Saturday, February 15, 2014

Movie Friday - Alien (Yeah, I know it's Saturday now...shut up.)

Everybody's dead, Dave. Everybody but Ripley and the cat.


Release Date: May 25, 1979
Studio: Brandywine Productions
Distribution: 20th Century Fox
Director: Ridley Scott
Writers:  Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett, David Giler (uncredited), Walter Hill (uncredited)
Alien Design: H. R. Giger    

Copyright Twentieth Century Fox
Left to Right:
Harry Dean Stanton, Ian Holm, John Hurt, Victoria Lambert,
Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Yaphet Kotto
Alien: Boladji Badejo in his sole film credit. Ah, the days before CGI, when monsters were people in suits or complicated puppets...or sometimes both.

Ash:  Ian Holm
Brett:  Harry Dean Stanton
Dallas: Tom Skerritt
Kane: John Hurt
Parker: Yaphet Kotto
Ripley:  Sigourney Weaver

Mother, voice of the computer: Helen Horton

Jonesy: a ginger tomcat 

I don’t remember when I first saw Alien. It wasn’t in 1979, that’s for sure. I was eight years old. It would’ve been five or six years later at least. I read the novelization of the movie by Alan Dean Foster first and I loved it. I think I was about thirteen when I read it, my step-dad was a member of the science fiction book club and it was in his collection. So I probably saw the movie between thirteen and sixteen years of age. In retrospect? This sort of explains a lot about myself to…myself.

When I saw the movie? Damn. I loved it. It was gory and creepy and science-y (I loved the sci fi movies that seemed more realistic…twenty minutes into the future and all that) and a woman was outsmarting a seriously dangerous alien! And…AND…she saved the cat! Yeah, she didn’t manage to save any of the people but really, they were too stupid to listen to her and be careful and the cat really couldn’t save itself, could it? Ripley used her brains.

Ripley used her brains. That’s sort of what it all comes down to.

Okay, NOW everybody else is dead.
Property Twentieth Century Fox.
Alien is in the top ten of greatest sci-fi movies on most of the lists I looked at...and when it wasn’t in the top ten its sequel, Aliens, was.  Other minds more patient and probing than mine have reviewed and dissected it at length on the internet, explaining precisely how and why it is so amazingly, awesomely, badass on every level. I won’t go into that myself, because I agree with most of their interpretations and explanations. I’ll give you the links so you can explore them yourself. I can still see new things in it today, or notice details that showed up in the later movies as homages. It’s classic. Sci’re doing it right.

I am an early model Star Wars and Star Trek fangirl but Alien is number one on the list of my favorite science fiction movies, with its sequel Aliens right behind it.  Would I have said that twenty years ago? Probably not. But I say it today, because at forty-two I understand a lot more about a lot more than I did at twenty-two. How do I explain it without going into pages of DEEP THOUGHTS? I can’t.

 The movie passes the Bechdel Test, passed by Bechdel herself, thank you.

It’s in my top five movies favorite movies of all genres.

Because Ripley uses her brains to defeat the monster and survive...and Ripley is a woman.  

General Info:

Alien (film) Wikipedia – I’m trying to limit my reliance on Wikipedia in my research, but damn, this is a pretty exhaustive entry with 119 source notes listed.
Alien (1979)  IMDB – I love IMDBs trivia, goofs, quotes.

Property of H. R. Giger

H. R. Geiger - Ow. Turn your sound down. Giger designed the alien and built the body.
Carlo Rambaldi -  Designed and built the head of the xenomorph. The jaw of the the head is now in the Smithsonian Institute. Or so says the Alien Wikipedia article, I could not find confirmation on the humongous Smithsonian website or anywhere else on the web.

Interesting Alien tidbits- Backstory on the Nostromo Crew:
Strange Shapes - Alien Series Blog: Nostromo Crew Profiles - allegedly from Ridley Scott’s character notes
Shadowlocked - Space Misfits: Nostromo Crew Backstories revealed – The Aliens Anthology blu ray set has some lovely extras it seems.

Reviews: - Alien Movie Review - by Kelly Parks
Cult Brittania – Alien: The Technically British Film Series – Hamish Crawford answers the question I never considered asking. “How British Is It?”

SFDebris: Alien - Chuck gets his snark on. My favorite video reviewer.

Top Sci Fi movie lists:
The Guardian: Film Blog
Popular Mechanics: The 100 Best Sci Fi movies of all time – see that link under the video box? It says View Thumbnails? Just do that,  it’s easier. Otherwise you’ll have to click next until you get to number twelve. I tried to link to the thumbnails directly but I couldn’t. Seriously Popular Mechanics, why ya gotta be like that? Top 25 Sci Fi Movies of All Time – IGN, your website is also extremely annoying. See to that, would you?
American Film Institute: Top Ten Sci Fi – See! See! THIS is how you do a list!
Science Channel Top 10 Sci Fi Movies – Its number three, that Avatar ad throws me off. Ish.
Rotten Tomatoes: Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy movies – Another easily readable list.
Parallel Universe: Fifty Greatest Science Fiction Movies of All Time

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Mt. St. Helens - Nature Tuesday

The Eruption of Mt. St. Helens

Mt. St. Helens the day before the eruption.
May 17 1980 AP Photo USGS  Harry Glicken

I was eight years old on the day Mt. St. Helens literally blew its top. It happened thirty-four years ago, on May 18th, 1980, at 8:32 am. I sat safe and sound in my house in Southern Indiana, 2, 300 miles away, watching with mingled awe and horror as the news reports rolled. It's the first memory I have of a natural catastrophe of this scale. When the National Geographic issue covering the eruption arrived in the mail I looked at the pictures for hours and even read parts of the articles. The level of destruction was outside the perception of my eight year old mind.

"... the ground shook beneath Mount St. Helens in Washington state as a magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck, setting off one of the largest landslides in recorded history - the entire north slope of the volcano slid away. As the land moved, it exposed the superheated core of the volcano setting off gigantic explosions and eruptions of steam, ash and rock debris. The blast was heard hundreds of miles away, the pressure wave flattened entire forests, the heat melted glaciers and set off destructive mudflows, and 57 people lost their lives. The erupting ash column shot up 80,000 feet into the atmosphere for over 10 hours, depositing ash across Eastern Washington and 10 other states." - Boston.Com: The Big Picture

May 23, 1980, five days after the eruption.
AP Photo Gary Stewart The Big Picture

National Geographic Daily News: Mt. St. Helens pictures: Before and After

Google Search Images

Do you remember the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens? Tell me about it.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Saturday is Book Day: The Scarlet Letter

I have this little (huge) problem with having lots and lots of ideas and not being able to execute them. I know an idea is a really good idea and then I set out to follow through with that idea and immediately I am inundated with all the possible variants, permutations, and connections. Gods, where the hell do I start?


No pressure. Just get started. I can see in my head the essays I want to write on the different topics I have chosen for each day (see: I fear my reach doth exceed my grasp.) But I can't figure out where to start.

And then I figured out. I shall start simply. Go back to the beginning. Remember when you were a child and did book reviews in school? I mean a little kid, fourth grade little. You didn't write a damn essay, they gave you a set of questions with a space after each and you filled them in.

But...But...But...I'm forty-two. I should be able to write the essay. Yeah, well you aren't, are you, so go back to the beginning and try again.

Title: The Scarlet Letter

Genre: Romantic Historical Fiction

Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne

Date of publication: 1850

Place of publication: Boston, Massachusetts

Publishers: Ticknor, Reed, and Fields

Original language: English

Setting: 17th Century (starting in June 1642)

Plot Stuff:   From the SparkNotes Plot Overview:
"The story begins in seventeenth-century Boston, then a Puritan settlement. A young woman, Hester Prynne, is led from the town prison with her infant daughter, Pearl, in her arms and the scarlet letter “A” on her breast. A man in the crowd tells an elderly onlooker that Hester is being punished for adultery. Hester’s husband, a scholar much older than she is, sent her ahead to America, but he never arrived in Boston. The consensus is that he has been lost at sea. While waiting for her husband, Hester has apparently had an affair, as she has given birth to a child. She will not reveal her lover’s identity, however, and the scarlet letter, along with her public shaming, is her punishment for her sin and her secrecy."
Hester's supposedly lost-at-sea husband has finally arrived on that very day. He keeps his identity a secret from all and threatens Hester to keep her quiet about it too.  The husband, named Roger Chillingworth, takes up a new identity and proceeds with a methodical search over the next four or five years to find Hester's lover and seek his revenge.

When I read it: I honestly can't recall. Probably read it for the first time somewhere between sixth and ninth grade. That would be somewhere between the ages of twelve to fifteen. Around 27 to 30 years ago. Gad, seeing it written out like that makes me feel really old.

What I liked: I loved the rich detail of the historical setting, the 17th century was very interesting to me back then. I liked the forbidden romance. I liked Hester's strength and endurance. She loved and fiercely protected her child through all the pain it caused her.

What I didn't like: There wasn't anything I didn't like about the book itself, in writing style or story. But the oppressive of Puritan society in all aspects of life but especially for women made me furious.

Did it make me think?: Oh yes. About religion in general and Christianity specifically. About duality of relationships (I didn't call it duality back then). It made me glad to think about how far women had come and yet angry that it had been over 300 years and these antiquated ideas and morals still existed in weakened states, still oppressing the human mind and soul, men and women alike.

Do I like it more or less now?: I still love it. I've read it at least four times and I'd like to read it again, but it probably won't be for awhile. I have a very large pile of actual books on my nightstand to get through, as well as a long list of other books to be acquired.

Did I read more of the same author: I did not. More's the pity. See: Long list of other books to be acquired.

Did I like those books too: I'll tell you when I read them.

I fear my reach doth exceed my grasp.

Sunday - Gods and religions from around the world. Pagan gods and religions of old and monotheistic gods and religions too. An exploration of fait...h. How the human mind works to create something larger than itself, to explain the trials and joys of the human experience.

Monday - Manic Music Monday! Mostly songs that make me happy and want to dance, but will include any song that resonates with me. To include release date, artist when I first heard it and original release and artist if it's a cover of an older song, how old I was at the time it was released, why I liked it then and if it still means the same to me now. Some songs I liked in the past I can't stand to listen to now, they remind me of harder times and emotions. This will cover many genres of music. There was a short period of anger in my life when I listened to a lot of rap music.

Tuesday - The wonders and terrors of nature. May include the beautiful as well as the destructive. I've always had a fascination with natural disasters, reminders of that we are not truly in control of our earthly home. Volcanic eruptions, floods, landslides, hurricanes, tornadoes, and especially blizzards. But there will be beautiful and awe inspiring things too!

Wednesday - Science! Covering anything and everything that strikes my fancy, the science of the human mind and body in all aspects, earth science, all that technology and physics stuff that fascinates me but I don't understand.

Thursday - History! From the beginnings of human existence to what happened last week. The good and the bad, progressive and destructive, what worked and what didn't. Civilizations that died out, civilizations that still exist and even thrive today. MIGHT include political science but I'd have to get my sons to help me with that. That is something I really don't understand and kind of don't want to but it's still important.

Friday - Movies! Movies from around the world, big budget and independent. If I could afford it I'd see a movie every Friday. Movies, movies, movies, I love the theater experience, but will include any movie I've seen, liked, disliked, thought I wouldn't like but did, thought I'd love but didn't (Alexander the Great, released in 2004. Gad. The awful awfulness.). Release date, actors, directors if they're ones I like in particular (I LIKE M. Night Shyamalan. You don't? Bite me.), if it's a remake, is it a better remake. Like that.

Saturday - Books, books, and more books. Any genre. Title, subject, date of publication, author, why I liked it, why I didn't. Did it make me think? Did I like it more or less over time? Did it make me want to throw it across the room in complete disgust? Did I read more of that author?