October Horrorshow, Retroactive: Aliens

Aliens movie posterAlien is an artful film. It is frightening and suspenseful, but it also has operatic grace and gritty realism, despite being set mostly aboard a spaceship. It’s hard to imagine Alien spawning a sequel so tonally different yet still so successful, but Aliens does just that. The two films are poles apart, sharing with each other only the alien creatures and Sigourney Weaver, who reprises her role from the first film as Ripley.

Many sequels born of successful films are flawed from the start, attempting to recreate the magic of the first film by simply imitating it. For example, Jaws 2 tried its damnedest to cash in on its progenitor’s success, but it was little more than a rehash of the same story with a less robust script, a less talented director, and a lame attempt at topping the original’s explosive climax. More examples abound, including Rocky and Rocky 2, King Kong and Son of Kong, along with many others.

Aliens director and screenwriter James Cameron was surely aware of film history and the perils of trying to recreate a successful formula when he conceived the project. His solution appears to have come about by asking some simple questions about Alien. Why didn’t the protagonists just shoot the alien? What would happen if there were more than one alien? Cameron apparently decided that a successful sequel could be made while adhering to conceptual precedent by arming the humans in his film with machine guns, flamethrowers, and grenade launchers. Since heroes bristling with such weaponry would make quick work of one alien, Cameron supplies dozens. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow, Retroactive: Aliens”

Oval Office Thunderdome: It Works

The Democratic nominating process is near an end. Supposedly. Last night, Hillary Clinton crushed Barack Obama in Kentucky, but lost to him in Oregon. Due to the party’s rules for apportioning delegates, the math has been against Clinton for months now. In order to grab the nomination, the lopsided victories she has garnered in Kentucky and in West Virginia last week would have had to have been the norm since at least the beginning of March in order for her to have any hope of erasing Obama’s delegate lead. But, she has not been able to string together such large victories. Clinton will not be the nominee. Continue readingOval Office Thunderdome: It Works”

Oval Office Thunderdome: In on the Big Secret

Former senator and presidential hopeful John Edwards endorsed Barack Obama for president yesterday evening. The endorsement came during an Obama rally in Michigan and was timed to coincide with the television networks’ nightly news coverage. In addition, coming one day after Obama suffered a huge defeat in the Democratic primary in West Virginia, the endorsement was designed to steal the spotlight from Hillary Clinton. At least, that is what I learned from watching the news. Therein lies something I’ve always found odd about political coverage, and election coverage in particular. Anyone who pays attention to the news has to have noticed the phenomenon, as well. That is, reporting on politics contains a large amount of analysis of tactics and strategy. Seemingly, more analysis than actual reporting. This has the effect of turning viewers and readers into vicarious participants in the campaigns. Continue readingOval Office Thunderdome: In on the Big Secret”