Blade Runner

blade-runner

This is the movie where the bartender from The Shining is the smartest man in the world, where the batshit crazy chick who tried to claw James Woods’s eyes out (in real life) is a reserved, icy beauty, where the famously taciturn leader of a Florida vice squad chatters away in a self-invented argot culled from six different languages. Where Han Solo isn’t so smug and flippant anymore as the rain incessantly pours down on his head.

In other words, nothing is as it seems, and no one knows that better than Rick Deckard, a replicant hunter who may be a replicant himself. This is as dark as film noir was ever going to get–and it’s a full color science fiction film, for Tyrell’s sake! It’s as dense and wondrous as a dwarf star. It’s art direction has left a legacy in its wake as wide and long as a comet’s tail, and its story gains more relevance with each passing year as A.I. slowly but surely slouches its way into reality.

So–who is Rick Deckard chasing? Well, they are children, really–not quite four years old. But these babies were born fully formed, two girls and two boys, who have only recently become aware that, by design, they really don’t have much more time to “live.”

The two female replicants are Darryl Hannah and Joanna Cassidy, a pair of terrifying amazons still possessing enough charm and beauty to make having one’s head crushed to a pulp a demise one might actually look forward to–as long as it were done between those two amazingly athletic thighs.

Brion James is one of those character actors who never gets to play anyone pleasant, so he was certainly qualified to portray Leon Kowalski-a surly sumbitch clinging to what’s left of his existence with dangerously powerful paws.

Which leaves the fourth replicant. If you ask any regular person off the street who Rutger Hauer is, you just might hear a reply along the lines of “Isn’t he that guy Rocky Balboa fought in Rocky IV?”

A good guess, but no. Rutger Hauer is Roy Batty and he’s perfect. Perfect to look at, perfect in the role, and the perfect foil to Rick Deckard’s resigned torpor. He’s the unstoppable engine in a movie that does its very best to avoid any type of kineticism, the hero of a film that doesn’t really have one. The mostly ad-libbed words he speaks at the end to the man who’s been trying to kill him (and whose life he’s just saved) IS what it seems–probably the greatest parting speech in cinematic history:

“I’ve… seen things you people wouldn’t believe… Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those… moments… will be lost in time, like tears… in… rain. Time… to die…”
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Eddie Murphy

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I recently read an online article that ranked every cast member of Saturday Night Live and it took me all of about five seconds to crown my personal choice for #1. The list itself was pretty fun to scroll through, and at the bottom, I wasn’t at all surprised to find that the writer had oh-so-predictably picked John Belushi as the “best” SNL cast member ever. John Belushi is one of those sacred cows of comedy who is long overdue to be butchered and served up as a bunch of tasty burgers for some protein-deficient Appalachian kids. He’s barely an SNL top ten. A funny guy at times, but completely overrated. That’s what happens when you die at 33. Were the “Samurai Ford Pinto Salesman” and “Immigrant Cheeseburger Man” really that funny? I don’t think so. (That being said, I would have loved to see his impersonation of Lena Dunham.)

What’s all this got to do with one Edward Regan Murphy? Well, in my eyes he’s the most talented and brilliant cast member SNL has ever had. From Gumby to to “Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood” to Buckwheat to “Kill My Landlord,” he absolutely, well, killed. But Eddie was so much more than just a player on some dumb late night TV show. He pretty much owned the decade. I didn’t even like him that much back then–I thought he was “too popular” or whatever, but to watch his 80s body of work now, without the distortion of whatever warped “underground-only” sensibilities I possessed back then–is to watch someone barely out of his teens pretty much taking over the world.

Here we had an unapologetically profane BLACK man (and, Bill Cosby and Michael Jackson be damned, let’s not pretend White America was all into cuddling up with black people back then, especially dudes in hot red leather pants who talked a lot about their dicks) who fashioned himself into the most popular celebrity in America. This doesn’t happen “because it’s time.” It takes raw talent, hard work and a whole heapin’ help of that hard to quantify element called charisma. Eddie had all that and more. There really wasn’t any branch of entertainment he didn’t make his own. It went something like this:

Television: the aforementioned SNL, several HBO specials that helped put that young network on the map, and of course his unforgettable role as a randy “walker” on that very special two-part episode of The Golden Girls.

Movies: If you had to make a basketball team out of 5 movies, 48 Hours, Beverly Hills Cop I and II, Trading Places and Coming To America would be like a starting five of Jordan, Magic, Bird, Dr. J and Hakeem the Dream.

Music: Surely you remember “Party All The Time?”

Fashion: 5 trillion Mumford Phys. Ed. Dept. T-shirts sold!

Things have been, how shall we say, “uneven” ever since. But what major star has ever avoided this? Unless you go and run your Porsche 550 Spyder into a big old Ford coupe or die freebasing in some rented West Hollywood chateau, it’s all part of the celebrity arc. Nobody stays #1 box office champ forever. Still, the man remains capable of raking in hundred of millions of dollars for his studio–things like Shrek and The Nutty Professor practically minted money–as well as delivering critically-acclaimed work in films like Dreamgirls and Bowfinger. He’s also been involved in a lot of truly abysmal efforts moviegoers avoided like you would a bum relieving himself into a San Francisco Examiner box. But he’s still around, and I believe he has some good work left in him. Time will tell. But the 80s, man–the guy was untouchable.

Porky’s

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Porky’s was a phenomenon that a lot of people wanted to do something about but couldn’t. It was a box office smash. The teens loved it, the critics hated it, parents either foamed at the mouth about it or shrugged their shoulders knowing full well that they had been kids once, too. But nobody could stop its raunchy momentum as it rolled through the spring and summer of ’82 sweeping up dollars like so many green-backed butterflies.

Those who denounced this movie as sexist somehow failed to notice that the guys get naked more than the girls. Speaking of which, given its reputation, I re-watched this the other day thinking it was 90 minutes of wall-to-wall T and A, but in fact, there is exactly one scene with female nudity. That being said, Porky’s “shower scene” remains as famous as D-Day (the historic event, not the mustachioed frat brother in Animal House) and it’s a long one, showcasing plenty of that currently out-of-fashion body accessory known as pubic hair.

There’s another thing I learned about this movie after 30 years away. It’s not very funny at all. It tries to be, it tries really hard, in fact, but only ever manages to rise to the level of mildly amusing. And yet, it is fun to watch–very enjoyable, in fact. What it’s really about–and what the critics way back when were too scandalized by 45 seconds of full-frontal bush to notice, is that it’s a movie about friendship. Friendship between buddies, teammates, siblings, teachers and students, cops and kids, and yes, males and females (the girls razz the guys just as much as they get razzed and both genders seem to actually respect each other). Believe it or not, Porky’s–everybody’s perceived poster child for sexploitation cinema, actually has a good heart.

So when everybody in Angel Beach pulls together to humiliate that scum-sucking pig Porky and his rotten henchman just across the county line, it’s like watching your favorite team defeat its biggest rival. And then PeeWee loses his cherry and all is right with the world.