Friday, May 31, 2013

Random Thoughts 2013

There are a number of substantial blog entries that are slowly being worked on, so this is just offering some footnotes on certain interests. I haven’t written about the personal impact of Ray Harryhausen as a child, but he captured the imagination of several generations of filmmakers, visual effects artists, and his work with producer Charles Schneer built up a body of iconic work. After recently reviewing my copy of First Men In The Moon, I realized that I had forgotten that Nigel Kneale, who’s work with the Quartermass series remains legend, was the co-screen writer for that film. Someone whom I had been in contact with in the past, Tim Lucas, has written the best piece as to why Harryhausen’s work was so important.

On another point: Someone had recently uploaded on You Tube the full movie of Starship Invasions (1977), a Canadian production that starred Christopher Lee and Robert Vaughn. One does get the feeling that these actors were sort of slumming it by appearing in this film. But for those interested in the UFO phenomenon, the film referenced a number of UFO iconoclasts that were prevalent in the real world culture at the time. Enjoy it while it lasts, as I suspect copyright issues will force it to be pulled down soon enough.

This month also represents another milestone: the release in late May, 1977 of George Lucas’s Star Wars. The San Francisco Chronicle wrote up several pieces about the film’s impact on Bay area audiences in 1977. I was a part of that generation that was at the right age to see that film. I fear that contemporary readers in this day and age do not understand the visceral impact, or have forgotten about the visceral impact that Star Wars had on a certain generation. I mean that impact was seismic, and drove a lot of people to want to get into film, the arts, or the sciences. John Wasserman’s review correctly sized up the film, acknowledging that “The Force” was in essence, God. The article by Peter Hartlaub accurately depicts seeing the film at the Coronet Theatre in 70 MM, in six track Dolby. I was one of those people that would gladly wear a “I was there, May, 1977” badge. When I write seismic, I would liken it to The Beatles on Ed Sullivan for our generation; it was that great of a shift in the psyche of a lot of young people. The article is also interesting with the portrait that is painted, sans the historical revisionism that has occurred with Star Wars, and now that we are entering into the post-Lucas era, I fear we will see a lot more revisionism under the Disney machine.

Lastly, this brings up some unpleasant thoughts about the new Star Trek: Into Darkness film. There isn’t any other way to put this, but I had some real problems with the second half of the film. While I had no problems with a reimaging of the “Space Seed” story arc, and really liked the 2009 film, I felt the overt quotes from The Wrath of Khan used in the film seemed lazy on the part of the writers. Many of the quotes seemed out of context in relation to the aim of the story. I was left with the impression that the writers weren’t as clever as they believed they were, and I could not tell if the writers and J.J. Abrams weren’t demonstrating a real contempt for the viewing audience, and to long-term Star Trek fans. It’s true that Nicholas Meyer did not view Star Trek as a sacred cow back when he helmed ST II: The Wrath of Khan, but having met Nic Meyer, in spite of his high intelligence, I never felt he had contempt for the fans, nor the viewing public. This is a real problem for the film, and now that word of mouth is circling, this might explain the weaker box office than expected. I appreciate that J.J. Abrams has expressed real admiration for The X-Files, but some things have to be said, and the attitude with certain sites to not criticize Abrams and view him as ‘one of us’ as a self-professed genre geek, really must stop. By many accounts, Abrams has always been a Hollywood insider, and has professed to not liking 60s Star Trek, as he sees it as being a little too talky and cerebral. I see too many fan sites that are tying themselves in knots trying to defend Abrams on this film, and it’s a great disservice for all.

While there has been a certain level of cynicism that has developed within Hollywood genre blockbusters, when filmmakers start to develop contempt for the viewers, the worm indeed turns. Harryhausen captured that sense of wonder--even an exploitation genre film like Starship Invasions had a certain naïve, but flawed charm--and Star Wars shared the same enthusiasm, reconnecting with the past, while moving forward with innovation. Something seems to be lost with some of the new generations of genre filmmakers. If Abrams sees Star Trek as too high minded, how could he not see The X-Files in the same way?

This is why I have such misgivings with Abrams being involved with any X-Files reimaging, if such rumors persist.

Special thanks to XScribe for editorial assistance.