Friday, February 27, 2015

A Farewell to Leonard Nimoy


This is a farewell to someone I have admired since childhood.  I just read that Leonard Nimoy has passed away at 83.  I am sad, because I grew up watching Star Trek.  My love of science fiction was nurtured by that show, and Spock was always my favorite character.  I had the opportunity to meet him when he kindly donated a couple hours to lecture at our drama department.  He was a prince.  No ego or attitude, just a good, generous person talking to this tiny group of students for nothing, because he was that kind of guy.   He was a nice man sharing wisdom.  I am glad I had that opportunity.  A memory to treasure, along with his wonderful acting.  The void  left with his passing will never be filled.   Goodbye. 

Verna McKinnon

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Heroic Women of Speculative Fiction-Ellen Ripley of Alien film series

Ellen Ripley-heroine and kick-ass!
When the film Alien first appeared in Theaters in 1979, the heroines were still evolving on film and TV.   The male-empowered film industry were slowly allowing women to do more than stand there and look pretty.   One must be well-groomed to be eaten by a monster, I guess.  Or scream.  Yeah, that's helpful.  Let's bring the monsters closer.
The masterful direction of Ridley Scott was also a gift.  Fantasy and Science Fiction on film can be high class with the right people to helm the story.  The cast was also a wonder of folks with not only film credits, but a theater background.  I mean, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, Ian Holm, to name a few.  This strong crop of actors was the cream.  They always have a special touch on film.
Ripley was a heroine who fights on her own, despite the odds.  A dark tower would have been a haven compared to the shadowy corridors of the Nostromo.  A dragon a snap to tame.  This alien was terrifying.  Pure instinct and evil with an intelligent slant to trap its prey.  Ellen Ripley was not a screamer.  Though she had every right to be on the claustrophobic space vessel. 
Ripley employs common sense in this movie, even when out voted by her crew mates and corporate greed and the corporation's secret plans endanger her and the crew.  Ripley used her brain and instincts to survive.  She did not put anyone at risk.  She tried to save people.  Even when terrified as one of the most terrifying alien monsters ever created is about to pounce on her., she kept her smarts.  The alien they made for that film is the stuff of nightmares that extends beyond anything imagined mythology or religion.
Ellen Ripley, portrayed by the  beautiful. fabulous, and mega- talented actress, Sigourney Weaver, introduced a new type of heroine to film lovers.  Not a princess or a chosen maiden fated to face the beast in some tower.  Not a supernatural woman with super powers and magical weapons.  Not a padded up chick with perfect lipstick and a skintight spacesuit.  Not a fluffy girl.  She was a woman and an officer who had to rescue herself. 
Not that Sigourney Weaver is not beautiful, but the film was not about that.  They  way the character was written. a male or female could have played Ripley.  That was great.   It was a new type of film, a Gothic horror in space that was stark and unglamourous.  The body count was high, but one thing I adore about this film is something never done before. 
She saved the cat!  God bless you forever, Ripley, and the writers, for not making yet another animal on film in a horror tale a victim. Ripley risked her life to safe the kitty and was a success. In fact,
I also want to remark that years ago, when Aliens was released (another fab fav), some toady reviewer commented that at least this time Ripley saved something worthwhile (Newt, a  little girl) and not a stupid cat.  What a jerk.  I can say other things about such nasty toady people, but I am too much of a lady.  May nightmares of Aliens haunt them in their sleep.
Plus, everyone on the Nostromo was not exactly acting smartly.  The robot was willing to sacrifice them all to bring the alien back for the weapons division.  Ripley and that even that poor cat did not trust was what happening.  The crew tried to get away, but fell victim to the alien.   Ripley managed to save herself and the poor cat before blowing up the ship.  When the alien had hidden within the shuttle, once again Ripley called on her smarts to save herself and opened the door and the alien was sucked into the oblivion of space.   Ripley and kitty were safe at last and ready for a much deserved nap.  That leads us to Aliens. 
I loved the film, Aliens.  Ripley was back and he second movie was more action sci-adventure.  The horror was still there, but in high octane form, a James Cameron specialty.  Ripley dealt with her nightmares and multiple aliens, she got tough and survived.  Ripley did not like being there, but she did it.  Even though she was surrounded by bureaucracy, stupidity, and lies.  She alone was able to take down the mother Alien.  She saved the day.   
We will not discuss Alien 3-it does not exist.
Alien Resurrection was a great film, but it is not, technically, the same character.  A clone with scary alien DNA.  But a great film.  And even clone Ripley rocked.
So all hail Sigourney Weaver!  She created a truly new and iconic heroine we will always love.
More later.
Verna McKinnon