Friday, June 4, 2010

"Brainstorm"(1983)d/Douglas Trumbull

So, I’m CowboyX, an old friend of the Big Wop and, no, I won’t stamp ‘O’s, I like ‘X’s and just might put one on both of your eyes. Many an inebriated and drugged evening was spent watching movies with Big Wop and Doc and I learned oh so much from the Cultural Guru himself. I enjoy some good SciFi, probably more than horror, and get real pissed at terrible Hollywood crap movies which just seem to keep coming out. See my facebook group for my thoughts on the last Star Trek asshole movie.If I could direct Bruce Dern in Silent Running (1972) and then Christopher Walken in this gem I could die happy. Let’s all applaud Douglas Trumbull for a job well done. Clap! Little boots.Nevermind the SFX work on 2001:ASO, Blade Runner, Close Encounters, etc. all of which shows in the thoughtful and believable “Brainstorm” scenes. Trumbull proves he can deliver complex messages in an entertaining manner without explosions and laser swords. So I chose this movie as my first guest review and an example of well done Science Fiction.
Walken plays Dr. Michael Brace, the younger and less experienced of a pair of research scientists working at well-funded research lab in North Carolina. He works with Lillian Reynolds (Louise Fletcher) whose chain-smoking might envy our dear Big Wop. Fletcher looks like she is about to crawl into her tomb from over work and cigs while a young Walken’s exaggerated features, gestures, and voice are all put to good use. Together they work for Alex Terson (Cliff Robertson) whose appears to be a venture capitalist in charge of a successful research company but is really hiding connections to the government and military in that hair. Robertson’s wig, along with his acting, is in admiral form in this film.
The underlying science fiction concept of the script deals with the development of new technologies and their use or misuse, particularly by the military. Walken’s character, Brace, idolizes the Wright Brothers for their genius vision and daring. The audience is left to make the connection to the benefits and costs, good and bad developments, that come from such remarkable breakthroughs. In this case, a machine that allows us to record thoughts and emotions and then to replay them .However, the lines are blurred as individuals involved with the project also explore the machine’s uses, some for benevelance, as when Michael uses it to repair his failed marriage with Karen (Natalie Wood). Others use it for ‘perceived’ badness (but my first inclination)…PORN![Natalie Wood fell off her boat in a drunken haze and drowned. I really couldn’t care less other than the movie almost wasn’t released. I tried to look for the parts where they used a stand-in for her but I couldn’t see any.]
Fletcher’s character finally succumbs to stress and tar as her heart and arteries kill her once and for all. Kill-kill-kill die-die-die. No, nitro tablets won’t help this time. But Dr. Reynolds, ever the scientist, won’t quit. She decides to record the experience for yet another breakthrough in answering the question of the afterlife - making us underachievers look bad again, huh? Michael finally understands what Lillian was trying to teach him about the importance of using their genius (instead of having it used) even as he realizes the importance of what he has lost with his wife.Meanwhile and predictable, the military/government wants to get its hands on the invention and use it for what appears to be defense, firing missles and the like. However, Michael soon finds out that the government has experimented in brainwashing and torturing people. Michael decides that he has redeem his invention by viewing the Lillian death tape himself. The conflict between the visionaries and the hack scientists culminates in…in…in Walken racing away in his totally cool brown and orange Bronco and with some clever “computer” “hacking” by his cohorts.
Almost 30 years later, the technology portrayed stands up pretty good. Although the portable Brainstorm machines they carry around do vaguely remind me of the GIANT top-loading VCR Big Wop used to have in his living room, they are believable even with the dated computer graphics. The most glaring example of a piece of technology dating the film might be the continued use of dial-up data transmission. It can break the illusion but isn’t a deal killer.The sets, especially the lab/factory complex where Michael and Lillian work and the Brace’s awesome swimming pool/home, adds a futuristic yet timeless look which could be today…I wish I had a swimming pool in my house today. Well-appointed, they suggest success and wealth gained from the harnessing of genius in a controlled manner. Michael is oblivious to the true potential of his invention or the real persons in control. He is also selfish and arrogant according to his wife. This is reflected in Michael’s rude, spoiled brat son Chris (who you might recognize as Rusty from European Vacation). If I could walk into this movie I’d beat that kid. Also, what could be more pompous and prententious than riding a recumbent bike?The characters are well developed through a clever use of the device at the focus of the film. Through “Brainstorm” flashbacks we see important clues into them, Michael’s ambition, Lillian’s sacrificing for her work, and even Wood’s unfulfilled love for Michael. This adds a lot of backstory in a believable way. There’s a few good Walken quotes including a flashback scene to the Brace’s wedding where Walken is sporting some kind of ponytail and sings “let’s do the twist” like Dracula.
“You’re strangling me, Karen.”
He also has some remarkable outbursts in the lab, “you can lock it up, but you can’t make it work!”
Yeah, not very quotable and not as memorable, but you can see the elements of Walken’s exaggerated style that would become so good.For that...3 B.W.s

1 comment:

beedubelhue said...

Great job,Cowboy.Keep 'em coming,brother.


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