The Rear-View Mirror: Alien (1979)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

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Alien turns 40 this year, and due to (or despite of) its low-tech special effects, it has aged well. In 1979 the film was meant to benefit from Star Wars‘ success, and became a classic in its own right. Sticking with a female lead for a franchise is not unprecedented, but it was (and is!) rare enough for Alien to be studied for its feminist message. This is by no means the only subject which has been studied through (or sometimes projected onto) Alien. From post-humanism to themes of giving birth and even rape, the amount of scholarly and academic articles which have been written about this sparse sci-fi thriller is improbably large. For all the scholarly probing, though, Alien is an accessible film, and still an easy film to love. Scott says it was meant to be an “unpretentious, riveting thriller, like Psycho or Rosemary’s Baby”.

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It’s the pictures that got small

This week I saw my first Hitchcock on the big screen. I grew up in the ’80s, which meant that I first and, more often than not, only saw the classics of cinema on TV – and in the ’80s that meant, what, screens that were 30 inches across if you were lucky? TVs were big, bulky monstrosities, but the screens weren’t particularly big – which was good, really, because television channels broadcast images that were relatively fuzzy. If you sat close enough to the screen so that it filled your field of vision (and you could smell that weird electric smell), what you saw was basically impressionist art.

North By Northwest

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Genocide by Xenomorph? Discuss.

Alien: Covenant is a notch better than Prometheus, maybe two, but it still leaves much to be desired. The main problem, for me anyway, lies not within the film, but outside it. My main complaint is this: I am no longer afraid of the Xenomorph and its many manifestations. Oh sure, I am going to lose my shit for a moment at a jump scare (they are named that way for a reason), but even facehuggers and new-born chestbursters don’t do it for me anymore. I might suffer from what Mr Thirith calls Alien fatigue. Continue reading

I call the big one Bitey! Fairness and Alien: Isolation

Perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility… I admire its purity. A survivor… unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality… I can’t lie to you about your chances, but… you have my sympathies.

This apt description by Ash, everyone’s favourite hobbity murderbot, very much fits Alien: Isolation‘s recreation of the alien originally conceived by H.R. Giger and brought to the screen by Ridley Scott and crew. The creature is deadly: it is single-minded and has no conscience. Accordingly, it lacks yet another quality, one that most people would consider essential to good video games – whatever else the alien is, it isn’t fair.

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They create worlds: Alien: Isolation

One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.

When I was a kid playing pirated games on my beloved “breadbox”, the C64, games based on movie licences tended to be ubiquitous, largely interchangeable and mostly dire affairs. Whether they were mediocre shooters or bad action adventures, if it wasn’t for the title screen and (if we were lucky) a bit tune rendition of the movie’s theme, it’d be well-nigh impossible to know that what you were playing was supposedly an adaptation of Licence to Kill (yes, those two dozen huge pixels represented Timothy Dalton) or Platoon (a surprisingly enjoyable action game, albeit one that dropped the film’s anti-war angle in favour of some more mass market-friendly Vietcong shootery). Whatever connection there was to the films that purportedly inspired the games ended up being mostly imaginary.

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In a world…

Alien. Comedian. Magnolia. Psycho. What do these films have in common, other than snappy, one-word titles?

The Onion‘s A.V. Club knows: Coming-attraction attractions: 24 movie trailers that function as standalone works of art. Worth checking out, not least because of gems such as its description of Magnolia as “a sprawling, awkward, almost brutally sincere film”.

Talking of which, I do love that trailer:

P.S.: Was I the only kid who had sort of an older-woman crush on Melinda Dillon after watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind and A Christmas Story?