Summer Of 92 (#110 of 3)

Ripley’s Got a Death Drive Alien³ at 25

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Ripley’s Got a Death Drive: Alien³ at 25

20th Century Fox

Ripley’s Got a Death Drive: Alien³ at 25

David Fincher’s Alien³ may be the only film ever made to peak with its logo. As the 20th Century Fox fanfare crescendos over the studio’s familiar logo, the music holds on the minor chord before the usual last note, replacing jubilant bombast with a dissonant groan of strings. The alteration produces an immediate sense of discomfort and unease, setting the tone for something ominous and fearsome. It’s an ingenious shot across the bow from Fincher, ushering in a feature career dotted with immaculately ordered, carefully scored works of blockbuster entertainment that veered from audience-pleasing major keys to their grim underbellies.

The perversion of the Fox theme epitomizes a succinct grasp of horror that only occasionally surfaces in the film proper. Too often, Alien³ shows its seams, whether in its thematic arc or the design of the xenomorph, and at not even two hours it still feels weighed down by unnecessary exposition and padded suspense scenes. But blame for much of this cannot fall at one person’s feet, as the film was notoriously the product of years of production hell that saw the studio soliciting wildly different drafts from writers including (but not limited to) cyberpunk author William Gibson, writer-director Vincent Ward, and producer/filmmaker Walter Hill. Eventually, ideas from each version found their way into a Frankenstein monster of a shooting script, one further plagued by endless on-set rewrites that left Fincher so exasperated that even Fox’s officially released behind-the-scenes footage shows the director railing against the pressures of the studio’s poorly planned project.

Cross-Cultural Communion Night on Earth at 25

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Cross-Cultural Communion: Night on Earth at 25

Fine Line Features

Cross-Cultural Communion: Night on Earth at 25

Whether due to cultural, linguistic, generational, or racial barriers, Jim Jarmusch’s characters often find themselves talking around rather than to each other. It’s no wonder that in Night on Earth, the director’s 1992 omnibus film consisting of five stories set in different international cities on the same night, the taxi cab provides the perfect visual framework, placing a spatial barrier between characters that makes communication even more challenging. Characters banter, bicker, ramble, and philosophize as they shuttle through various cityscapes like ghosts in the night, catching only fleeting glimpses of the other as reflections in a rear-view mirror. There is a natural yin/yang dynamic to each vignette that uses the dialectics of argumentation as well as visual rhymes, word play, starkly contrasting character types, and class conflict to deepen the audience’s understanding and empathy for the characters and the environment in which they live.

Born Under a Lucky Star One False Move at 25

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Born Under a Lucky Star: One False Move at 25

IRS Media

Born Under a Lucky Star: One False Move at 25

The racism in Carl Franklin’s One False Move suggests a festering pool of standing water just waiting to be disturbed. Lawman Dale Dixon (Bill Paxton) naturally utters the word “nigger” while having a peaceful meal with his Los Angeles counterparts, one of whom is black. Lila Walker (Cynda Williams), the mixed-race outlaw trying to avoid capture in order to see her young son again, understands American inequality all too well: “Looking guilty is being guilty, for black people,” she tells her brother. Having recently shot a white Texas state trooper in the head at point blank range, the irony of her statement is hard to miss. But that doesn’t mean she’s wrong.