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48. Blade Runner 2049 – This Just In (#51)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Jay Coyle, This Just In is a subset of The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049.

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27. Blade Runner (#138)

More human than human.

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every second Saturday at 6pm GMT, with the occasional bonus episode between them.

This time, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.

A science-fiction film noir set against the backdrop of Los Angeles 2019, Blade Runner is a cult classic interrogating questions of what it means to be human. Rick Deckard is a blade runner for the Los Angeles Police Department, a specialist tasked with tracking down artificial humans known as “replicants”, but who finds himself questioning his own humanity.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 138th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

podcast-bladerunner

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Non-Review Review: Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell is a fascinating, deeply flawed, film.

The movie is vibrant and vivid, rich both textually and texturally. Its style, as much riffing on American films inspired by Japanese cyberpunk as by Japanese cyberpunk itself, is simply breathtaking. The hypersaturated colours leap off the screen, which is somewhat ironic given that the 3D rendering mutes them ever-so-slightly. Those bright blues, those glowing greens, those rich reds, they combine to create a sensation that might be described as “bubblegum noir”, a reworking of the noir trappings of cyberpunk with the colour turned way up.

Putting the pieces together.

It is almost too much handle. There is an appealing aura of sensory overload to the world of Ghost in the Shell, as if the film might best be experienced by passively allowing the world to wash over the audience, to sink into the movie in the same way that several members of the cast threaten to sink into virtual networks. Ever frame is saturated with detail, creating a sense that the audience might drown in all the little touches that suggest this neon fantasia dystopia. Ghost in the Shell works best as a mood, a visual lava lamp of shapes in motion.

The problems only really emerge when the story and characters come into focus, the film struggling to grapple with its themes through dialogue and exposition as readily as it does through steadicam tracking shots and computer-generated establishing sequences. Every character in Ghost in the Shell speaks as if preparing for a freshman philosophy tutorial, ruminating on the threads that bind identity and memory together. Characters have little time for metaphor, often bluntly over-explaining their world and their emotional state.

Neural network.

Ghost in the Shell feels at once too smart and too dumb for its own good. This is perhaps most obvious in the allegations of whitewashing that hang over the film, the wry irony of casting Scarlett Johansson as the central character in a big-screen adaptation of a beloved piece of Japanese culture. Johansson’s presence has sparked debate about cultural appropriation and representation. To its credit, Ghost in the Shell makes an earnest attempt to engage with this idea, turning audience frustration into theme. It is a very clever way of dealing with the issue.

The only problem is that Ghost in the Shell simply cannot talk its way around this core concern. Ghost in the Shell tries to recast itself as a narrative that is fundamentally about cultural appropriation, but in doing so it cannot escape the fact that it is also an example of cultural appropriation. Like those circular debates about identity and memory, these is a sense that Ghost in the Shell is attempting to trap the audience in echoes and reflections, a glitch that betrays a fundamental flaw.

Manufactured.

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Non-Review Review: Room 237

Room 237 is an ode to cinema. Not just Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, mind you, despite the fact that fact that Kubrick’s horror film is the focus of the film’s talking heads (or disembodied voices) discussion. No, Room 237 is a celebratory tribute to every discussion and dissection of popular film, no matter how plausible or implausible, no matter whether conducted in print, on-line or in the pub with friends. Director Rodney Ascher’s documentary is as interested in the personal lives of its subjects – where they came from, with regards to the film – as it is with their views on the film itself.

In case you can’t tell, I was very taken with it.

Cut it there, Jack!

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Dancing on the Edge of a Blade (Runner): Prometheus & Hyper-Intertextuality

Prometheus arrived on blu ray last week. I’m a big fan of the movie, despite the palpable sense of disappointment generated on its arrival – I suspect that I was wise not to expect answers, and instead to enough the movie for what it was. I’m not alone in considering the film’s ties to Alien to be among its weakest elements, forcing the movie to tie into something that had been a massive movie mystery for decades, rather than allowing it to be its own thing. However, it has emerged that Ridley Scott apparently hoped the movie could go further than that. Reportedly, the director had hoped that it could serve as something akin to “connective tissue” to tie together two of his most definitive science-fiction universes. Apparently, the director wanted to set the film in the same world as Blade Runner.

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Non-Review Review: Prometheus

Prometheus is an impressive science fiction thriller. Indeed, its weakest link is its attempt to “line-up” with Scott’s original Alien, as its own interesting ideas end up caught up in an attempt to throw knowing winks and nods towards an overly eager audience. “look! green gooey possibly acidic blood!” the movie seems to cry or “gee! that illustration looks familiar!” The problem is that these feel like distractions from a plot that is compelling and fascinating when explored on its own merits. Still, it feels like a worthy science fiction film in its own right, a fitting hybrid of Scott’s Alien with his Blade Runner, daring to pose interesting existential and philosophical questions about humanity’s place in the universe.

David is a piece of work…

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On Second Thought: Alien (Director’s Cut)

To celebrate the release of Prometheus this week, we’ll be taking a look at the other movies in the Alien franchise.

Alien: The Director’s Cut is a curious beast. It’s more of an alternate cut than a director’s cut of Ridley Scott’s iconic Alien. It actually runs a few seconds shorter than the original theatrical cut of the film, although it contains more than five minutes of different footage. While five minutes of footage can have a significant impact on the final cut of a film, I’d be hard-pressed to argue that they add considerable depth to Scott’s science-fiction masterpiece. Aliens: The Special Edition re-inserted scenes that expanded and developed the themes of Cameron’s sequel, while Alien³: The Assembly Cut offers a glimpse of a movie far different from the one released. In contrast, Alien: The Director’s Cut… doesn’t really do much of anything. It’s just an alternative to the theatrical edition.

Ship shape?

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