Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!
You probably remember that scene from Poltergeist (the 1982 original, not the 2015 remake): Marty, one of the parapsychologists investigating the Freeling home, goes to the kitchen at night, grabs some food from the fridge – and finds that what he’s taken seems possessed and infested with maggots and evil. Understandably taken aback, he runs to a nearby utility room, he splashes water on his face… and then watches himself in the mirror as slits and cracks open in his face. Blood drips in the sink. And as we’re watching, a horrified Marty pulls off his face chunk by chunk, revealing blood, flesh and bone. A flash of light! – and Marty’s face is where it belongs, where it’s always been. It’s all been in his head… or has it?
Warning: Some graphic albeit cheesy ’80s gore to follow.
Join us every week for a trip into the weird and wonderful world of trailers. Whether it’s the first teaser for the latest instalment in your favourite franchise, an obscure preview for a strange indie darling, whether it’s good, bad, ugly or just plain weird – your favourite pop culture baristas are there to tell you what they think.
Murder in 16th century Bavaria, mysteries in a medieval abbey, illustrated manuscript and forbidden books: for someone who considers the film adaptation of The Name of the Rose one of his formative cinema experiences, the recently released Pentiment is catnip, as Matt will gladly confirm in spite of the few hundred years in between the two settings. But since we recently featured the trailer for this game (which was released late last year), let’s instead indulge in some quality post-Bond Sean Connery.
Our baristas have shown before that they have an eye for interesting locations in movies, in their discussion of their home towns and their appearances in films as well as in last summer’s episode on the cinema of Dario Argento. This month they’re going from a geographical, ‘on location’ scale to the more individual, designed spaces of interior and exterior architecture. Sam is joined by Alan and Julie to talk about architectural design in cinema: staircases that range from grand to absurd and dreamlike, the modernist villains’ lairs (watch out for a feline cameo in keeping with the theme!) and iconic War Rooms of Ken Adams, and the grand, retro-futuristic design and cityscapes of Blade Runner and other epic-scale sci-fi. What do our cinephile sightseers like better: grand bespoke sets or on-location shots of existing places? Matte paintings, miniatures or CGI architecture? And what are some of the staircases that no movie lover should miss?
Perhaps it doesn’t need to be said – after all, the film is exceedingly well reviewed – but I want to start by saying it anyway: Blade Runner 2049 is a gorgeous piece of visual art. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Roger Deakins has surpassed himself; his portfolio does include The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, after all. Nevertheless, there are few films this side of the turn of the century, or even this side of the original Blade Runner, that offer as coherent and as gorgeous a window into a world that is at once excitingly different and eerily familiar. And the praise isn’t just Deakins’: the artists that worked on all the individual puzzle pieces that make up the look of Blade Runner 2049 may just deserve most of the awards that exist and some that don’t. I don’t think the film will necessarily become as influential as the original Blade Runner, which pretty much defined what dystopian cityscapes of the near future look like, but aesthetically it manages the almost impossible, reconciling the iconic neo-noir with a more modern, almost anthropological sensitivity and creating something that both recalls the original and adds to it in startlingly original ways.
Just consider this: after the endless night of the original film, Blade Runner 2049 is largely set in daylight scenarios – and it pulls it off.
When I was a teenager, I loved Blade Runner. I loved the atmosphere, the plot, the characters, the lines.
I am still very fond of the film, but after watching the Final Cut (which came out recently) yesterday, I am sorry to say that the original magic isn’t there any more. The film still looks absolutely gorgeous, even more so on the new DVD release, which almost makes you wonder what all the fuss about BluRay or HD-DVD is about if DVDs can look this stunning. The atmosphere is still there. But somehow I can no longer get into the faux-noirish plot and characters. Deckard is a dick, but not a very complex one; Rachael is, well, Sean Young, not the most exciting of actresses at the best of times; and most of the characters, including the replicants, remain one-dimensional. Much of what I originally found intriguing and evocative now strikes me as a tad too facile: “Ooh, we’re being vague here!”
This probably sounds worse than it ought to, because as I said, I used to love the film, so it came as a bit of a shock to find that my feelings had changed. Nevertheless – the film still looks amazing. Judging from the DVD quality, chances are it never looked better. And somehow the coherence of the visual design even makes the ’80s booboos work: Pris’ and Rachael’s hair, the shoulder pads, the neon. Although, after first seeing the film in the late ’80s or early ’90s, the intro sequence with its caption “Los Angeles, 2019” made me think that we’re probably still not much closer to flying cars than we were back then. Well, we’ll see in twelve years or so…
What was fun, though: spotting the actors from series I’ve been watching since. I’d never realised that I’d first seen Brenda’s mom wearing some artificial snake scales, a transparent raincoat and very little else. (Helloooo, Mrs. Chenowith!) And for some odd reason, I’ve only seen William Sanderson in parts where his first name consisted of double initials: E.B. Farnum, J.F. Sebastian. (Perhaps he should next try his hand at P.T. Barnum.) Finally, even though I know that Gaff is played by Edward James Olmos, but apart from the pock marks I simply don’t see it – Gaff looks and sounds so much creepier than Admiral Adama. If President Roslin ever gets hold of a Blade Runner video (probably with the corners cut off), she’ll get quite a shock…