Feature Friday: “Dark Star” (1974)

I caught up with Dark Star only a few years back, at one of the Music Box‘s science-fiction marathons. I was pleased to discover that Dark Star ranks among John Carpenter’s best, while at the same time standing out due to its odd, grim humor. (Kubrick’s influence hangs over the picture, which pokes lovingly not only at 2001—just look at the opening scene—but Dr. Strangelove.) Much of the comedy is also due to the presence of writer/star/production designer/editor Dan O’Bannon, the brilliant screenwriter behind Alien and Total Recall and Lifeforce. Appropriately, Dark Star contains lots of swipes from Philip K. Dick, as well as some ideas that would later infiltrate Alien: the cramped and tedious corporate working condition, an ornery alien creature running amok…

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On Prometheus, Berlin’s O2 arena, Wings of Desire, androids, assemblages, agencements, corporate-imperial subjects and rebels, translator-traitors, and pain.



Recently, walking along the Berlin Wall near the Oberbaumbrücke: there, at the opening of the bridge, you saw the enormous O2 World arena. I was there at night; it looked like a spaceship. Speaking of spaceships, I watched Prometheus recently with my husband and brother (I feel I should preface everything I’m about to say by adding that I’ve never seen any of the films in the Alien series, and so can’t comment on how Prometheus relates to the original Alien or the rest of the franchise universe), which reminded me that the spaceship is a military-industrial (and so imperial-colonial) apparatus. I was thinking about that scene when Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw admonishes another crew member, bearing a massive firearm, just before they are about to step onto the alien moon they’ll later discover is a military base–that they won’t need weapons. “This is a scientific exploration.” Wince in anticipation: here is the seed of the revelation waiting for her at the end of the film, revelation as horror (“discovery” as horror, truth as horror, knowledge as horror, utopia is hell, they’re not what we thought they’d be like, it isn’t what we thought it would be like, the Others in the Other world). “Not a map but an invitation,” colonial presumptuousness; “scientific exploration” and the logic of progress bulwarked by Christian ideology, concealing (then revealing) the inherent violence and foolish destructive arrogance of the scientific/anthropological/global-corporate endeavor. Corrosive infectious alien disease; syphillis in blankets. Contact is contagion, death. We can’t know each other, we can only kill each other. Subjugate or be subjugated. Also, white men who want to live forever (ruling elite desperate to retain their power), destroy everything, even after they themselves are destroyed.

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Trapped in the Echo Chamber

With Prometheus, this summer’s companion piece to the science fiction classic Alien, Ridley Scott has made the exact sort of movie one expects Scott expects people expect him to make. *About which spoilers abound in this post* More so than Scott’s other works of the last decade-plus, the self-consciously Great Films of the period epic mold, Prometheus is in dialogue with the director’s earlier and legitimately excellent films (Alien in particular). And it’s holding a bullhorn. Continue reading

A D & Jeremy Talk about Movies: Source Code, Moon, and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

[You click this link, you go back to the first installment, which found me and Jeremy unable to get service at an Applebee’s, following a screening of Duncan Jones’s Source Code. Increasingly hungry, increasingly desperate, we debated the nutritional value of our napkins and tablecloths, before Jeremy remembered that Applebee’s coats all such textiles in an indigestible plastic (to prevent sullen teenagers from rending or defiling them). Our gazes fell upon the Awesome Blossoms sizzling on our various neighbors’ tables.]

A D: Let’s keep talking about movies; it’ll distract us.

Jeremy: Capital! I liked Source Code better than Thor, I’d say (though not so much as Ang Lee or Bill Bixby’s Hulks). Because Source Code is a nice little movie. Though not as nice or little as Moon, Duncan Jones’s debut.

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Gabriel Orgrease: On Ritual

My ritual as a writer is to seek dissociation from my consciousness. I look for opportunities that take me out of myself, that challenge me not so much in the craft as writer but that question my existence as an individual and within a social context of family and extended community. As a writer I look for ways in which to see the text that I have created from the outside.

“As the afterglow of a night spent after he ingested a bit too much LSD. Small white pills and he was drunk and stoned and did not realize until a while later that he had ingested everyone’s score. An odd night, it was the day afterward of a stark dissociation, lost here and now, that had the profound long-range impact. It was

of infinitude in a Blakean sense of perpetual epiphany. Though it was a curious place to visit it was not one in which he desired to take up a full-time residence.”

I came across these words stored on my computer and as I read them became more and more irritated, and jealous, that someone had written something that appeared to me lucid and I did not know who it was… until I realized that it was me.

It is not a question of lighting smelly candles, though I may do that, or playing gong music that sounds like pots and pans struck by a baboon, though I may also do that, but it is always a ritual to seek a way to meet myself in life and work as if I am my own stranger. Continue reading