actual Pete's Dragon (1977) since its theatrical release or sometime pretty close to it. Honestly, I only really had a memory of a Disney record and picture book we had around when I was very small, and it's entirely possible that's all I remember, and that I never saw the movie at all.
Here's a link to that new trailer.
Monday, February 22, 2016
I've seen a few adaptations of the Richard Stark-penned series of crime novels starring heist-man, Parker. Point Blank (great), Payback (not so great), Parker (really not so great). Maybe another one or two. But The Outfit (1973) was maybe the closest to an actual Parker book in spirit and execution. I won't dwell on the differences, because they're many, but the movie does use scenes from the book in whole and in part (it's been a while since I read the early Parker books, and I think they pulled a scene or two from other Parker books, but I may be wrong).
The movie captures a lot about the world of Parker. It's a lot of backroads, hiding or waiting in cheap motel rooms, the people you try to work with are unreliable and dangerous, and the people who are the closest thing to something you'd call "friend" tend to wind up dead, in prison or both.
I really didn't know much about the movie before SimonUK brought it over Sunday morning for a view, other than that it starred Robert Duvall in the Parker role - here named "Macklin" (author Richard Stark wouldn't let films use the name "Parker" - I suppose until they made a straight adaptation). The film co-stars Karen Black and Joe Don F'ing Baker.
Sunday, January 17, 2016
I had not previously seen The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976). Something about the description on the back of the VHS box I used to consider made me pretty sure I knew what this movie was going to be, and... I was about half-right. It's an innocent-comes-to-earth-and-reveals-we're-kind-of-lousy-because-of-how-we-treat-him movie. There's less in the way of sexual misadventures for our alien than I was expecting. And a huge lack of actual David Bowie music, which I just wrongly assumed would score the movie.
Honestly, this wasn't really my cup of tea. Not terrible, but I feel like I've seen this story done before and with both more narrative economy and with more focus. Bowie himself is actually pretty good. I'm just not sure this movie was as good as it thinks it is. But it's also a product of it's time, and it's a necessary stepping stone that pushed sci-fi a bit further in cinema.