True confessions. These past 10 days have been agonizing.
Because there has been a challenge on social media, primarily Facebook, concerning one of my favorite things—film. Oh, it starts simple enough, "The rules are, once a day, for ten days, post an iconic image from a film that influenced you... with no explanation necessary... feel free to join in if you would like..." That's how it all starts.
The challenge is to post, “an iconic image from a film that [has] influenced you…with no explanation necessary”. This challenge still lingers, which is why I had to post it right here on Chicken Scratch. This has been agonizing for three solid reasons: 1., gathering ONLY 10 films that have an influence, 2., narrowing one’s scope to one image that fits the film, and 3., not explaining why. I’ve been meticulous in this process. I even set up a specific file for images, pondered films, and asked myself why these films—in particular, had such an impact on yours truly. Meticulous, I say! I, could not—in good conscience, let it rest…
NOTE: if you don’t care about movies—or, more specifically, my choices of iconic films—move along. No harm—no foul. I’ll see you next post or so. Thanks for stopping by.
Now then, fellow film geeks, here’s the explanation & the honorable mentions…
Day 1: “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”, 1954. This movie blew my young mind. It was released 14 years before I was born but it runs deep. The Nautilus was my introduction to steampunk and the mysterious Captain Nemo—his motivations & character (which are fully realized in the book by Jules Verne) captured my imagination & attention. Brilliant stuff.
Day 2: “Airplane!”, 1980. I’m not saying it’s the most quotable movie of all time, but I’m not saying it’s not either. This makes me laugh. Laugh hard. Still.
Day 3: “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, 1981. Pound for pound, a perfect film. Adventure, excitement—all the things that Jedi do not crave are in abundance surrounding the exploits of Indiana Jones. I like the sequels—in fact number 5 is slated to be in the theaters in 2020, but there will NEVER be another Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Day 4: “Blade Runner”, 1982. There are so many layers to this film. At first glance it’s a futuristic noir detective story—however, the more one looks at this one the more one will see. This film is an exploration into what life is, it’s precious nature, and who gets to say what is deemed to have a soul or not. This one runs deep. Mary Shelley, the mother of Frankenstein, would approve.
Day 5: “JAWS”, 1975. JAWS horrified a generation of filmgoers, me included. I was scared to get into the bathtub after seeing JAWS. The scene on the Orca (Quint’s boat) when Robert Shaw/Quint is talking about the Indianapolis—one of the finest character driven scenes ever put to film. ‘Bruce the Shark’, kept breaking down so Spielberg was able to keep the genie in the bottle until seeing the shark was the most impactful. It’s a heck of a film that can make yellow barrels being drug along the water’s surface so terrifyingly menacing. Brilliant stuff.
Day 6: “The Road Warrior” or “Mad Max 2” if you were not seeing it in the United States back in 1981. This film strummed all the right chords for me. It’s a western set in a post-apocalyptic future where the cowboys ride V-8 Interceptors & motorcycles instead of horses. Max, a lone figure from the wastelands, comes to save the day. Shane would be proud.
Day 7: “Superman – The Movie”, 1978. “You will believe a man can fly”, was the tagline. Even after all these years, Christopher Reeve’s performance as the Man of Steel still has me believing. When Clark first introduces Superman to the world, ripping open his shirt—revealing the “S” on his chest, saving Lois, and the crowd below from the falling helicopter—chills. Even now. Seminal stuff.
Day 8: “Escape from New York”, 1981. I love John Carpenter. He had a distinct style and it was a style that I lapped up. The pairing of Kurt Russell and Carpenter produced some of my all-time favorite movies. This one introduced, for my money, one of the absolute best anti-heroes of cinema—Snake Plissken. It took me a long time to find the right image for this one. I settled for Snake in Hauk’s office holding up his bound hands, with the American flag in the background. It is just before he delivers the line, “Call me, Snake”, for the first time and just before he tells Hauk, “I don’t give a fuck about your war—or your president.” Hell yeah. Every now and again there are rumbles about a remake. I hope it doesn’t happen—not while Russell & Carpenter still have time to make Old Man Snake. …To the gods of film, make this happen.
Day 9: “Planet of the Apes”, 1968. This one scared me. I came to it after it’s release since I was born the same year it was released. I remember getting caught sneaking into our living room to get a glimpse of the sanitized, edited for TV version, when it came to the small screen. I was not allowed to see it. This was probably a good call since that what I saw disturbed me—especially since I can remember at that time hearing about guerrilla wars on the evening news. My young mind couldn’t recognize the difference between guerrilla and gorilla, so my, ‘Planet of the Apes’, horror was compounded by my own ignorance. The stark beauty of POA is that, hidden under a thin veil of ‘science fiction’, the story pokes holes into so many tropes of our institutions—religion, government, authority, control, freedom, anti-intellectualism. It’s from the sixties but the messages are eternal. It still holds up. It still has things to tell us. …And then, there’s THAT ending.
Day 10: “Star Wars – A New Hope”, 1977. This hit my generation right between the eyes. The image I chose for this one is Luke, gazing at the setting twin-suns of Tatooine, wondering about what the future may hold for him. He has no idea at this point—no idea, whatsoever, that he will spark a revolution that rocks the seat of power in the galaxy. No, not yet—he’s just another soul looking at the suns set, wondering about tomorrow. Luke, at that moment, represented each audience member sitting in that theater in ’77, at one point or another in our lives—staring into that uncertain future. Would our futures involve going to Alderaan, learning the ways of the Force, and becoming a Jedi like our father—perhaps, even, helping to overthrow an evil galactic Empire? One never knows. As influences go, this one was—and is, seismographic in scope. This one changed me. No exaggeration. Star Wars inspired wonder and made me want to tell stories—to write—to dream. I’m not alone in this sentiment. Countless other storytellers were touched by this space-opera homage to Saturday afternoon serials, Samurai movies, and westerns. They still are. The Force is still working.
And then there’s the honorable mentions…
“Treasure Island” with Wallace Beery as Long John Silver in 1934
“King Kong” 1933
“Conan – The Barbarian” 1982—which could have easily made the top 10
“Star Trek II – The Wrath of Kahn” 1982—which is STILL the greatest Star Trek movie to date
“Moby Dick” 1956 – with a screenplay written by Ray Bradbury
“A Fist Full of Dollars” 1964
“Big Trouble in Little China” 1986– another one from Carpenter & Russell that is STILL ahead of it’s time…
I could go on, but I should probably end this here…
The agony is too great to go on.