Personal Recommendation Hall of Fame VI

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Source Code



Whoever nominated this film definitely knows my film tastes pretty well. This is the type of format and story I usually always go for. I love the going back for 8 minute scenes and seeing more and more get unveiled in regards to Gyllenhaals character figuring the puzzle out. The cast is great for me, even if the acting is just ok it's a lot of likeable characters. In a way this reminds me of the format of Deja Vu. I didn't learn it by watching Moon but Duncan Jones is David Bowies son. Quite a connection there. He's 2 for 2 with me on his film. This was enjoyable.




10 Foreign Language movies to go
I really like Source Code - Duncan Jones did so well with Moon and I had my fingers crossed he wouldn't be one of those filmmakers who crashed after an initial success. He couldn't have picked a better subject for a film that I'd enjoy - the whole time travelling angle had complexity that made the whole story a lot of fun and very exciting. Hunted that one down on DVD as soon as I could.

Nights of Cabiria I saw not long after it appeared on the Top 100 Foreign Language Films Countdown, and I really loved it. I'm going to have to hunt down the Criterion edition of that and add it to my collection. I think Fellini ended up marrying Giulietta Masina. I don't blame him.

I finally got around to Rome, Open City not too long ago, and along with that I watched Roberto Rossellini's Paisan and Germany, Year Zero - both films I recommend, especially the latter. I feel like I need to see Rome, Open City again to really appreciate it - with some films it takes some familiarity with them to be able to sit back and really appraise them properly.
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My movie ratings often go up or down a point or two after more reflection, research and rewatches.

Latest Review : Adaptation (2002)



Are you thinking of Transcendence?
Ah yup, that's what it was called, thanks...I'm so bad with movie titles. I just now looked it up and I even wrote a little review: Transcendence Did you see it and if so what did you think of it?



Did you see it and if so what did you think of it?
I did see it awhile after it came out. Had heard negative things about it when it was in theatres, but I was in the mood for something sci-fi and wanted to check it out for myself. I only really remember the ending though, and that I didn't particularly like the film overall. I think I even turned it off halfway through but went back to it later because I had nothing else to watch haha.



10 Foreign Language movies to go


Strange Days - 1995

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

Written by James Cameron & Jay Cocks

Starring Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore
Michael Wincott, William Fichtner & Richard Edson

Don't get me wrong, I like Strange Days, but I have to wonder sometimes why some science fiction films invent a new and wonderful piece of technology and then date their films a mere few years into the future - where there simply isn't enough time for that technology to have been developed. I'd have set this in the year 2050 or something - because four or five years aren't enough for noticeable change to have occured. I can never really get onboard with mind-reading technology either, where a device can actually record a person's thoughts, and show in a visual sense what they see - although the latter could conceivably be possible if an optic cable was inserted into a person's eye. Fortunately though, Strange Days doesn't completely depend on you believing in it's technology to enjoy it - even though that technology is a central part of it's plot. It's so well structured, performed and written that it makes for an exciting neo-noir cyberpunk action/thriller that roars along, forcefully propelling us through a future landscape blighted with violence and danger. Director Kathryn Bigelow is helped enormously by having weighty leads in Ralph Fiennes and Angela Bassett - two left field performers when you consider how much of an action film this is.

Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes) was once a cop, but now finds himself off the force, selling a new kind of virtual reality mind-sharing experience which now exists, where experiences are recorded on SQUID devices, able to be played back to experience what another person sees and feels when recording. He pines after his former love, Faith (Juliette Lewis) who has taken off with a new boyfriend, Philo Gant (Michael Wincott) - a music producer with wealth and power. One of Faith's friends, Iris (Brigitte Bako) - after being chased by a couple of cops (played by Vincent D'Onofrio and William Fichtner) urgently tries to impart some knowledge to Lenny, leaving a SQUID recording in his car. Lenny spends much of the film with two of his friends, Max Peltier (Tom Sizemore) - a private investigator, and Lornette 'Mace' Mason (Angela Bassett) - a limo driver and bodyguard who has feelings for Lenny. When Lenny comes into possession of a SQUID recording which shows Iris being murdered, Lenny and Mace track down the SQUID recording she'd left him, which exposes something that will have awesome political and societal ramifications if brought out into the open. As time ticks down to the New Year, he finds that Faith is in danger and any number of people want him dead and the SQUID recording kept secret.

Constructing complicated and long POV shots was the massive challenge behind the making of this film, and while it may not be obvious to the casual observer, those shots weren't your average every-day kind of filmmaking. These shots were needed to give those watching the film a sense of what experiencing these SQUID experiences was like - as if you were living them yourself. A new camera had to be designed - lightweight, and small enough to fit into a person's hand and be worn on a helmet. The film's opening features one long POV-shot scene which involves a robbery gone wrong, which starts in a car, enters a restaurant and then quickly takes us up flights of stairs to the building's roof - where one robber jumps to the next rooftop, and our POV person attempts a jump, only to fall to his death. This took two years to plan, from camera, stunt men, use of a steadycam up the stairs and hidden cuts - with every moment painstakingly choreographed. Even aside from these shots, cinematographer Matthew F. Leonetti, who has been behind the lens of great films, and some fascinating to me (Poltergeist, Raise the Titanic, Ruby and Oswald, The Ice Pirates, Commando a few Star Trek films and others more famous and notable*) was kept incredibly busy, with shots from all angles and a lot of movement. This is a very active and exciting film - and although I haven't ever really been aware of it, I think I'm a huge Matthew F. Leonetti fan.

Adding to the bright neon and frenzied pace and movement is the music of Strange Days and it's score. New Zealand composer Graeme Revell adds an international kind of flavour to his music (something from everywhere), and goes for a kind of wonderment and awe instrumental feel - religious thunder kind of stuff. I enjoyed a lot of the song choices on the soundtrack, and many numbers end up being performed live - Juliette Lewis even gets to let loose with a couple of P.J. Harvey numbers. "Rid of Me" and "Hardly Wait" are given a punk-like screaming intensity which seems to come from the depths of where the character is at this stage of her life, and predicament in the story. Skunk Anansie appears, to perform live in the film at a New Years event. British trip hop artist Tricky and Belgian electronic group Lords of Acid are featured, and Heavy Metal group Prong perform the song that inspired the film's title - "Strange Days". We get a mish-mash of electronic, heavy metal, punk and rock, with a heavy slant towards the heavier kind of stuff produced by all the varied artists represented in the film. It's a component of the film that has been well thought-out and geared towards the whole cyberpunk theme and dark storyline. I think it all works particularly well.

James Cameron's presence can still be felt, and he's directly credited as far as the film's screenplay goes - the general concept was his original idea, and he'd keep on coming back to the project, for instance smoothing out a lot of the dialogue in a screenplay co-written with Jay Cocks - someone who's been nominated for 2 Oscars (the screenplays for The Age of Innocence and Gangs of New York.) I prefer the story, and the way it's been filmed and put together, much more than the actual dialogue our characters use for the most part. It feels rewarding to finally know where Fatboy Slim's "Right here! Right now!" comes from (lines delivered by Angela Bassett) - and I guess it's kind of fitting that a big beat electronic acid house trip hop tune would sample this futuristic thriller. I'm sure quite a few classic noir lines end up being revived just because so many of the situations Lenny finds himself in are so familiar to us, but the story as a whole - with the whole concept of being able to share experiences, is interesting and a nice combination. Cameron was very much at his creative peak when he thought up the story, and director Kathryn Bigelow ended up creating something worth remembering from a short and sweet marriage that wasn't. Cameron was also in the editing booth with Howard E. Smith (who he'd done The Abyss with) putting the film together, so it might be more of a James Cameron film than many people realise.

Production design means something on a film set in the future (even if by only a couple of years) and Lilly Kilvert (Oscar nominations for The Last Samurai and Legends of the Fall) provides us with a neon-lit and chaotic vision of a society which has disintegrated just a little bit more. I never really look at cyberpunk as a really realistic vision futuristically, and think that a balance is always going to be struck because a good portion of us will always consider what's beautiful - and cyberpunk never is. Still, Strange Days always looks particularly good, with Fiennes, Bassett and Lewis helping by being three great-looking leads, and having even more talent than they have looks. As I've already mentioned, I really like the fact that we have someone a little more delicate and "pretty" in the middle of this violent hurricane of action. I love the fact that Bassett is far more dangerous and able than he is, despite the fact he was once a cop. Sizemore always fits in well if he's playing a character a little unbalanced, and we can never be quite sure about him. The film had a great time at the Saturn Awards (I should really pay more attention to those) with Bigelow taking out Best Director and Bassett winning the Best Actress category. 12 Monkeys ended up beating Strange Days for Best Science Fiction Film.

So, all in, even though the film is two and a half hours long it manages to sustain it's frenetic pace and keep us interested all the way through. It's a film that tanked at the box office when it really shouldn't have, and it appears that part of this was related to it having a female director. I say that because I've seen so many films made by women which have been buried or not enthusiastically marketed - with this film belonging in the latter category. With such a big budget I would have thought there would have been a marketing blitz. I just don't think a lot of the suits at studios and distributors are fully on board, while occasional ones are outright hostile. The same thing seems to have happened with her 2017 film Detroit, which I thought was really good. Kathryn Bigelow's output overall seems to have been so good that it simply can't be ignored, but not for lack of trying. The way filmmakers like Elaine May and Kathryn Bigelow have been treated over the years is a shame, because it really inhibits around half the population when it comes to filmmaking - who would want to continually battle against the people who are supposed to be working with you? To be fair, I should also say that when this film was released it did meet with mixed reviews - but half of the critics were giving it high praise.

Strange Days doesn't shy away from the darkest aspects of the genre it occupies, and rape as a form of torture and assertion of power is not only depicted, but in a very strange way. When using the SQUID devices, those watching can also feel what the rapist is feeling - and sometimes the person committing the rape puts a headset on the person being raped, forcing them to feel the same thing. There's a sense that when people witness rape, we can't divorce ourselves completely from what we're seeing. Using those devices just brings that all the way, and makes us all complicit. Another interesting aspect is one that really predicted the future especially well - with a black music star being pulled over by cops for no reason, and meeting with violence. Capturing this violence on film furthers the rage and demands for change, and people living in the 21st Century have become more familiar with this - something inspired at the time by the Rodney King case. I kept on thinking about Floyd George while watching that aspect of the film. When you look at the bigger picture, there's a sense of the voyeuristic becoming more part of our lives in the direction we were heading in, and that's certainly another aspect of the future that has been well predicted. The themes this film touches on are ones that have been well chosen, making Bigelow's film even more topical and relevant now than it was when released. Perhaps this is why the critical appreciation of it has risen and picked up over the years, and why it's living on and being discovered by more people.

Aside from looking at Strange Days in a serious analytical way, it's a fun action film with great music and some great set pieces. I don't know how many times poor Lenny gets beaten up, but it's quite a few - something quite common in noir and neo-noir. The villains are the ones we see in the news every day. The violent, crooked cops and the wealthy and powerful. With it's cyberpunk leanings the whole world looks like it's coming apart, which enhances the danger and excitement inherent in the action and violence - but this is all very thoughtfully written and I never had a sense of the film just being violent for it's own sake. Instead if fuels our hunger for justice, and our need to see justice done. I have to admit to being excited, so when it finished I thought the film had done quite well by me. As said at the start, the future technology had me rolling my eyes a little though, especially considering this technology had developed by the time 1999 had rolled around. I was almost surprised I didn't see flying cars, considering I was seeing that. Adding insult to injury was the fact that Sony MiniDiscs were what this technology was recording on - a recording format that never really took off, and one which in no way could possibly handle the amount of information to record what the SQUID do.

When I mentioned Strange Days to a friend he told me that he'd seen that when it came out, and that he'd been a big fan, but that if he were to see it today he'd probably feel differently about it. I'd disagree with that. I don't think Strange Days depends on any era, and that it exists as a story independent of time and technology. It's a little too action-heavy to take really seriously as an artistic statement, but musically and visually it's a fine piece of work and I really like it. I like it's cast (except for Sizemore - who I have to admit I don't really like at all) and I like it's style. It was gripping enough to really have me in the palm of it's hand come the climax, and this climax takes much more than 2 hours to reach - so for a film to do that it has to work especially well. I respect the fact that Bigelow worked really hard to bring us the POV-shot first person vantage point during the sections that involve the SQUID technology, and also the digital effects that make it seem more realistic. No half-measures were taken. This doesn't seem like such an old film - so much so it's hard to believe it came out in 1995, and it's future has receded further and further into our past - but no matter, for it still looks like the future to me in the present. Right here. Right now.



Red Heat, Action Jackson, Weird Science and many others, if I was watching it in the 80s (bad or good - always enjoyable) chances are Matthew F. Leonetti was Director of Photography on it - I've committed his name to memory.



The world doesn't owe you a damn thing
Rome, Open City
(Roberto Rossellini, 1945)

Damn that was a powerful scene. When the woman went running after the Nazi police truck I wasn't expecting what happened next. Coming out of the cold and being unexpected made the brutality of the Nazi's coldly real. When the main suspect of the Italian resistances is taken to Nazi headquarters in Rome and tortured..the off camera screams made the interrogation more hideously cruel than if we had watched the man being beat on camera. The mind can image more visceral images than the camera can ever capture.

Good choice and good movie.

This was my first of the three that I nominated for you and I scored this as -- well, this:




My introduction to Rossellini, this is a film that I would be entertaining good friends at home and say, "Hey, you guys wanna watch a really, really good film?" as I hit Play.

I adored, rooted for, and was captivated by the Locals. The Chase's suspense and the amusing/clever attempts to distract the Germans kept me grinning continuously. Counterbalanced sublimely by the villainous machinations of the Germans, The ending was superb. All of this wrapped up in a very intelligently written story and dialogue befitting a cast of warm, determined folks against a ruthless predator.
LOVED IT
JUUUUUST LOVED IT

You should check out Paisan and Germany, Year Zero as well, the other two films in the trilogy. They're also very good.
I wanted to check them out after seeing Rome, Open City but as of yet, have not. But sincerely wish to.
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The world doesn't owe you a damn thing
Nights of Cabiria

I think the main reason I hadn't watched this before was that I had vaguely confused it with La Strada, which I have seen. Another reason might be that I never liked La Dolce Vita and have always been slightly wary about Fellini as a result. One thing that surprised me about this was that it had quite a few similarities to La Dolce Vita, but manages to address a lot of the issues I had with it - where La Dolce Vita is told from the viewpoint of a wealthy, cynical womanising man, here we have a naive prostitute with a genuine yearning for love and a better life and it allows for much more truth and warmth even when some of the situations presented are similar.

I wasn't sure I would like this at the start, I thought I would find the main character annoying, she just kept shouting at everyone, but she became deeply sympathetic and the film emotional and compelling. I wasn't initially convinced by Giulietta Masina's central performance - it's a little exaggerated and clown-like and at first seemed at odds with the realism - but that soon became a strength, clearly a deliberate choice. She's not quite real, she's almost an innocent abroad and we see the reality and oftentimes cruelty of the world as it happens around and to her. I liked that there are some scenarios that deliberately echo and mirror each other. I think if I watched it again I would find even more.

WARNING: "Nights of Cabiria" spoilers below
Even though I could sense things weren't going to end well for Cabiria (I think I have seen that the final scene of her walking amongst the parade with a tear rolling down her cheek before), the climactic scene on the cliff was still sad and shocking.


It looks great, of course, particularly the scenes set at night.

Glad this was nominated for me, I think it was a good film.
I started this film a while back and got a severe kick out of the first 15 minutes of it, and need to go back and watch this. It looks like a great film, and I attempted to see it shortly after seeing La Vita Dolce.



The world doesn't owe you a damn thing
Princess Bride, I cannot count the times I've seen this truly delightful and enjoyable film that, while it does not take itself seriously, it does a very respectful tip of the hat to fantasy/ swashbuckling adventures throughout.
I loved the "out of the box" situation of a grandfather (Peter Falk) reading the story to his sick grandson, (Fred Savage) who would rather be playing his video game instead.
And like Savage's character, it's very easy to get drawn into and be caught up in this little fairy tale. Delivering the goods that the grandfather promises when his grandson asks if there are any sports in it.

Every single person in this seems tailor-made to the character they play. Elwes brings an Errol Flynn flair and style to his lead character, and Robin Wright truly is a Princess Bride. With Mandy Patinkin stealing scene after scene as a Spaniard intent on revenge against the six-fingered man and even Andre The Giant's lovable character, Fezzik is a fun watch.
And the list continues on and on through the entire cast.

I was excited to see a Phoenix epic write-up for Strange Days. Saw this at the movies when it came out and numerous times since. A great cast doing some excellent work on a social sci-fi action/neo-noir flick.

I've only seen Source Code once and enjoyed it, but for whatever odd reason didn't love it. Very well-done sci-fi action, though.

Have not seen/heard of Ida or Ballad of Narayama, and after delving more into Altman, Nashville is one of his I need to see.

I'm going to try to knock out one more from my list this weekend.



aliens

despite not really being a fan of alien, i was always interested in seeing this one because i knew it was a bit of a departure from the first one and had seen a couple scenes on tv as a kid. i'm sure i would enjoy alien more on rewatch, but i remember it as a cold genre exercise that just didn't really do much for me. james cameron, however, can also be a rather cold filmmaker and, despite admiring the precision and craft of the filmmaking throughout, for the first two-thirds of this one i was having a similar problem as i did with the original. i actually rewatched the terminator last week, which is similarly cold but in that instance it's actually quite fitting as the movie takes on the same unfeeling precision as the terminator himself. i actually really appreciated the newt character as the much-needed emotional center of the film and a new way for cameron to exercise his recurring motherhood fetish. to be clear, there's plenty of cool stuff going on and i was still enjoying it enough but i was still slightly disappointed.

fortunately the last third absolutely rules and all my reservations about this thing kinda went up in smoke as all the clinical groundwork-laying becomes retroactively justified by how smoothly cameron is able to pull off this maximalist spectacle. extremely entertaining stuff that clearly helped shape the template to which action movies adhere to this day, while also being meaner and more violent than most dare to be. plus sigourney weaver is just such a movie star. everyone else in the main crew is a lot of fun too, and paul reiser gives one of the best evil capitalist performances of all time. love lance henriksen too. i know it isn't supposed to be very good, but i may check out alien 3 soon.

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Hmm; Aliens is a great movie (as you can see here: https://letterboxd.com/stusmallz/film/aliens/ ), but it definitely isn't as great as the original... it just isn't, you know?



10 Foreign Language movies to go


Videodrome - 1983

Directed by David Cronenberg

Written by David Cronenberg

Starring James Woods, Debbie Harry, Sonja Smits & Peter Dvorsky

The human race appears to be going through something unprecedented - something that has never happened in all of Earth's history - a rapid evolutionary change of our own making. Videodrome seems to be saying something about this, and feels like a prophecy come true in some ways - a vision of us physically and mentally entwined and combined with our audio-visual technology. In it's day, that mostly meant television, but it adopts a lot of it's philosophy from University of Toronto's famed Marshall McLuhan, who ended up predicting the Internet and World Wide Web long before it became reality. In his "The Medium Is the Massage" (yes, he meant massage) he postulated that all of this technology is merely an extension of our human senses. Little wonder then that Cronenberg has his main character undergo such physical mutations and changes, even if they're hallucinated. In this film technology comes to life, and the barriers between what is real and what is broadcast become transparent - it becomes impossible to separate what is real from what belongs in this virtual world.

Max Renn (James Woods) presides over a UHF television station which brings to it's viewers content they wouldn't be able to get anywhere else, whether it be kinky, violent or unusual. He's invited to speak on a panel for a TV show, and also speaking are Dr. Brian O'Blivion (Jack Creley) via television itself and Nicki Brand (Deborah Harry) - a sadomasochistic radio host. Max has just started to tune into and pirate a strange broadcast - Videodrome - which features people being tortured in an orange torture chamber, and when Nicki comes to stay the night they both watch it - Nicki taking much pleasure from being hurt, but Max a little less sure about his sadist role. When Max tries to dig up just what this show is, a friend, Masha (Lynne Gorman) alerts him to the fact the show is real. From this point forward, Max starts to have strange hallucinations - his television becomes a living being, and he finds an opening in his abdomen - stashing a gun in it. From O'Blivion he learns that Videodrome has something to do with mind control and that it's given him a brain tumor. When he meets the mysterious Barry Convex (Leslie Carlson) it seems he's stepped over a precipice. What is reality anymore? O'Blivion's daughter, Bianca (Sonja Smits) and Convex start urging him to take that final step, and kill.

I remember the scene back in '83, when this film came out. There had been a revolution in special effects and special make-up effects, which precipitated the creation of a new Oscar category for this new skill - and Rick Baker, who was in charge of these effects on Videodrome became the first recipient of this Oscar. I remember Rick Baker being interviewed on television, and this kind of fame for a technician is very rare - but for him was probably deserved. Baker has now won 7 Oscars during his career, from 12 nominations. He's won for An American Werewolf in London, Harry and the Hendersons, Ed Wood, The Nutty Professor, Men in Black, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Wolfman. He's been nominated for Greystoke, Coming to America, Mighty Joe Young, Life and Norbit. His work on Videodrome is extraordinary, but for whatever reason he was not nominated for his work here. Through the film a gun mutates and becomes part of Max's hand, he gains a slit in his abdomen, tumors burst out of Barry Convex, a character's hand is replaced with a grenade, Max physically enters his television set, videos pulsate as if alive and televisions turn into breathing, living beings.

So, this is certainly a very freaky film. I love all of the effects and cinematographer Mark Irwin moves in step with the crazy stuff we see. He's filming a very urban landscape, with the film being shot in Toronto and so everything is tightly focused and pays heed to what we're exactly meant to be looking at. Irwin had been with Cronenberg since Fast Company in '79 and been director of photography on The Brood and Scanners. He'd go on with Cronenberg to film Dead Ringers and The Fly. There were unique difficulties he faced, for example the number of scenes which included the capturing of video being played - because of different frame-rates they usually don't show up well on film. He recorded all of the video segments as well, on a Hitachi SK-91, which he was particularly uncomfortable with - he was much more used to the more regular type of filming. It all shows up fine, and has a look that never makes us question what we're seeing - there is no flickering of television screens, and the effects come off pretty well for a film put together in the days before CGI made everything so much easier. Everything comes off like a visual kind of storm of hallucination that includes pixelated elements and wonderful practical effects. One of Videodrome's trailers was put together with images made on a Commodore 64 - highlighting the digital and futuristic mindstorm it is.

Videodrome's score has been composed by Howard Shore - winner of 3 Oscars in the time since, for the score of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and an original song from that same film. He's also been nominated for scoring Hugo. His music in this is wonderfully freaky, with all kinds of dissonant sounds adding to the complex electronic arrangements - some of which would feel at home in any 80s sci-fi and/or horror film. The music is very purposely arranged so that at the start of the film it's mostly orchestral, but as the movie goes on more and more electronic music is added to mirror Max's descent into video hallucinations. It's the kind of music that makes me feel like I'm back in the 80s, watching horror on my VCR, and having a great time. Shore had also been with Cronenberg through the same era Mark Irwin was, scoring The Brood and Scanners - going on to be a big name in the industry and composing the music for too many huge films to even begin mentioning. I love the kind of music I hear with Videodrome, because this kind of stuff I only ever hear when watching movies - and only movies from this particular era. Usually electronic music moves bullet train-fast, but in the early 80s you'd hear it from time to time really dragged out and freaky.

Cronenberg's crew on Videodrome would be like a family and be with him to the present era. Editor Ronald Sanders and Art Director Carol Spier have been on for the long haul. Both Sanders and Spier winning Director's Guild Awards for the likes of Eastern Promises and A History of Violence - but only getting nominations for a Genie Award for Videodrome, which looks seriously overlooked on the Awards scene. It didn't do too well at the box office either, but instead it has picked up more and more as it's become more and more obvious how prophetic it has been, and how much what it has seemed to have said been proved very true. I can't help but think it deserves Award recognition in retrospect (there ought to be some kind of retrospective Award that's given out - so some films get that recognition they missed.) Contributing to the look of the film, and how well it pieces together it's disparate hallucinations and imaginative settings (not to mention the erotic videos) makes for an intriguing and finely crafted science fiction and horror film - with a message that seems to lift it onto a higher plane than most other such films of it's era.

I'm fairly sure that I tried to watch Videodrome when I was a kid, and because it's so cerebral, and doesn't follow any kind of predictable and understandable narrative path, I kind of rejected it as too weird. I see it very differently today, and I understand that it's one of those films that can never be fully understood - for one person's interpretation of it can be very different from another's, while both being perfectly valid. Also, having a different perspective today helps to understand this film a lot - when Dr. Brian O'Blivion talks about us all having a certain moniker for our video incarnation, I just take it naturally as the usernames we have today on the net. Back then it would have sounded incomprehensibly weird, but today it sounds perfectly natural. I remember trying other Cronenberg films out as well - the equally strange Shivers and the classic horror film Scanners. I was attracted to their weirdness, but at the same time that very strange quality they had was a barrier that wouldn't let me understand them, and therefore appreciate them more. I can understand that for some people this would never be their cup of tea.

I think James Woods was a good casting choice for Max Renn, and likewise Debbie Harry for her character. I don't know if this is so much an actor's movie as it is director's and writer's - though the performance from Woods is fine. It was really written on the fly by Cronenberg (no pun intended, since this is that director) and that's something I never feel really comfortable with - although it helps to mine the director's subconscious more directly - not having time to overthink everything. I'd never be able to write well under pressure, and due to a certain peculiarity in how Canadian films are funded, everything had to be finished in a set amount of time. Even the end, by the time the crew were getting close to wrapping things up, hadn't been finalized. This is just another example of how much you can read into films that have been constructed in such an ad-hoc, on the fly, almost subconscious manner. Like a splashed ink-blot, these films hold up a mirror and what we have inside of us already comes out as an interpretation. As a guide we have the theories of Marshall McLuhan, and his thoughts about modern media.

If you haven't seen Videodrome for a long time, it's worth another examination when you consider how much the world has changed over the last few decades. Everything has shifted, and it's all because of the screens we're fixated on. So many types of screens, and I spend most of my day, nearly every single day looking at them and interacting with them in some way. They certainly have become part of me, and I'm sure McLuhan would argue that they are a part of me in every sense. I interact with the world via these screens. I see, and I am seen. I shop by using them. I listen to them, and talk into them. Perhaps in the future people will physically become one with the screens that seem to be becoming a large component of what we are. Videodrome is the film that really examines this important question, and it's something central to who we are - so much so it's strange that we don't debate it, or try to regulate it like we do other parts of life. We treat it as if it's natural, and a natural kind of progression for our species. "The television screen is the retina of the mind's eye" - I think you should take "television" out of that quote. It's something that would have sounded strange when this film was released, but less strange today. These screens really have become the retinas of our mind's eye - and whatever strange things Max sees or does in Videodrome could make perfect sense if translated into cyberspace. Welcome to the new flesh.