Tuesday, December 21, 2010

12 Days of Favorites: Alien

The story of Love &Squalor begins many years before the fateful meeting of Wilde.Dash and M, long before the almost nightly movie marathons on uncomfortable and rank smelling dorm furniture and Sound of Music sing-a-longs. From the mid 80’s on, unaware of each others’ presence, M and Wilde.Dash were bonding with family, not over board games or a large family meal (ok, there was a lot of that too), but over the likes of Woody Allen and Walter Pidgeon. The holidays in said families were filled with the usual Christmas fair, but also with strange family film favorites and traditions. So hang your stockings with care and when your sister starts complaining about your billionth viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life and how boooooring it is, spend your 12 Days of Christmas with the movies that have followed Love & Squalor from infancy to bloggerhood.

In what's likely a fairly common story, my parents had gone on a date to see Alien in the theater.  In that infamous chest-bursting scene, my mom had flipped.  She was totally done.  It became a mythology.  For years, the tale of my mother's irrational response to an image has been the source of much mockery.  To make things worse, the baby alien that caused it skittered about screeching like a rat, yet another thing my mom irrationally fears.  She'll never give Alien a second shot and I'm pretty sure she's sworn off the sci-fi/horror genre for good.  There you have it, family mythology.  No one can let this story go and she'll hate that it's posted here.  Sorry mom, really.

I knew what Alien was long before I saw it, is the point.  I knew all about it.  In addition to the tale of my mother's terror, explanation was given in abridged stories on the plight of Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver).  This is why I had a Beanie Baby named Ripley (I think it was a tiger?) before I'd ever witnessed the heroine in action.  When I finally did, the payoff was spectacular.  I love Alien.  It is, again, one of the films on this list of replayed familial traditions that is a serious favorite.  In this case, it was a case of indoctrination.  In the never ending debate as to whether Alien or Aliens is the better film, I always land on the side of the Ridley Scott original.  Aliens is a great film too, but this just isn't James Cameron's world.  Plus, it goes without saying, there wouldn't be an Aliens if Alien hadn't been executed so successfully. The defining characteristic of the film (other than striking gold with Sigourney Weaver) is the design.  The aesthetic is a glorious one; the H.R. Giger  alien design austerely both incorporated into and juxtaposed against the film's art direction.  There's a sense of place so menacing that even though the film is beautifully shot, you absolutely never want to board the Nostromo.

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