Bill Paxton has long been one of my favorite actors. In a lot of ways, his acting style reminds me of Nicolas Cage, when Nicolas Cage is at his best. They always take risks that sometimes, but not always, pay off to an incredible result… they just need the right project for them. Paxton’s work was usually more consistent, and he was capable of great subtlety, like his performance on the HBO series Big Love. He was also capable of amazing, over-the-top performances like that of Private Hudson in Aliens, or when he’s pleading for his life and saying he has a little dick in True Lies.
There are some fictional events that I think are irresistible to filmmakers, simply because there’s a million and one ways to tell that story, and you can tell it so personally and make it so your own. There’s the “end of the world” scenario, where it can either be a personal apocalypse or something troubling on a theological level. It all depends on what the passions of that storyteller are, what drives them.
And then there’s the “first contact with aliens” scenario, which has all the wiggle room in the world available to tell a story as rooted in optimism as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, or as capitalistically cynical as Independence Day. Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival has it both ways. It sees the opportunity and the meeting as an important meeting of the minds with fantastic implications for advancement for both species, but one with disaster looming in every moment, because humans are, by nature, a distrusting bunch.
Explaining why something like the various entries and season-encompassing zines, A Field Guide to the Aliens of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION is worth reading, and so good, is almost impossible, but I want to try because these are hidden gems were discovering and reading.
Firstly, the collection is written in the first person by a fictional 12 year old named Joshua Champman. The first season’s entry is handwritten in cursive as a class assignment.
The Alien movies are unique in that every entry was directed by a relative newcomer who ended up doing amazing things with their careers. Ridley Scott, James Cameron, David Fincher and Jean-Pierre Jeunet have, outside of their work on this series of films, have created classics of the cinema. Unlike many on-going film series that have lasted decades, each one presents a new take on the original and expands upon it in thoughtful way… well, except for Alien Resurrection, which had some interesting ideas, but goddamn.
Movies just don’t get more iconic than the original Alien does. Everything about it memorable: The story, the tension, the creature, the human characters, the dialogue, the costumes, the set design, the sound design and the famous and suspenseful false ending. Everything about Alien is classic. It’s a classic movie that transcends being simply a horror movie or simply a sci-fi movie or even a sci-fi horror flick… no, it’s much more. It’s a master class on filmmaking itself. To study Alien is to study an example of near-perfection in cinema.