L13FC: The Purpose of Science Fiction, Blade Runner 2049

Welcome back, everyone. It’s the thirteenth of the month and the Lucky 13 Film Club topic today is the purpose of Sci-Fi films. As a case study, check out this conversation I had with my 29-year-old daughter in the car on the way home from watching Blade Runner 2049 the other day. 

Vanessa: Mom, when you asked me half-way through the film if I was bored, I said “no”. But then I thought about it, and yeah, I was bored. I wondered if never having seen the first Blade Runner would affect my understanding of the sequel.  This movie was so long and loud and I didn’t understand what was going on. It was just Ryan Gosling without expression either staring vacantly at females who wanted to have sex with him or kill him. What about that lackluster chemistry between him and Harrison Ford?”

Cindy: (laughing). Yeah, well, Harrison Ford has given the same performance for decades. I don’t think Deckard was ever a replicant, though. Oddly, he conveys too many emotions. He and K-Joe were father and son. I think.

V: Was the memory-maker his sister? The most intriguing scene for me was when K-Joe shared a memory into a gadget at her bubble cell, and she told him it was real, not fabricated. What the heck was the memory that brought out the only emotion in him in the whole movie? Something more important than sex and the fear of death?”

Cindy: I can only speculate. What did you think of Jared Leto‘s character Niander Wallace? I honestly thought they could have cut out his entire role. It was a ranting philosophical weak sub-plot which set up morality questions about Artificial Intelligence raised in Spielberg’s A.I. Leto was great at being weird, and his scenes added to the overall creepiness, but then, there was plenty of weirdness going on. I admit the futuristic technology was awesome in his scenes. Little black bugs that connect into your brain so the blind can see? Cool.

V: I didn’t understand Luv, the bad replicant, played by Sylvia Hoeks. Other than she was the top angel and terminator for Wallace, her job was to find the child or she’d be a fallen angel. For a while there, I thought Luv and K-Joe were brother and sister.

Cindy: I didn’t like the final showdown between Luv and K-Joe. It was flat and I was tired of the emotionless duel between the two replicants.

V: (wearily) I have never disliked a film more.

Cindy: Really? You hated it?

V: I was so uncomfortable in that film. I was trapped for almost three hours in a gray, treeless world that screeched wave after wave of engine noise and made me want to cry or kill myself if that had been my reality. I was disturbed at how women were portrayed. Either they were giant slutty naked body parts or robotic destroyers. Other than the memory-maker, the only female character who was soft and feminine wasn’t real in the first place. She was a hologram. With a remote click, she disappeared and reappeared at Officer K’s convenience.  It was twice as scary than the horror film It. 

Cindy: That’s why Denis Velleneuve‘s film was so good. Good Science Fiction puts you in a futuristic setting that is often horrifying to remind you in the present to take care that the artist’s prediction for the future doesn’t come true. It was an apocalyptic horror film. The power of technology is frightening. Remember, just because we can create new gadgets and programs doesn’t mean we should. It’s becoming the new religion. Blind faith in technology, to me, is horrifying.

That is, except for the Deckard scenes in Las Vegas. He was stranded with a million bottles of whiskey around him and the hologram shows. If the apocalypse comes, I can’t think of a better place to hang out with me, myself, and I than at The Mirage with Elvis Presley.

V: (rolls eyes) Oh, Mother. Did you like the film?

Cindy: Oh, I loved it. Well worth the 30-odd year wait. I highly recommend it. 4.5/5 

V: I would have rather watched Wonderwoman or Thor: Ragnorak or The Justice League.

Cindy: But that’s not Science Fiction.

V: You mean it’s not Science Fiction if I’m not depressed after watching it? Must it always be so serious and thought-provoking?

Cindy: The good ones usually are.

* * * * * * *

What’s the purpose behind Science Fiction? What are the elements of it?

U2

The view from our seats.

U2 played last night at the University of Phoenix Stadium. Yesterday, my son called me up late in the morning and asked me, “You wanna go to see U2 tonight?”

In 1984, Bill and I was stationed in Northern Scotland at a communication station at Thurso. That was a momentous year. We married. I gave birth to my first child, Steven, and we discovered the Irish rock band, U2. Bill was an avid record collector, and we frequented the local record shop weekly to hear what was new, finger through the rows of albums for sale, and listen to the newly released albums. It was a social event for us; how strange times have changed!

The owner showed us the new U2 album, The Unforgettable Fire. Back then, I remember listening to UK albums, flying home to the States for leave, and the new rave in the UK hadn’t been released yet in the USA. Vice versa. There always seemed to be a six-month lag. Once we heard The Unforgettable Fire, we researched and found three previous albums and connected the dots. “Oh, yeah, that song. That’s U2? Let’s buy the album.”

So we gobbled up Boy (1980), October (1981), and  War (1983). The happiest times of our marriage was going home after a shift and listening to albums while we drank, played cards, and memorized all the songs. When Steven was born, I refrained from drinking and smoking, and U2 was in the background while I fed the boy, changed him, and thought about my future. I was only twenty-one years old. I didn’t have a clue how to be a mother and no family around to lend support. A friend sent me a baby book in the mail, and I was glad she did, for I felt inept.

The concert last night was a greatest-hits concert. 50,000 people in the stadium sang along to the top twenty hit repertoire. Steve didn’t know “Pride” was about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. “I was in third grade, I think. I didn’t know about the lyrics.”  Each song conjured a different memory from my past. “I Will Follow” from Boy made me remember when I worked out to get back in shape after my son’s birth. I still see myself jumping up and down working up a sweat. From The Joshua Tree (1987), arguably their best album and the namesake of this tour, thirty years later–really?– I was getting ready to have my last child, my daughter. My marriage to Bill was suffering, and the melancholy songs resonated with me, especially “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”.  

During the 1990s, I was divorced, a driven student, and hungry to learn. I remained in school for seventeen years while I started teaching in 1999 and continued on with graduate school. All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000) reminded me of my commuting time as a non-traditional student. How many times did I listen to that album? “It’s a Beautiful Day” was an anthem song. During sad moments, I sang it loud to lift my spirits. How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb(2004) was the last album (CD) I bought. I was in my early forties and so busy with teenagers and school, I listened to music on the radio, but didn’t choose to buy anything.

Eye level seats. They were perfect.

So yesterday, when Steve called me up and asked me to go to the U2 concert with his wife Tabitha and him, I jumped at the chance. The last time I went to a rock concert was in the late 1980s when I saw Paul McCartney and Wings at Madison Square Garden. I was long overdue.

The songs were played loudly, and that baby from 1984 is strong today despite whatever ineptness I imagined as a new mother. While you may not care one iota about U2, to me, they have been a part of my life for almost thirty-three years. I had always heard what outstanding performers they were over the years. I just thought before I died, it would be great to see the band that had somehow sewn their songs into my heart.

U2 is unique. Who else but they could sing rock songs about getting the girl and God in the same song? There’s something spiritual about Bono. He’s a minister who tries to change the world in a positive way with his belief in the power of love and the power of the people. Looking at Bono’s wrinkled face during the close-ups made me smile. We both have been through a lot. Sharing the concert with my son brought me back to my days of naiveté. It seemed fitting that I would watch the concert with Steve. U2 has accompanied me all of my adult life, and I am the better for it.

The Beguiled ’71 vs The Beguiled ’17

I recommend reading Keith’s thoughts about the 2017 remake found here:

REVIEW: “The Beguiled”

The 1971 Version

Three years into the Civil War, handsome Union soldier John McBurney (Clint Eastwood) is discovered and brought to Miss Martha Farnsworth Seminary for Young Ladies. At first, he is delighted to be surrounded by the cloistered beauty of varying ages. An African American slave, Hallie,  (blues singer Mae Mercer) who remains on the estate and assists headmistress Martha (Geraldine Page, Hondo, Sweet Bird of Youth), try to keep order among the girls who are drawn to their new guest. The girls learn French, garden, knit and embroider, and take the post to look out for Union soldiers while getting updates from Southern soldiers as they pass by the imposing wrought-iron gate that keeps the girls in like a prison.

The 1971 version was produced and directed Don Siegel (Eastwood and he worked together in five films) was based on the novel A Painted Devil by Thomas P. Cullinan. The 1971 version focused on sexual taboos and sexual repression created by isolation of the war. The male is the victim and Eastwood falls into the den of the black widow and her spiders. The theme of castration is outwardly expressed.

The 2017 Version 

In this version, headmistress Martha is played by the wispy, haunted, out-of-breath Nicole Kidman.  Colin Firth is Corporal John McBurney. Kirsten Dunst is the plump, aging spinster who wants to escape her confining post as the teacher at the school and hopes John will save her.

The weakness of one version was the strength of the other so that trying to decide which was better was difficult. Sofia Coppola‘s outstanding effort was her directorship. Applauds all around for capturing the humid, suffocating setting of trees and brush and cicadas and for creating an authentic historical climate of 1863 even though she filmed it at Lousiana’s Madewood Plantation while the location was said to be in Virginia.  Fine, I’ll give that to her because the location made for an ideal stage. Sofia does well with costumes in her films and uses them to accentuate the personalities of her characters. In this case, her female cast wears white and it is appropriate as boarding school garb and innocence even though they are all a bit too starched and brand new for a timeworn, ragged estate three years into the war. The ending shot was outstanding. It was a daguerreotype, the outcome frozen and ghostly. White seemed to be a motif Coppola played with throughout the 90 minutes.

The 2017 film felt like a lot of short stories I’ve read over the years and loved. The ghost stories of George Eliot, Daphne du Maurier, Shirley Jackson, and Virginia Woolf come to mind. Sin is insinuated rather than fleshed out and laid on the table. (sorry) You’d get more of that from the 1971 version. While I appreciated the camera angles from Eastwood’s perspective and the manual pull in and out of the lens from Dan Spiegel, the occasional harpsichord felt like you were in a Vincent Price film. Not that that’s bad, just dated. However, the acting was much better in the 1971 version especially the “hussy” Carol played by Jo Ann Harris.

The biggest contrast between both versions was the matchup between Miss Martha the headmistress and Corporal McBurney. The 1971 version is better because of Geraldine Page. The motivating events propelled her performance to a higher, memorable plateau while validating the decisions of the others. I felt Sofia’s screenplay softened and blurred the characters. Since this is a film about relationships, Coppola’s characters paled by comparison. If you took Sophia’s directing and inserted the 1971 cast into her Southern setting, you’d have an outstanding film. As it is, I’d rate the 2017 version as a 3.5 and the 1971 version a 4. 

Five Shots: OBX

Kill Devil Hills Beach

North Carolina’s Outer Banks (OBX) has a history of pirates and lighthouses, THE LOST COLONY OF ROANOKE, and the location of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s famous first flight in 1903. Check out this CBS Sunday Morning video about historian David McCullough’s book, The Wright Brothers. (A great read).

On the OBX you will discover sand dunes and wild horses and your eyes will fill with brown sugar beaches and water–the Pamlico Sound on the west side and the Atlantic Ocean on the east side. In addition to the history, add Southern hospitality and all the seafood you can eat. The warm breezes and the chilly Atlantic relaxed us beyond measure. Jim and I attended a special wedding at sunset on the beach when the waves turned into silver and the tall grass on the dunes waved under the pink sunset. Living in the desert, the water was therapeutic for us. We were only there for a few days, but in my mind, I’m already planning to rent a house and have a full family vacation at the OBX in the future. But for now, it was a welcome retreat and an opportunity to rejoice in an intimate family celebration.  Which shot do you like best?

Fish Enchiladas at Bernie’s
Kill Devil Hills looking North
Pamlico Sound Tiki Bar at Duck

Pamlico Sound house pier
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Bodie Lighthouse
View at the top
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Looking down nine floors

Oregon Inlet fishing station. Today’s catch.
Mahi
Waves at Rodanthe
Sunset over Pamlico Sound
Supper’s Ready
The bride and groom and the proud witnesses

 

 

Five Shots: Food in Madrid

Famous market in Madrid for fresh foods, wines, and exotic fish.
1. Cherries
2. Green Olives
3. I don’t know. You tell me.
4. Mozzarella balls
5. Spaniards love their ham.
6. Jamón ibérico. In Italy it is called prosciutto.
7. A typical lunch
9. Red Prawns and Sardines
10. Swordfish
12. Olive delight
13. cheese and peppers

The colors and sights and sounds of the crowded market was a highlight of visiting Madrid.

Five Shots: The Colors and Patterns of Spain Part I

1. Basement of the Alcázar of Seville, a royal palace in Seville, Andalusia, Spain, originally developed by Moorish Muslim kings

Traveling to Madrid, Toledo, Seville, and Barcelona was filled with heat (35-44c), bright colors, fun food, and boundless patterns everywhere. Here are some pictures highlighting the colors and patterns from the trip. You decide which is the best shot.

2. The Plaza Mayor was built during Philip III’s reign (1598–1621) and is a central plaza in the city of Madrid, Spain.
3. Joan Enjoying Anchovies at Plaza Mayor

 

4. Flamenco performance in Seville
5. The Casa de Pilatos, Pontius Pilate’s house, Seville
6. Pontius Pilate’s House, downstairs courtyard
7. Inside looking out at Pilate’s House

 

8. The Great Mosque of Cordoba, two hours south of Madrid, was a Visigoth, Christian temple converted into a Mosque when Muslims ruled in the late 8th century.
8. Toledo Castle
9. Corpus Christi celebration, Toledo
10. Santa María la Blanca is a museum and former synagogue in Toledo, Spain. 1180.

 

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11. Cold tomato soup, Sangria, and a fan to keep the face cool.

 

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