All posts tagged: Movies

ramis

In Memoriam: Harold Ramis (1944-2014)

If you were one of the many (and there were many) who found yourself delving into a list of actor-writer-director Harold Ramis‘ achievements upon hearing of his sudden death yesterday at the age of 69, you may be wondering where all that time went. One minute you were probably minding your own business, the next you were realizing that this seemingly unassuming, nerdy-looking Chicagoan had a hand in at least 10 of the most influential comedic institutions of the last half century. As if we could hold one over the other. Was Ramis best known as a writer, who cut his teeth in the pages of The National Lampoon and on the staff of SCTV before writing or co-writing the likes of National Lampoon’s Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Back to School, Groundhog Day and Analyze This? Was he most accomplished as the director of Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Groundhog Day or Multiplicity? Would he be immortalized for his acting work, whether Russell Zinsky, the withering straight man to Bill Murray’s off-kilter John Winger …

Creator and creation

The Great Summer Movies: It’s Not The Years, Honey, It’s The Mileage

George Lucas has been written off as an emotionless technophile who built a billion-dollar empire on the backs of Ewoks and clones. To be fair, he probably is exactly that. But let us not forget from whence he came—an artsy auteur who transformed into one of the great blockbuster showmen of the late seventies and early eighties. After that, an endless trudge through awfulness (Howard the Duck), more awfulness (Radioland Murders), and yet more awfulness (Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace). Today, he’s a semi-retired entertainment magnate who keeps threatening to become an artsy auteur again. Through it all, he’s remained strangely disconnected from his own creations, as though he doesn’t really want to be the overlord of a sci-fi uberfranchise, but feels obligated—as though it’s all somehow out of his control. Maybe it is. The release of Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981 arrived in the thick of Lucas’ most fertile period, both in box office receipts and creative success. It’s the centerpiece of an early eighties trifecta that remains unequaled, …

Those were the days.

The Great Summer Movies: Don’t Get Cocky!

18 Observations On Star Wars As It Turns 36, Just As I Did Last July 1. This was one of the first VHS tapes we owned; we had a guy across the street who somehow got us a dub of it, even before it was out on tape, I think. It must have been around 1982? 1983? Is that even possible? 2. I would watch it over and over till Darth Vader showed up, and then I distinctly remember being too scared to continue. 3. Even at that age—like 7, or 8—I wanted to count how many times I watched it. I got up to eleven before I stopped keeping track. It’s all been downhill from there. 4. Lucas swiped liberally from everywhere. This is pop goulash of the highest order. 5. The structure he swiped from Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, but it’s still a fascinating flow for a Hollywood film—characters meeting each other, building the plot person by person until the plot reaches its own critical mass. 6. He swiped the opening crawl and …

He feels...young

The Great Summer Movies: KHAAAAAAAAN

There’s an old man on a spaceship. He’s cheated death, tricked his way out of death, and patted himself on the back for his ingenuity. He never loses. He’s facing down a madman with a vendetta against him, and he’s literally racing against time. He wins, of course, and just as he settles into his default air of smug self-satisfaction, he looks to his right. An empty chair. A missing friend. “Jim, you’d better get down here.” At first glance, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan doesn’t feel much like a Trek movie. It feels more like one of the original series’ “bottle shows” where all the action had to take place on standing sets so that they could afford to build Vulcan in a sound stage for next week. There’s not much exploration of strange new worlds, and no new life forms or civilizations. The proceedings feel epic anyway, because like all great Trek, Wrath isn’t really about sci-fi mumbo jumbo at all; it’s about theme and character. Beyond William Shatner’s nascent paunch …

Great idea

The Great Summer Movies: You Have My Sympathies

In space, no one can hear you scream. On the Nostromo, you can hear almost everything. Alien is a masterpiece of sound design. Every second is dominated by a dense, carefully constructed soundscape, where the natural noises in the spaceship are a critical component of managing the audience experience. The first six minutes of the film are dialogue free, but full of ambient noise—flapping pages in a book, dormant lights igniting with a buzz. Jerry Goldsmith’s score ratchets up the tension, only to dissipate it in a wash of strings. There’s the tinkling of metal chains and smacks of water dripping, as Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) searches for Jonesy the cat; the hissing coolant and a ticking timer while the self-destruct sequence proceeds and Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) prepares to abandon ship. Maybe I noticed the sound because I recently rewatched the movie while working. I’ve seen the movie before; I was surrounded by my fellow cube-dwellers; I was using tinny headphones and a seven-inch screen. At moments, I was still terrified, totally bound up in …