Monday, December 31, 2007

MOVIES- BladeRunner

Of course I’m not watching movies today. I’m watching the Redskins repeat the humiliation of Dallas that I had to endure so many times while I was in high school (but not for the last 10 years). The kind of humiliation that made me want someone to walk over after the play was over and bludgeon John Riggins insensate with the very oxygen tank he apparently depended on for his survival between downs. Just like my friends and I prayed for someone to walk over in 1979 and knock Terry Bradshaw unconscious while in the huddle during the super bowl. We knew, even if Tom Landry didn’t, that it was the only chance Dallas had to win.

But that’s okay. What I’m really doing is writing this while I wait for the Titans to play the Colts. Hard to believe that the Titans are favored over the Colts in today’s game. Seems that the game is worth watching for that alone. Can’t remember when it ever happened before. What I can remember is when I watched a team go undefeated through the regular season the last time. I watched that happen again last night. All I can say is that if you don’t follow football you may have missed a once in a lifetime performance this year. And that’s a shame. Anything that happens once in a lifetime should be given proper respect. (Yah, I know that 35 years is a short lifetime but that’s about what you could expect if you lived during the Roman Empire. Did YOU watch the Dolphins win the super bowl in 1973?)

But just in case you don’t like American football (and I realize that most of the world doesn’t give a good deification for it). Lets talk movies. And not even a new movie. The BladeRunner omnibus collection has finally arrived on Blu-Ray. I don’t know if it was worth the 25 year wait but it is fabulous. The 5 disk collection includes the infamous Workprint version, the original theatrical release, the European release, the VHS enhanced release, the Director’s Cut, and a new Final Version with new material filmed by Director Ridley Scott. Also included is (now this is going to take awhile):

a three and a half hour documentary about the movie,
further documentary material- called the Enhancement Archive,
extensive commentaries (three on the Final Cut alone, one on the Workprint, and introductions to each version by Ridley Scott,),
and a compendium of alternate and deleted scenes that virtually retells the story in 45 minutes.

It’s everything the BladeRunner fan could have hoped for and far more than most people would ever consider buying or even watching. OTOH, if you can stand numerous rewatchings of a 25 year old film with minor differences, this has got to be the most material for the dollar every released on Blu-ray or ANY video format. And what self-disrespecting geek doesn’t love numerous iterations of a beloved movie? This package is a BladeRunner geek’s ultimate wet-dream and if you can dispense with the Deckard Briefcase Edition (with the matchbox Spinner toy!) you can have the whole thing on Amazon for under $30!

Well now you know what to do the next time you get snowed in,

The video quality is variable due to the source materials as you might expect but it is only really a problem on the Workprint cut. The Final Directors Cut is as good a Blu-ray transfer as I’ve seen. This package would be worth buying if it were just this disk.

And it’s hard to imagine anything the supplemental materials leave out. Ridley Scott comments on the Final Director’s Cut and he’s only one of three commentary tracts. The Workprint version has commentary by Paul M. Sammon, author of Future Noir: the Making of Blade Runner, perhaps the definitive book about the movie. The documentary of the same name covers virtually everything in the book plus new material. In addition to the standard trip from original script to theatrical and DVD release, subjects such as Decard’s status as a replicant and a nice section on Phil Dick (including why the movie is so different from the book) are covered in the Enhancement Archive. While the material stops before going into Dick’s life too deeply, it’s easy to understand why. Phil Dick’s life was pretty weird and anything else might have derailed a chronicle that was really about this movie. Somehow Dick has become the science fiction writer most adapted by Hollywood. A good documentary about his life could easily fill two hours on it’s own. There have been attempts (The Gospel According to Phillip K. Dick was a valiant try but was hindered by its minuscule budget.) but a definitive biography on film has yet to be made. No mention is made of his religious epiphany or his final work-the Exigesis and there is little mention of his legendary drug use. There are, however, extensive interviews with his children. (His daughter is a real hottie.)

Whether this particular movie is worthy of THIS treatment, perhaps the most complete disk release in history, is certainly debatable but Bladerunner was a pivotal movie for both SF and film in general and this is the treatment that fans have been dreaming of. And while you may debate the merits of the movie, don’t do so with a real fan. The movie is the Godfather of Science Fiction cinema. BladeRunner’s visual style has been copied so much that it’s hard to remember that it was original at the time. It may also be the only movie ever responsible for inspiring a new genre of written science fiction- cyberpunk. Usually SF movies have been distant step-cousins to the written form, which is far more sophisticated and decades ahead in style and concept. BladeRunner showed that Cinema SF could have the complexity of the written form and still make for a good movie. It garnered only lukewarm reception at the box office and from critics but every year since its release had seen the reverence for the movie increase. There is a natural parallel to this situation but to evoke it breaks a sort of Godwin’s law in film so I won’t go there.

But you should own this.

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