Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sh!#ting on the Classics: Blade Runner


Wait - what? Blade Runner? YES. I am seething with righteous anger. Wait! Give me a minute. Sit down. This is going to take awhile.

Blade Runner (1982)


Blade Runner may have saved my life. I could never shit on Blade Runner; I love it with all of my black little heart. Instead, I would like to shit on the type of person who shits on Blade Runner.

Blade Runner is one of the greatest science fiction films ever made, if not the greatest science-fiction film ever made. Blade Runner (along with The Road Warrior) defined what the future would look like in American movies for two decades or more. Blade Runner, in fact, could be called a perfect movie -- perfect cast, perfect direction, perfect script, perfect cinematography, perfect score, and perfect special effects.

I first saw Blade Runner the day it opened, June 25, 1982. I was very impressed by the film; indeed, I was overwhelmed. The next day I saw it again, this time with my then girlfriend, who I will call Sue (because that was her name), and another couple, who I will call “Peaches” and “Herb.” (“Peaches” was the girl.)

The girls hated it. They hated it so much they could not even conceive of anyone else liking it. “Too slow,” “too dark,” and “too violent” were their biggest complaints. They made fun of me for liking it so much. Their sophisticated and complex argument against the film basically boiled down to them shouting, “How could you like it?”

I am convinced to this day that “Herb” loved the film but allowed the girls to beat him down in his opinion because, well... he was just that way. Happy to be pussy whipped, thank you. Not me. I have never let anyone else’s opinions or feelings ever change my behavior in any way, and that is why my doctors call me a sociopath.

The girls’ mewling complaints matched those of early test audiences. Those audiences were wrong. The comment cards from these wrong-headed mobs gave the film’s producers cold feet. We are lucky that we got any Blade Runner at all. The gutless producers forced Harrison Ford to record that miserable explanatory narration, forced Ridley Scott to use leftover footage from The Shining to cobble together a happy ending where there was none, and forced out seven different versions of this film. Changing any film in the wake of disatrous preview screenings and audience comment cards is a fool’s errand. The studio is, in effect, wasting tremendous resources and effort to change a film to please people who have already decided they hate it. Critical hindsight shows that the closer Blade Runner comes to the director’s original vision, the better it is: the emotional content more fully captures the troubling, ambiguous nature of what it is like to be human.

Art is not a democracy.

TANGENT: Readers have been giving me pipe lately because the films I have been be-shitting are “not classics.” What these readers fail to understand is that complaining loudly and irrationally about anything on my mind is “classic me.” Also, fuck you.

Face it: There are no more classic films. Every potential classic gets the interesting, idiosyncratic material effectively buffed off of it by preview audiences composed of Sues and Peacheses. “Too slow,” they cry, and the producers scurry for the scissors. “Too dark,” they moan, and the producers scamper to schedule reshoots. “Too violent,” they shriek, and the producers skedaddle towards a watered-down PG-13. In the words of F This Movie! fan Goatlips, “Films are awful nowadays, aimed at people with half a brain.” The one group that should have an interest in classic films and idiosyncratic new films is film school students. Alas, all is lost on this front as well. F This Movie! superfan and bonafide film school student Ross reports that today’s film students have no interest in older classics or independant films. They like Transformers just fine. They like Requiem for a Dream. They love those Boondock Saints. Besides being awful, those three films have something else in common: no subtlety, no nuance, no ambiguity, no nothing. “Evil robots are bad.” “Drugs are bad.” And Boondock Saints is just the worst.

BACK TO OUR STORY: I should have realized in 1982 that I needed to break up with Sue. But I was young and foolish; the relationship limped along for another two years. Blade Runner could have been responsible for getting me two whole years of my life back, but I would not listen.

FULL DISCLOSURE: “Peaches” and “Herb” later broke up. I do not know if Blade Runner had anything to do with it. “Herb” later dated Jan. Jan broke up with “Herb” to date me. I later married Jan, the single smartest decision of my life. We celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary next June. Our secret?

Jan loves Blade Runner. Always has. It is one of her all-time favorite movies. She used to have a big Blade Runner poster hanging on the wall of her apartment in college. Above the bed. Are you following me here? It was the coolest.

Taste in movies is not just one criterion to consider when choosing a potential life partner; it is the only criterion. Thank you, Blade Runner.

3 comments:

  1. Well, the most intelligent thing you mention in this piece is that you married Jan F. Also, I have always loved blade runner, and most things Sci-Fi, as well as the classics in color or Black and white. My daughter often asks me why I bother with "those black and white films"? I tell her I am bored with the new crap they have out, overloaded with action and lacking in plot and real story, and I am looking for an interesting "new" movie. It is so interesting watching the dynamic and interaction of the characters, but in particular how the relationship of how men viewed women "back in the day". I am glad you value your woman, she's a keeper!

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  2. Great comment. I sometimes wish that more people ccould get used to the slower pace of older classic films. I am convinced that is one of the biggest roadblocks to more people enjoying them. You just have to... Downshift.

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  3. Yeah, I also find watching Blade Runner with "Herb" makes it a lot better. How's that for subtlety, nuance and ambiguity?

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