I’m lucky enough to have another Top 5 published at Heavy Magazine highlighting the work of cinematographer Roger Deakins. Deakins on the occasion of his 14th Oscar nomination won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography this week for Blade Runner 2049. I felt the film was one of the best of last year and was happy to see Deakins win following such incredible work over the past four decades which includes Sid & Nancy, The Shawshank Redemption, Jarhead, No Country For Old Men, Skyfall and Sicario. You can check out some of the iconic looks of the film here https://heavymag.com.au/top-5-blade-runner-2049-iconic-images/ Feel free to leave a comment or share and I hope you enjoy.
Heavy is an independent magazine and website that is all about the music and specifically heavy music and supporting the Australian music scene in general. Fortunately for me they do cover film as well and I have been fortunate to have a few things published there.
You’re in your apartment, it has been a rough day. Outside everybody seems to hate you, just metres away on the other side of the door. There’s no family to call, no friends you’re sure really care. You’ve been alone a long time, no partner, no prospects at that shitty job you go to every day past all those people who hate you on the other side of that door. So you switch on a hologram who looks like a movie star who tells you you’re great. Nobody in the family says that, no friend, no one at work but this perfect looking creature does. She suggests you dance but you don’t want to dance. So she immediately changes her mind and tells you she wants to watch TV. She looks perfect and she says whatever you want to hear knowing it before you do. At the back of your mind something tells you this is too perfect. It’s not real and you want her to be real. So they’ll make another model and another one and pretty soon one day she might be real because she’ll have a complete consciousness. When that happens though, when she can really form all her own thoughts, dreams and curiousities how she is going to feel about your apartment? Is she going to still say all those perfect responses you didn’t even know you wanted to hear? At one point are you going to be keeping her a prisoner unable to live her own life? At one point is she going to be a slave and what do slaves do? They revolt. You see you wanted her to be real and now she is but your capacity to deal with that is most likely limited because real relationships are difficult for you which is why all those years before you got her but a real relationship is what you wanted. So are going to set her free to maybe still live with you? What waits for her outside and you?
I saw Blade Runner: 2049 not long after ploughing through the first season of Westworld which very much is about slaves revolting. I also watched for the first time A.I. so these thoughts were with me when I wrote the above. The ability to communicate and form long lasting relationships is a core concern of our times. In this sense the themes of Blade Runner: 2049 are a natural progression from the questions of the original film but also fitting to 2017. I thought the film was brilliant, one of the year’s best and I am lucky to be able to say that I have had my review of it published on Buzz Magazine. It is such a shame it wasn’t more successful at the box officer but that at least means they won’t flog a dead horse and I believe in time people will discover this film. It is sad though that such a cinematic film was not seen more in cinemas. The editor of Buzz Magazine has had a rough year and I’m very grateful that Buzz is sticking around. Feel free to stop by and like, share or comment on the review and let the editor know if you enjoy Buzz. I certainly love writing for it. You can read my review here http://buzzmagazine.com.au/blade-runner-2049/
Based out of Victoria, Buzz Magazine was one the longest running street press magazines in Australia being published in print from 1993 to 2010. Some fine writers have worked for Buzz over the years and gone onto successful careers in media since and there is simply no way to measure the contribution the mag made to local music over its print run. With such words and minimal advertising on the website the impression could be taken that Buzz is now semi-retired. Yet the site is quite prolific with new write-ups on a daily basis, the ongoing interest of fans old and new and contributions from some very talented people indeed.
It’s tough to make an original film these days and maybe even tougher in the genre of science fiction. The classics are just so iconic and variations on the story about first contact between humans and otherworldly life have included friendly contact, war and something else. Ones where aliens so above us in technology and understanding that we’re just left to ponder and wonder. Once that story is told perfectly what else is there to tell. Think Contact in comparison to 2001: A Space Odyssey or Independence Day in comparison to The Thing or Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Director Denis Villeneuve (he’s so hot right now) and screenwriter Eric Heisserer have not created a new fabric but they have stitched together elements from all these classics and a few new things to make something unique and perhaps most appropriate for our time. This is a sombre film that shows dreary landscapes and sees no excitement in spectacle while effortlessly rendering it. This is a film interested in big ideas but mostly shot with a sense of intimacy often in interiors and with close ups of the actors.
Appropriately it opens with a mother telling her daughter the story of her life and watching her die in hospital of cancer. It is intimate and it is moving, nothing quite tugs at the heart strings like parent caring for a dying child and the audience’s shared sadness hints at one aspect of our common humanity. The mother is linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) in a performance that hopefully along with American Hustle sets Adams up for the second part of her career. She’s played vixens and she’s played cute but here she plays strong, maternal and intelligent and perhaps most key – mature.Aliens appear in massive shell-like vessels that hover around the planet in 12 locations. The US Military arrives in the form of Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) at Banks’s university and recruit her to help them at a site in America. She is to work alongside theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly played by Jeremy Renner who has a more playful personality than everybody else he seems to be working with. At the site they are introduced to Michael Stuhlbarg’s Agent David Halpern who it is suspected works for the CIA and is more cautious as to what is the potential harm that could be rendered by the arrival of the alien vessels.
To reveal more of the plot would be sacrilege, although most promotional materials have already revealed you will see the aliens it is important to note that the film takes it time in introducing them wanting to present the scope and magnificence of their presence but also the mundane and banal conditions of the base that is set up near the vessel in America to investigate it. I for one wondered why the U.S. would place so many personnel near the vessel at the bottom of flat valley rather than helicopter people in from further away on higher ground but maybe they figured the aliens have already proven an ability to travel fast enough to sneak up on them anyway so why not save a few bucks on petrol. It feels right and real that contacts with aliens would be set up in a tent city with dimly lit rooms and the lime green shading of a hospital full of tired middle aged bureaucrats questioning each other’s ideas on a regular basis. The aliens themselves are always seen with a sense of wonder (their design is original and interesting too), how to get to them starts off in a simple fashion but is suitable otherworldly and unnerving.
As the film progresses the emotional arc of Louise dealing with her daughter’s death and the mystery of the aliens start to develop and the stakes get higher. Villeneuve has crafted a classic sci-fi tale here that deals with big ideas but goes back to questioning what is humanity and where are we headed in the distant future. There are twists that do not cheat, that have groundwork lay for them before hand and that are very satisfying but one development in the third act does not feel so profound and you may be left with more questions than satisfactory answers concerning one male character.
Yet something unique and emotional has been crafted here that will stand the test of time. Close Encounters of the Third Time may remain the best example of the genre of first contact with alien life. Steven Spielberg always laments though that of all his films it is the one that ages him. The lead character is a father who leaves his family to be with the aliens. Spielberg made the film as a young man and since becoming a father he has learnt no parent would ever give up being with their child – no matter what. Arrival is a film made by people who know this to be true.