Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Summer of ’82: Blade Runner

Fante’s Inferno is revisiting the Summer of ’82, considered to be the greatest movie summer for fantasy and sci-fi fans.

Blade Runner

Release date: 6/25/82

Original theatrical trailer here.

Directed by Ridley Scott; Screenplay by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples (based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick)

Starring: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Brion James, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson

When I’m asked to name my favorite movie of all time, my first response is “There are too many favorites to narrow down to just one. ”  But when pressed to just try to narrow it down to one film, I would have to go with Blade Runner.

I wasn’t able to see Blade Runner in the theater when it was released 30 years ago this week.  I first caught it on cable TV a couple of years later.  At that time it didn’t have the profound effect it would have on me as I got older, but I absolutely enjoyed it.  When I revisited Blade Runner in my twenties I was struck not only by how the film still held up for me, but also by the fact that I enjoyed it much more with each subsequent viewing.  I was beginning to develop an obsession with it.

In the Spring of 1998 I was taking a certificate program in filmmaking at NYU (one of the most enjoyable moments in my life).  Over twelve weeks of intensive shooting and editing, I struck up friendships with two of my classmates.  One of them, cinematographer Mike P., was (and still is) a huge fan of Blade Runner.   Our conversations reintroduced me to the film.  I bought and watched a VHS copy of the 20th anniversary director’s cut (letterboxed of course!) and my obsession began.

For awhile I was on the fence regarding which version I liked better: the director’s cut or the original theatrical version with the happy ending and Decker’s voice overs.  The director’s cut is definitely a tighter edit, and Harrison Ford’s voice overs in the theatrical version are a distraction now.  Maybe it’s nostalgia, or maybe it’s the fact that I want the film to keep going after the elevator doors close in the director’s cut, but now that I have both versions on DVD I tend to lean more towards the theatrical version.  When the Ziegfeld Theater in Manhattan screened Blade Runner: The Final Cut on 2007, I was hoping it would have included the original theatrical ending.  I grumbled walking out of the theater when it didn’t…

In 1998 American Cinematographer had ranked Blade Runner in the top ten most beautifully shot films of all time.  The write up included a frame of Sean Young smoking a cigarette and an excerpt from the original article in American Cinematographer from 1982.  I ended up buying a copy of that 1982 issue on eBay.  I grossly overpaid, but I needed to read about Jordan Cronenweth’s cinematography.  Then I bought a copy of Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner which I highly recommend for both fans of Blade Runner and film in general.

What surprised me the most when I revisited Blade Runner were the negative reviews when the film was released.  The story was compelling, the effects were amazing, and each actor brought his or her character to life.  As I got older, in spite of the ruthlessness of the replicants played by Rutger Hauer, Brion James, and Daryl Hannah, I was able to empathize with their plight.  They just wanted to live longer.

There’s no question regarding whether or not Blade Runner holds up 30 years later.  It’s on a different level from the other movies released during the summer of 1982.  This one falls into the category of timeless.  I give it five out of six replicants.

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The Summer of ’82: Conan the Barbarian

Fante’s Inferno is revisiting the summer of 1982, considered to be the greatest movie summer for fantasy and sci-fi fans.

Conan the Barbarian

Conan the Barbarian
Copyright 1982 – Universal Pictures

Release date: 5/14/82

Directed by John Milius; Screenplay by John Milius and Oliver Stone (Based on the works of Robert E. Howard)

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger (Conan), James Earl Jones (Thulsa Doom), Sandahl Bergman (Valeria)

Famous quote:  When asked “What is best in life?”  Conan responds: “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women.”

The film begins with a blacksmith forging a sword…

I always loved that opening sequence.  The art of creating the weapon got me hooked on the story at age 10, and watching it this week at age 40 reminded me why.  At that point in my young life I was feeding myself a steady diet of fantasy books, Dungeons & Dragons, and Frank Frazetta’s artwork.

This isn’t a review, per se.  One thing I can’t bring myself to do with this film, or most others I enjoyed in my youth, is look at them with the jaded snarkiness that most other people would approach the film with in 2012.  I won’t judge the film by the primitive effects by today’s standards, the acting ability of Arnold at that point in his career, or whether or not I outgrew the film/genre as I got older.  For me, it comes down to these points:

1. Does watching it now remind me of why I enjoyed it back then?
2. Does the story still hold up for me?
3. Does the film reinforce what I like about the genre?

And so, how did it hold up for me when I watched it 30 years later?  Much better than I thought.  Although the special effects (or lack of special effects) would come across as dated by today’s standards, I actually enjoyed it more for that reason.  I prefer the old school approach on 35mm over today’s CGI overload.  If done today, the number of Thulsa Doom’s attackers in the opening raid of Conan’s village might ave been multiplied by 100 and the “real” actors might have been filmed against a green screen.  While I appreciate the progress that has been made with CGI (I’m not a luddite), and a filmmaker’s desire to create a landscape with these tools, regardless of how well it’s done it’s still a distraction to me as a viewer (although one CGI film that I thoroughly enjoyed was Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow).  I will always have an appreciation for the lost art of the matte painting.

If there was anything I would criticize about Conan the Barbarian, it would be the slow pace of the film.  Clocking in at 2 hours and 7 minutes, a half an hour could have been cut just by picking up the pace in many of the scenes.

One thing I didn’t realize was how little dialogue Arnold had throughout the film, unless you count the 87 times he said AAAGHaaghAAAGHaaAGH!!!! when tortured or beaten.

Seeing the final shot of an older, wiser, King Conan on his throne at the end of the film and reading the final lines on the screen reminded me of how I couldn’t wait for the sequel back then.  Two years later my childhood friend Kevin and I saw Conan the Destroyer in the theater.  Even at age 12, the fantasy/D&D fan in me didn’t take the story as seriously as Conan the Barbarian.

This film was like an old Dungeons & Dragons campaign on celluloid.  Two swords up.

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The Summer of ’82

With the anniversary upon us, I’ve been seeing quite a few articles proclaiming the summer of ’82 as one of the best summers for movies ever.  This Yahoo slideshow sums it up pretty well.  My first thought regarding the summer of 1982 is usually, “Holy crap, has it been 30 years?”  The second is: “Holy crap, that was a great summer for movies!”

I turned 10 that summer, and in addition to going to the local movie theater, most of that summer was spent reading Marvel comics, playing video games (on the Atari 2600 and at our local arcade) and playing Dungeons & Dragons a couple of times a week.  In short, it was heaven.

I’ll admit, scanning through these 15 films, there are a few that don’t really resonate with me in 2012 (The World According to Garp, An Officer and a Gentleman, and Night Shift), but most of the rest are still favorites of mine and it boggles my mind that they were released over the course of a few months.  Several fall into the category of “when I flip through the channels and it’s on, I watch it to the end.”

My favorites from the list:

Conan the Barbarian (5/14/82)
The Road Warrior (5/21/82)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (6/4/82)
Poltergeist (6/4/82)
E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (6/11/82)
Blade Runner (6/25/82)
The Thing (6/25/82)
The Secret of NIMH (7/2/82)
TRON (7/9/82)
Pink Floyd: The Wall (8/6/82)

One film that surprisingly isn’t on this list is Clint Eastwood’s Firefox (6/18/82).

I’d like to revisit each of these films in blog posts corresponding to the week they were released, but as you can see I’m a bit behind schedule with the first six, but the 30th anniversary of the release of Blade Runner (one of my favorite movies of all time) is coming up, so I’d better get cracking on that one.

On a side note, thank you to everyone that has been reading and following my blog.  The latest stats show visitors from 26 countries.  Please feel free to comment, as well as follow me on Twitter (@Fabrizio_Fante).  Emails are also welcome at fabfante (at) gmail (dot) com.

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The Captain America Project #7: Joe Madureira

The Captain America Project: 20 artists, 20 drawings of Captain America on one page.

This week: Joe Madureira (Uncanny X-Men)

Joe Madureira was another artist I approached at the 2010 Wizard World NY show.  I had approached him early in the afternoon that Saturday, but he advised he wasn’t drawing sketches.  Normally I wouldn’t ask a second time, but as the day went on, more than a few of the attending artists that worked on my page would say, “You HAVE to get Joe Mad for this page.”

Later in the day I noticed he was drawing a pencil sketch for an attendee.  Figuring it couldn’t hurt to ask, I asked if he had opened up a sketch list.  He hadn’t, but when he saw my Captain America jam page in progress, he agreed!

In my last post, I mentioned that Alex Maleev had accidentally spilled a drop of ink on one of the empty panels.  Joe looked at it and said, “I can cover this up in my sketch if you want.”  Of course, I said yes.

You can’t tell from this picture, but the ink stain is actually hidden in Cap’s shield.

Captain America by Joe Madureira

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