By Marc S. Sanders

To be lost and alone is my absolute greatest fear.  I don’t know what to do when I find myself in situations like that.  I feel palpitations and terrible anxiety.  The only argument my wife and I had on our honeymoon was when we got lost in the Louvre in Paris.  She was relaxed.  I definitely was not.  I didn’t know in which direction to walk through the massive museum, located in a country that I’m not at all familiar with, inhabited by a majority of people who speak a language that I’m terribly limited at using for conversation.

When a person is completely, physically isolated, the only thing to depend on is his/her own wits and sensibilities.  That’s step one in constructing a scene of terror.  Step two is to lock that person away with an entity that is unpredictable, unrecognizable, smart and grotesquely frightening.  In a film, each time that entity comes into the play, the scene should not look like the last time the protagonist or the audience encountered this creature.  Whatever I learned a few minutes ago is not going to offer much help the next time around. 

I’ve just described the spine of the story that makes a horror film like Ridley Scott’s Alien so successful.

Science Fiction always works best when it can be convincing enough to lend authenticity to the fiction of its, well, science.  With Alien, a variation of biology and evolution lends to the terror of the picture and you don’t even realize it until the movie is half over. The title character is introduced in different characterizations with every scene it is called for.  First, it’s an egg, then a tentacled creature wrapped around the face of an unfortunate victim.  Later, at dinner time, it reveals itself in an unforgiving and memorable scene as a phallic shaped organism with a snake like tail and steel teeth.  Lastly, you just can’t even describe what it is except to say it is huge and its even worse than the monsters you imagined as a kid hiding in your closet or under your bed.  Credit has to go to the creature designs from H.R. Giger.  Every limb or shape of the monster seems to serve a purpose.  If that’s not enough, the animal bleeds acid that’ll burn through the hull of an enormous spaceship.  The alien in this 1979 film, later deemed a “xenomorph,” is one of the scariest and most unforgettable monsters in movie history.

A crew of seven are piloting a large ship back to the planet Earth.  Their cargo is carrying mineral ore (whatever that is).  This crew is not military of any kind.  There’s a science officer, but by and large, I’d characterize these people as truckers in outer space working on behalf of a company, by hauling a load across the galaxy.  During the long journey, they rest in a cryo-like sleep.  As the film opens, they are awakened by their transmission computer, known as “Mother,” to respond to a distress call.  Their ship has been diverted from Earth to investigate an unexplored planet.  As the piece continues, the crew brings back a plus one. They have no idea what to expect or how to handle its presence, and then they are hunted across the maze of the large ship, dispatched one by one.

The byline for Alien is marketing brilliance.  In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream.  It only scratches the surface of the terror you encounter when watching this terrifying film.  Ridley Scott uses art direction set up with long, dark hallways and warehouse size rooms that make the cast appear infantile.  His labyrinth of a spaceship offers up practically any place for a killer creature to hide and strike at an opportune time. 

It’s important to point out that Alien lends to the argument for the value of 4K resolution.  This latest print to honor the film’s 40th anniversary offers much clarity within the dark settings of the picture.  Having seen Alien countless times, I still examine each frame carefully because Giger’s designs allow the monster to blend in properly with engineering architecture of long and large pipes and cables, and immense darkness.  Chains hang from the ceilings and water drips down for no reason to be explained.  It’s just how the spaceship lives, apparently.  The atmosphere rattles you, however, when you realize there’s a dangerous bug crawling around somewhere.  Did I just catch a glimpse of the alien’s head there????  Was that his tail????  Is that a limb, like an arm or a hand????  I know all of the highlights of the picture by now, but to this day I still look for when and where the silent terror is looming, thinking I missed it from the last time I watched.  Would you believe on this last viewing, I found a caption of the alien I don’t recall ever seeing before?

Once the monster is established and we see our heroes within inescapable danger, then paranoia and mistrust can lend to their erratic nature.  The screenplay from Alien co-creator Dan O’Bannon establishes how the “grunts” of the seven (Yaphet Kotto, Harry Dean Stanton) debate what is and isn’t their responsibility and what monies they truly are entitled to on this mission.  Early on, before the threat is even considered, a divide exists within the band.  They are not always going to get along.  Later, the debate on whether to quarantine the crew members who investigated the distress signal on the strange, unknown planet comes into play.  It would be easy to simply make Alien all about blood, guts and sci fi laser pistols in a post Star Wars/Star Trek era, but it is even more effective to create disagreements and seeds of unreliability among the group.  One or two of them could end up operating in a different and unexpected direction that won’t help their cause.  Maybe it’s not just the alien we should be afraid of.

The seven members (5 men, 2 women) all have different personalities.  They like one another well enough, but they all have uncommon values and motives.  Sigourney Weaver portrays Ripley, the third in command, behind two men.  However, in outer space, does it really matter where she falls in the line?  The science officer, Ash (Ian Holm), seems to drift into his own way of thinking, separate from the rest.  Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt) moves along the straight and narrow, only doing what’s assigned simply to move on and get things over with.  The other woman Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) does not have much dialogue to work with, but her expressions seem to be questioning why she even took this job.  Was this woman desperate for work and this is the best she could find?  She’s definitely the most unrelaxed and fearful of the crew.

Like Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, Alien does not operate on the movie monster alone.  There are other factors at play.  A popular Hollywood story is that Spielberg didn’t show the shark for a long period of time simply because the thing would not work, mechanically speaking.  Ridley Scott, however, demonstrates that he can present the animal one way and then show it in a completely different form later.  When it has reached what we can only believe is full evolution, we still don’t get a clear physical picture of the creature’s design from head to toe.  Scott will show us teeth, or maybe a shoulder blade or a tail that whips or moves at a slow and cautious pace.  The alien functions with a combination of real-life predators’ behaviors.  It hatches.  It sheds its skin.  It bites.  It runs.  It hunts a prey.  It grows and evolves…and seemingly very quickly.

Alien has been duplicated many times following its release, including a few shameless sequels.  Mind you, some of the franchise follow ups remain exceptional in their own right.  What misgivings Ridley Scott’s movie have later inspired cannot be helped.  Mr. Scott should consider it an honor, at best, that various craftspeople have attempted to top what he accomplished, I guess.  Those copycats don’t follow the recipe of Alien though.  There’s either too much of an ingredient included like blood and guts or there’s a lacking in its script, such as the eerie haunts of a dangerous setting or the overeager intelligence of its characters.  Whatever the case may be, the achievements in horror work so well in Alien, because it moves with dread, uncertainty, helplessness, a lack of knowledge, and then with only a few touches of gore and violence that are mostly left to our worst imaginations. 

Alien is not only one of the best science fiction films ever made.  It is also one of the best horror films ever made.


By Marc S. Sanders

Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is a technical and special effects masterpiece…however thin-very thin-its story may be. 

When the film was originally released in 1982, its period setting of November 2019 seemed unimaginable.  So, it was easy to accept that the dystopian future first conceived by author Phillip K. Dick (in his book Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?) could actually happen.  With the Vietnam War behind us, and shopping malls becoming the happening place to be in our Members Only jackets and Jordache jeans with Swatch watches, the 1980s seemed like eternal bliss.  Middle class America felt prosperous and free and comfortable with a President on his way to eight years in office.  Bright pastel and neon colors took over.  A hopeless, dreary future was all but fantasy.  Therefore, just like Star Wars, a gritty, urban Los Angeles seemed like another possibility where science fiction had become as trendy as super hero movies are today.  It was cold and rainy and dirty, but we wanted to see that because that was nowhere near what we were living in, much less envisioning. 

Ridley Scott achieved greatness with visuals never thought possible.  George Lucas might have introduced moviegoers to desert and swamp planets and industrialist Death Stars, but Scott delivered an Earth where Coca-Cola, Pan Am, Atari and Cuisinart still existed amid a dark, rainy Chinatown section of Los Angeles with glowing umbrella handles, flying police cars and cabs, hovering electronic billboards, and exhaust flames that spewed out of the rooftops of cylindrical skyscrapers.  Ridley Scott might have supervised this palette of futuristic film-noir, but the real heroes of Blade Runner belong to its Oscar nominees Lawrence G. Paull, David L. Snyder, and Linda DeScenna for set decoration, as well as Douglas Trumbull (already a legend for 2001: A Space Odyssey), Richard Yuricich and David Dryer for visual effects.  All these years later, there’s much to explore within the appearance of Blade Runner, but the storyline still remains shallower than a puddle of water.

I’ve watched Blade Runner a number of times because fellow peers and colleagues carry such admiration for the film.  I cannot deny the first third of the film holds your attention as you acclimate yourself to this enveloping world.  Once your accustomed however, the story is what has to carry you through to the end, and the journey is as slow moving as a rickshaw on one wheel.  Harrison Ford is Rick Deckard, a blade runner and the best one there is.  Upon learning of an escape of four Replicants from an off-world slave site, Deckard is tasked with coming out of retirement to hunt down these Replicants and “retire” them.  Retire is the polite word for kill, exterminate, slaughter or execute.

A replicant is an android that looks completely human, bleeds like a human and talks like a human.  It’s near impossible to tell the difference on sight between a human and a replicant. As well, replicants are manufactured with four-year life spans and are not permitted on Earth.  They are intended for the sole purpose of slavery towards their human creators.  Yet, what makes them so exemplary or offensive?  What trait do they carry that threatens their human counterparts?  Racism often occurs because of fear derived from skin color or appearance.  Antisemitism will have you believe that Jews have horns growing out of their heads under their yarmulkas.  What is so terribly misconstrued or offensive or threatening about Replicants?  The film never makes clear, and that’s frustrating.  What makes a villain a villain?

M Emmet Walsh comes on early enough to tell us through dialogue that he needs the best of the blade runners back and that’s Deckard.  When I’m to understand that I’m watching the absolute best of something, whether it be a cop, lawyer, baker, student, doctor, painter or blade runner, I want to see what exactly makes them the best.  In Top Gun, I saw the aerial maneuvers that potentially justified why Maverick could be the best of the best fighter pilots.  The problem with Blade Runner and the script, written by Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples, is that I never see in its two-hour time span when or how Rick Deckard is such an exceptional blade runner.  How is a blade runner different from an ordinary cop or a simple person with a large gun?  No matter which of the various cuts of the film I’m watching, with or without Harrison Ford’s voiceover narration, I fail to see any outstanding fighting skills or clear thought-provoking intuition.  This guy is neither as good as Dirty Harry or Sherlock Holmes or even James Bond.  He’s not even as personable as Sam Spade, the original noir detective.  Rick Deckard just looks like Harrison Ford with a very large hand gun.  Furthermore, where does the term “Blade Runner” derive from?  Is it just there because it sounds cool?  The moniker wasn’t even created by Philip K. Dick.

The film’s eventual sequel, Blade Runner 2049, is a far superior film.  It’s longer, but it’s much more fleshed out in tone and character and understanding of its setting.  The original film stands on the heels of its cult like legendary status.  Some of the best filmmakers today cite Blade Runner as an influence in how they construct their own movies.  I buy that.  The assembly of whatever cut I’m watching is evident of how mind blowing its appearance is.  You can see some of the blue print visuals that carried over in to Christopher Nolan and Denis Villeneuve’s pictures. But I’m past all that.  Now I need to appreciate what it’s all there for, and who is playing in its yard. 

I cannot simply rely on IMDb trivia and endless social media sites that speculate on whether Deckard is a replicant himself, or why he dreams of a unicorn and why Ridley Scott opted not to include said dream in the original cut.  I cannot just tickle my curiosity with the picture’s eerie foreshadowing of the various product placements that suffered real life eventual downfalls after its release.  Beyond the visuals, what am I watching Blade Runner for?  This is not just a riddle in the Sunday paper.

The film boasts an eclectic cast that work well together.  I just wish they were provided with something much more insightful with background and personal experience.  Rutger Hauer became a familiar name following the release of this picture.  When he’s finally given the opportunity within the second hour of the film to come off as hideous and terrifying and strange, it’s worth looking at.  His famous “tears in the rain” closing dialogue is beautifully poetic, as it was personally written by him.  It’s as ambiguous as the film.  Yet, Shakespeare can be vague too.  I might not understand what anyone is talking about, but the performance can keep my attention.  Regrettably, he does not do much else in the film beyond his closing fight scene with Ford.  Ridley Scott insisted on casting Sean Young as Rachel, as her appearance was reminiscent of Vivian Leigh.  She’s intentionally mysterious as a likely replicant and/or niece of the wealthy creator of the replicants, Dr. Tyrell.  It works, but again, if the viewer is going to be questioned on the mystery of this major character early on, then why doesn’t the film follow further into that enigma?  You don’t have to say for sure, but at least give me evidence to argue one way or the other.  The same goes for the speculation on Deckard.  Had it not been for outside references, I’d never question who or what Deckard really is.  Daryl Hannah, Brion James and Joanna Cassidy round out the rest of the cast/replicants within the film.  Edward James Olmos is here too with a curious and odd habit of making origami.  They all have their unique way or look about them.  In science fiction, every character should stand apart.  Yet, again, it’s all about appearance.  What is the motivation here?  What is the motivation to live on earth or off earth?  What is the motivation to kill a human?  What is the motivation to kill a replicant?

I’ve beaten my head enough over this film.  Blade Runner has always been frustrating to me.  Maybe I’m not being fair to myself, as I try to find something else or some underlying layer each time I watch it.  Why do people love this movie so much?  Why does it consistently appear on “greatest of all time” tabulations?  Ultimately, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just pounding sand, or maybe as Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty suggests, I’m impossibly looking for tears in rain.


by Miguel E. Rodriguez

Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Salma Hayek
My Rating: 5/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 61%

PLOT: An outsider marries into the Gucci family, and her unbridled ambition triggers a downward spiral of betrayal, revenge, and violence.

Watching Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci was a curious experience.  I could see glimmers of a great entertainment through bars of slow pacing, a meandering story, and unanswered questions.  The performances are top-notch, no question, but they are at the service of a movie that doesn’t seem interested in meeting their level of passion.

Inspired by true events, the movie tells the story of Patrizia Reggiani, a young woman from humble beginnings who meets and eventually marries Maurizio (Adam Driver), one of the heirs to the Gucci fashion empire.  Patrizia is played with fury and fire by Lady Gaga, who seems destined for another Oscar nomination.  Her character is portrayed as a latter-day Lady Macbeth, someone who sees through the deceptions of her new husband’s business associates and manipulates people and events for her family’s benefit.  In true tragic form, her ambitions threaten to derail everything she loves.

Adam Driver plays Maurizio as a rather slow fellow who disinherits himself so he can marry Patrizia but finds a way back into the fold via his uncle, Aldo (Al Pacino), who sees Maurizio as a good substitute for his own disappointing son, Paolo.  Paolo is played by Jared Leto, in another of the film’s performances destined for Oscar recognition.  Buried underneath flawless makeup and a skin cap, Leto portrays Paolo as a self-deluded buffoon whose fashion designs aren’t so much daring as unfortunate.  (Apparently, pastels and brown were never meant to mix…who knew?)

I mention the performances because they are the sole highlights of the film.  For two-and-a-half hours, these performances play against a backdrop of one dreary scene after another. Sure, the performances are fun to watch, but at the end of the day, if they don’t have anything interesting to say, it gets a little boring.  We get behind-the-scenes intrigues and betrayals that seem to owe more than a little to earlier crime epics by Scorsese and Coppola, but there was nothing to get really excited about.  Nothing grabbed me.

Ridley Scott’s films are normally way more imaginative than this.  They look better.  The cinematography is usually more inspired.  I’m not talking about his action or sci-fi epics, either.  I mean his small-scale triumphs like Matchstick Men or Thelma & Louise.  What happened here?  Was he not inspired by the story?  There is great material here, more than enough back-stabbing and lying and cheating to go around.  Yet everything is subdued, and plods, and inspires more yawns than anything else.  I didn’t experience any kind of excitement or passion one way or the other for any of the characters, or for the story.  It just didn’t make me care.

By the time House of Gucci is over, we’ve seen betrayals, marital infidelity, divorce, back-stabbing business deals, sex, and murder.  I have a friend who wrote a stage play that has almost all of those things, and it was WAY more entertaining than this film.


by Miguel E. Rodriguez

Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green
My Rating: 10/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 73%

PLOT: A deep-space research vessel arrives at a distant moon, searching for clues to the origins of mankind.  What they find instead threatens their lives and the lives of everyone back on Earth.

I am at a loss to explain the mediocre Tomatometer score for Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s long-awaited return to the universe he created in Alien [1979].  Intellectually, I can hear the arguments:

  • “Where’s the Xenomorph?”
  • “So did the ‘Engineers’ create humans or what?”
  • “Is that planet at the beginning supposed to be Earth?”
  • “Where’s the Xenomorph?”
  • “Why did that idiot scientist approach the snake-looking creature?”
  • “How is the android able to break almost all of Asimov’s Laws of Robotics?”
  • “What’s with the open-ended ending that provides no resolution?”

I get it.  You hear Ridley Scott is making a prequel to Alien and you build up a lot of expectations, especially after watching some of the sorrier sequels that piled up after Aliens [1986].  When you go into a movie expecting one thing and get another, people get hacked off.  I feel you, bro.

But to those people who dismissed Prometheus because it didn’t deliver what they expected to get, all I can say is: your loss.  Because Prometheus is one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time, in my humble opinion, and it’s mostly for the very same reasons that people disliked it in the first place.

After a brief prologue set in an unknown time in an unknown place, we jump to the year 2093, when a deep-space research vessel arrives at a far distant moon, searching for clues to the origin of mankind.  Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) says they were led to this specific moon by “Engineers”, humanoid beings who are visible in ancient cave drawings from across the globe.  She believes the Engineers can provide an answer, THE Answer, to Life, the Universe and Everything. (Apologies to Douglas Adams.)

Instead of Engineers, Dr. Shaw and her expedition discover miles of underground caverns and a room full of canisters that turn out to contain a horrifying contagion that attack the body at a cellular and/or genetic level, creating painful mutations that, if they don’t kill the host outright, turns them incredibly violent.  We also get a glimpse of the famous “space jockey”, the fossilized alien creature seated in some kind of contraption inside the spaceship in Alien.  So at LAST we’re in familiar territory.

But still no Xenomorph.

The story progresses, the shipboard android turns out to be less than trustworthy, people die in creative and horrifying ways, an Engineer actually turns up, we get a couple more visually spectacular tie-ins to the first Alien…but by the time we get to the end, what gives?  The movie’s obviously over, but we haven’t gotten any answers to the burning questions: Who are the Engineers?  If that was an Engineer in the prologue, was that supposed to be Earth?  If it WASN’T Earth, why even HAVE that prologue?  And don’t try to tell me that was a Xenomorph at the end…

Well, here’s my two cents.

First, of all, expectations are tricky.  They can color and compromise your entire movie-watching experience.  When I went to see Prometheus, I did have my own set of expectations, but as the movie settled in and it became clear that the movie had other designs, I had to consciously shake myself loose of my expectations and embrace what was being presented to me.

Second of all, the visuals are stunning.  I happened to see this in 3-D, and it’s one of a handful of movies where the technology was used PERFECTLY.  No gimmicky shots of spears or harpoons or whatever being pointed out of the screen.  It was used as it should always be used: as a tool to further immerse you into the world of the film without overloading you or being ridiculously obvious.  The gorgeous landscapes during the prologue and during our heroes’ descent to the surface are awe-inspiring.

And then, the story.  I was completely okay with the open-ended nature of the story, and I’ll tell you why.

There are some films out there that play Prometheus’s game of asking questions and not answering them.  One of the most famous examples is Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey [1968].  If you’ve never read the book, I defy you to provide a concise explanation of the last thirty minutes of that movie.  But that didn’t bother people, because the goal was to get the viewer to ask questions, to provoke discussions about the movie that would eventually get around to some of the same questions asked in Prometheus: Why are we here?  What is our purpose?

And then there are other films that play that open-ended game and fail.  The one that comes immediately to mind is Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain [2006].  By the end of that movie, my head was locked in a tilted position like a cocker spaniel hearing a strange noise.  If I had been a cartoon character, the word balloon over my head would have been all question marks.  I once read a full description of what was really going on in that film, but to the degree that I understood it, I simply didn’t care.  If I have to go that much work to “get” a movie, the movie didn’t do its job.

There are those who say that’s what Prometheus did, throwing us in the deep end and making us do some mental heavy lifting with no payoff.  But I disagree.

I think, for me, it has to do with the very nature of the questions Prometheus is asking.  “If we could discover the answers to the riddles of our existence, to what lengths would we go, or should we go, to get those answers?  And do we even want to know the answers?  Are we better off NOT knowing?”  These are questions that, almost by definition, can’t be answered in any satisfying way.  So Prometheus presents a possible answer, but then teases it away so there is still some mystery in the story.  If the characters in Prometheus had discovered some kind of document that laid out the Engineers’ plans in detail, I would have felt cheated.  It would have been woefully anticlimactic.  I liked it better that the biggest questions went unanswered, so I could formulate my OWN theories about the Engineers, their plans, their methods, their history, their future, etcetera.  It’s much more stimulating to let my imagination run riot.

(Granted, some of those questions are answered in Alien: Covenant [2017], but that movie still had the guts to leave some things to the imagination by the end.)

Prometheus couches deep philosophical riddles about our very existence within a crackling good thriller with spectacular visuals from beginning to end.  It stands tall as one of the best prequels ever made…Xenomorph or no Xenomorph.


By Marc S. Sanders

The strength of a good solid picture often depends on a strong cast from the top billing, above the title actors, to the bit supporting players who only have a few minutes of screen time.  Thelma & Louise, directed by Ridley Scott, is that film.  The opening credits of the movie come up in black and white over an out west landscape with an endless dirt road in the center of the screen.  Hans Zimmer’s harmonica and banjo, country sounds build on Scott’s camera work here.  The names of each actor are brought up: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel, Christopher MacDonald, Michael Madsen, Stephen Tobolowsky, and someone named Brad Pitt. The scene goes to color and then it blacks out and comes up on Louise’s (Sarandon) crowded diner where she waitresses.  Nothing is unfamiliar here.  Yet, it seems a little haunting in a way.  We are about to uncover a history to some common folk who live on the southern bend of America, and we will start in the state of Arkansas.

Louise has made arrangements with her best friend Thelma (Davis) to do a weekend cross country road trip to a cabin in the woods.  This is the southern odd couple.  Louise is always put together, clean and organized.  She’ll check herself in the mirror.  In a crowded ladies room, she’ll check her makeup and tidy her hair while intoxicated patrons are pushing around behind her.  Thelma is scatterbrained.  She’ll bite off a piece of a candy bar, put it back in the freezer and make three more stops back at the freezer for a couple of more bites.  She also will dump a dresser drawer of clothes into a suitcase, taking no time to sort through what she’s packing.

Both women have been treated unfairly by the men in their lives.  Thelma’s husband, Daryl (MacDonald) is a proud white trash carpet sales manager who treats his wife with absolute control, complete disregard and thoughtless disdain.  Louise just can’t even get a hold of her boyfriend Jimmy (Madsen), a musician who can’t commit to anything.  On the first night of their trip, the two ladies hit the road in an iconic 1966 green Ford Thunderbird convertible (one of the greatest, most memorable vehicles in film screen history), they’ll realize there may be worse men than the ones they’ve encountered.  Following an attempted rape, a shooting occurs and the ladies are hitting the road, hoping to make it to Mexico.

Thelma & Louise is at least Ridley Scott’s most sensitive film.  It was not the first or last time he used women as leads in his pictures.  Yet, the film moves symbolically along the stretches of highway and dirt roads as a means to reveal the strength and confidence a woman can have when she escapes the controlling shadow of a man.  At least that’s what I think.  The beginning of Scott’s film, with an Academy Award winning script from Callie Khouri, displays the title characters as weighed down by their past and current lives.  It is only when the two break free (with little options following an unforeseen dilemma) they understand they can be stronger than any man who’s ever dominated them before.  As the road trip moves on, they will encounter more hang ups and they will make mistakes, but by the time the third act comes along Thelma and Louise will sever any restraints that have held them back before.  It is such a gratifying story.

My father encouraged me to go see this movie with him.  It was 1991.  I was graduating high school.  I’d seen trailers for this picture and it was loaded with high energy country music.  I don’t like country music, typically.  In fact, I only can like country music when it is incorporated into a film.  Thelma & Louise is the best example of that feeling.  I hated the title.  Still kind of do.  It doesn’t have the ring of say Starskey & Hutch or Batman & Robin.  However, those are guy pairings.  Thelma & Louise are about two women, and I was never going to forget that.  Once I saw the film, I could not stop thinking about it.  I grew so accustomed to Ridley Scott’s direction and use of cinematography with Adrian Biddle.  The sun on the screen felt hot.  The dirt on the character’s faces and the Thurderbird felt gritty.  The sunburns on Sarandon and Davis felt sore and dry.  The glow of the car’s dashboard light felt bright in my vision. The settings spoke to me.  There’s a great moment where Louise seems to shed her feminine and dainty skin so to speak.  She hands over her jewelry to an old timer sitting on the side of road at an abandoned truck stop.  No words are shared between them.  This guy was born on this spot.  He’s never moved from this spot and Louise will leave her history behind with him.  Later, as the stakes grow, with the FBI and law enforcement closing in on the fugitives, there’s a moment where Thelma tells Louise, that she feels awake; like really awake and alert.  I knew what she was talking about.  I’ve already been on this hike for two hours with these characters, along with the crimes and entanglements they’ve gotten into and the movie has my full attention.  All these years later with repeated viewings, and I still feel that way.  I feel absolutely awake the moment the movie begins.

Khouri supplies her script with a variety of men.  Some are sensitive like the detective played by Keitel who knows that a murder didn’t just happen maliciously.  There’s more to the circumstances at play, and he’s hoping for the best for the ladies.  Some are just procedural like Tobolosky, who doesn’t recognize them as women, only as fugitives. Some are enlightening, yet deceptive like Brad Pitt’s hitch hiking handsome and charming loner that the ladies pick up, and some are simply cruel and vicious, like the rapist or Thelma’s husband, Daryl (MacDonald).  Maybe a trucker along the way is like that as well.  How will Thelma and Louise respond to each of these guys?  As the story contains a gamut of what all these men are, I never regard the picture as a middle finger protest to the male population.  Not at all.  There are men who will give women a chance and will treat them with respect and at least equality, within their surroundings.  Khouri’s script allows time for that.  Sadly though, thirty years later there are still men who will treat women like punching bags with no value and esteem.  It’s wrong.  It’s why the “Me Too” movement had to eventually come into play, long after the release of this picture. 

At the risk of sounding political with potential for debate and preach, watching Thelma & Louise last week, I could not help but think of recent current events that have occurred in mid year 2021.  Bill Cosby was set free from his prison sentence following a technicality that justified his release, but never exonerated him of his crimes of rape.  A former kid actor named Drake Bell was sentenced to three years’ probation for sending sexually explicit materials and texts to an underage girl.  More physical details have been implied on that relationship but Bell was never charged with anything on that topic.  Hence, no jail time.  A Disney channel actor has a warrant out for his arrest following missing a court date with similar charges as Bell.  Following the early rape scene in this film, the attacker is shot and killed in a parking lot.  The ladies consider going to the police and explaining what exactly happened, but they choose to run.  Why?  Because, they know that the police would never believe them.  They were witnessed minutes earlier drinking and partying with this guy in a bar.  Why would anyone believe he would try to rape one of them?  Reader, I know what they mean.  I understand.  Each time I watch the movie, I truly understand.  I know what Thelma and Louise are talking about.  It’s sad.  It’s wrong.  It infuriates me because it’s so unfair.

Callie Khouri and Ridley Scott created an outstanding adventure picture with suspense, and lots of natural humor by means of the outlaw way like Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid.  A surprising robbery midway through the picture is hilarious and serves as a legit character change for Thelma.  Davis is great here.  She has scenes of drama and fear throughout the movie, but she also has time for laugh out loud moments.  Alternatively, the Louise character that Sarandon portrays seems to hinge on the dramatic element.  I love a hanging thread that Khouri weaves into the script of an unknown traumatic occurrence that happened in Louise’s past.  I am certain that Sarandon knows what it is even if the audience doesn’t entirely know.  Later in the film, the humor that Louise encounters comes through as Thelma transitions over to a new kind of personality.  These women don’t change individually.  They change together.  It’s a great couple dynamic for sure.

The film is sexy and at times sweet as well.  Yet, it’s also very terrifying, with very real drama.  Thelma & Louise is an important picture to see.  I plan to show it to my teenage daughter when she is a little older.  The rape scene holds me back right now as I find it hard to watch and requires a mature eye.  Nonetheless, I want her to be aware of what is out there.  I want her to know how people, men in particular, respond and treat women.   I want her to be alert and strong when faced with any kind of adversity, deserved or not; justified or not.  I find that some movies offer the best lessons of life about the cruelty and kindness of the world.  Most especially when they are filmed with sensitivity and authenticity, like Schindler’s List or The Shawshank Redemption.  Countless viewings later with thirty years behind it, and I still learn from Thelma & Louise.  It’s another one of my favorite movies.