Over 6 decades and nearly 200 feature films and Aaron and David could only muster up enough time to watch and/or re-watch 11 films featuring the late, great, Harry Dean Stanton.
While the two of us watched whatever we could get our hands on, our goal is to always watch three (however for HDS, we went for four) of the same films together in order to create a deeper discussion. Check out our complete LETTERBOXD for everything that we watched as well as our pick for the Must-See Harry Dean Stanton movie.
A movie profoundly ahead of its time. The late 70s was a breading ground for a wealth of extremely pessimistic views of the future with totalitarian governments, environmental disasters, and dystopian wastelands. This fear of the future was the perfect platform for iconic films like SOYLENT GREEN, SILENT RUNNING, and LOGAN'S RUN. When 1980 rolled around we also found the world beginning the plunge into an all information, all the time with the introduction of CNN and the 24 hour news cycle.
In a future where dying of illness and disease is rare, Vincent Ferriman (HDS) has created a show that exploits our morbid obsession with decay and destruction. He remarks " Look how shy we've become about death. It's the new pornography." DEATH WATCH is a lo-fi thriller of impending death, moral decency, and television ratings. Ferriman is the suave, slimy, cutthroat television producer while Harvey Keitel plays Roddy, his secret cameraman. In the only real instance of "science fiction", Roddy's eyes have been surgically replaced with cameras to infiltrate the life of the ill-fated subject. Whatever he sees, so does the audience of DEATH WATCH.
It's an all around great performance piece as Keitel gets to turn in another fantastic layered character alongside his subject, the doomed Romy Schneider. HDS presents the villainous television producer capitalizing on the public's voyeuristic thirst. Is he the true villain for creating the material or are we to blame for consuming it. In a real world that has prolonged 14 seasons of KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS the answer is unclear. Either way, DEATH WATCH provides all the great moral complications that come along with great science fiction.
REPO MAN is a movie of the moment. If you make this movie about any other time it will not feel as genuine. As kitschy as it may be, the 1980's fueled the stark contrast between the rich and the poor, the right and the left, the haves and the have nots. This is punk rock's cinematic magnum opus. It's the movie anthem that doesn't conform to your societal norms or to Hollywood's interpretation of the punk movement. Many "punk" movies have been made before. But REPO MAN is different in that it's a movie about punks, made by a punk, that's for punks. But under the tenderly punkish care of Alex Cox, the movie becomes something more than just a parody of itself.
In true punk anarchy, our antagonizing protagonist, Otto, refuses to accept the 'everyday onslaught of the capitalist consumerism of 1980s Reaganomics'. It's such a cliche statement, but instead of uttering those words Cox litters the screen with the impersonal, faceless marketing, dead behind the eyes parents, and reckless government goons. Unbeknownst to Otto, he can't escape the vice grip of the United States marketing machine.
For a movie that is so overtly "punk" you'd expect it to just be littered with the sounds of Black Flag, Bad Religion, Minor Threat and others. The music embraces a sort of Link Wray style of rambling guitar riffs and steady drums driving the rest of the story along. Its that waning guitar crossed with a sort of rockabilly, beach rock, proto punk vibe that gives the movie an almost fairy tale quality to the seedy side of the LA underground.
It's such a great movie that holds a mirror up to the social and the anti social. It's a movie about the disassociated youth, a detached society, and a radiated alien car. It's the kind of movie where one can talk about a plate. Or shrimp. Or a plate of shrimp and still sound impressively deep. There's no real explanation. It's just the cosmic unconsciousness telling us how good this movie is.
PRETTY IN PINK
It's really just another story of star crossed lovers from the opposite side of the tracks. However, there is one thing that feels slightly different from every other entry in the John Hughes Cinematic Universe. That main difference comes from the relationship shared between Andie (Molly Ringwald) and her father, Jack (Harry Dean Stanton). We are treated to an incredibly realistic relationship between a young lady who is forced to act as a parental figure to her own depressed, lonely and broken father.
In most Brat Pack flicks we get a paternal relationship that is either non-existent or entirely eccentric and played for laughs (i.e. Non-existent = BREAKFAST CLUB, SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL. Entirely eccentric = WEIRD SCIENCE, BETTER OF DEAD... I know not official Hughes but it might as well be). This relationship utilizes the raw, every man nature of HDS to convey a personal and flawed interaction between the father and daughter. They are both sharing the loss but are forced to deal with it in different ways. This grounded relationship reveals a youthful, blossoming connection between Andie, Blane, and Duckie juxtaposed with a prophetic look into the reality that many relationships, including Jacks, eventually become. A much more grown up, however loosely structured story of young love in the 80s.
Calling this movie TWISTER is like calling BATMAN (89), DINNER DATE WITH VICKI VALE. Yeah, I guess it does take place but I don't see what that has to do with the story.
I know this is going to be a shocker but Crispin Glover is just as insane as ever and he's kind of the best thing in this film. It's more or less an aimless ROYAL TENENBAUM-esque family of rich, eccentric weirdos just getting along with life and not getting along with each other.
It really feels like the filmmakers told Crispin to improvise everything and told HDS to react accordingly. That part kind of works. I just wish there was more of that interaction. This is really just a movie that shows solid actors elevating a lackluster script.
The two of us watched 7 other HDS films. Check out the entire list on LETTERBOXD.