Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thanks for the Meme-ories: Images of America on Film

My friend and amazing fellow blogger, J.D. at RADIATOR HEAVEN recently tagged me regarding a meme circulating around the Inter Tubes. The meme originated with Checking on My Sausages and involves the assembly of a gallery of images (must be screen-grabs/captures...) that "stand for so much of what makes Cinema such a rich and exciting medium." J.D. selected images of isolation on his great blog, particularly from the cinema of Michael Mann. His collection is, in a word, stunning.

As per the rules of this particular meme, I've now selected my individual topic: images of America in film; particularly those that have sparked my imagination.

One of the aspects of this great country that I love the most deeply is its seemingly eternal capacity for self-reflection, self-criticism and sense of imagination about the future. In other words, we have been afforded a great freedom in this country: the freedom of our artists to express their opinion about the nation that nurtures them.


The images I have selected for this post represent the entire spectrum of positive and negative imagery, and span several decades (the late 1960s through 2009). If you read my blog with any regularity, you know my enduring theme that the technological art of film reflects "who we are;" that historical context is vitally important to an understanding and solid interpretation of any movie. Over the years, the cinema -- with startling imagery, as you can see -- has reminded us of who we are, who we can be, and what pitfalls we must avoid to build a better future.

Below are some of my favorite such film images of America and Americana. There's one still of Wall Street (The Stock Exchange...) in shambles, which is something we can certainly relate to today, in the aftermath of the Great Recession. There's also an image, circa our Bicentennial, of the "giant monster" threatening our future (hint: It's Big Oil). Another image represents patriotism, unity, and the spirit of of "Let's Roll-ism" shortly after 9/11. There's also Norman Rockwell-esque view of a wintry middle America that I've always admired, and a stirring pic that represents the death of innocence for the Boomer Generation...right in front of Old Glory. Another imnage I like very much remindsus that the future need not be bleak. That we can be caretakers of the land, of the Earth, even in the 23rd Century.

My favorite image, however, is the one showing middle America (Kansas?) experiencing an ICBM launch. The land and the farms speak of such beauty and peace, and the launches could easily be mistaken for fireworks. It seems to me, this cinematic moment captures with eloquence what we stand to lose,should the unthinkable occur. This would be a paradise lost. Amazingly, even the missile launches look gorgeous, and I think the subtle message is the paradoxical beauty of destruction. Perhaps we're addicted to it.

Anyway, here are the images.


























Now, in the tradition of these Internet memes, I'm supposed to say, "Tag, You're It" to five additional blogs that I would be interested in seeing take up this challenge of capturing images that reflect film's rich and exciting possibilities and legacy.

In no particular order, I'm going to politely suggest several personal favorites: Joe Maddrey at Maddrey Misc, who recently produced Nightmares in Red, White and Blue, Kindertrauma, Slammed & Damned, Vault of Horror, and Zombos Closet of Horror. These are all blogs (and bloggers...) that I love, and all of them boast a distinctive sense of "vision" that I find fascinating.


Photos (Top to Bottom): Planet of the Apes (1968), Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1969), King Kong (1976), Superman 2 (1981), Gremlins (1984), Blow Out (1981), They Live (1988), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989), South Park: The Movie (1999), Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008), and The Day The Earth Stood Still (2009).

24 comments:

  1. What's the Rushmore image from (please)?

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  2. Hi Peter. It's from Superman II (1981).

    best,
    JKM

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  3. Is the Yosemite Park picture from Star Trek V? Oh, and I'll let the Beneath the Planet of the Apes image pass. . .for now. . .

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  4. Will: You guessed both of those images correctly (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier/Yosemite, and Beneath the Planet of the Apes (Wall Street on the Rocks...literally).

    best,
    JKM

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  5. What a clever idea John. A perfect realization of the meme, requested by JD, and these powerful images are well chosen. The alternative American flag from the TV series Jericho would have been another good one.

    These images are classic. Perfect.

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  6. Thank you Sci-Fi Fanatic!

    I can't wait to see what you come up with too. J.D. was clever in picking you: your visual imagination is unsurpassed!

    I look at your blog posts and those illustrations...
    and my jaw drops. You have a way not just with words, my friend, but with pictures! :)

    best,
    JKM

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  7. What a fantastic theme AND collection of images... PLANET OF THE APES, BLOW OUT, THEY LIVE... very nice! That iconic shots of the Statue of Liberty from APES is forever burned in my mind since the first time I saw that film. I also got a chuckle out of that still from is it the second X-FILES film? Love Gillian Anderson's expression in that one.

    Very nice, my friend!

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  8. Challenge (or suggestion) happily accepted.

    You've set the bar pretty darn high with your images and theme though!

    Seeing the Blow Out image right above "OBEY" is powerful stuff.

    and thanks for thinking of Kindertrauma...

    This is just the kick in the pants i need to get to work!

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  9. So John,

    Is this something you're recommending all us fellow bloggers do? I'd love to participate. Maybe we can all create a living gallery of sorts (I've got you and Radiator Heaven linked up on my site so I'll review those and all the other entries).

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  10. Oh, nevermind. ignore my comment. I just read the rules. Okay. I'm going to do this as well.

    Will

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  11. Will: Hey, I demand that you do it too, and then give me a link to it!

    I'd love to see what you've got up your sleeve (or on your memory card, so-to-speak!) :)

    Kindertrauma: You have completely floored me; left my jaw wagging on the floor with your visual essays in the past, so I know I will be totally pwned, to use a web-ism! I can't wait for it!

    best,
    JKM

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  12. J.D.:

    Thank you so much for introducing me to this meme...and for selecting me to participate. It was a hell of a lot of fun. You did a good job recognizing several choices. I always get a kick out of that X-File moment. (It's even better in the movie, as Mark Snow's theme sounds right as the camera glides by the photo of Dubya!)

    Thank you,
    JKM

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  13. Wow! What a wonderful selection of images and theme, John. It's a great cross-section of visuals and films. Picture perfect. Thanks for this.

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  14. Okay. I'm doing mine tonight when I get home from work! I don't have a screencap application but I'll figure something out.

    As for your images: is the snowy town Gremlins?

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  15. Terrific choice of theme, John.

    A couple of iconic images and some that should be.

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  16. The one of the missiles launching, is that from the Day After?
    You, sir, have thrown down the gauntlet. This takes more thought as to what you want to convey without words but with images.
    You have done a fantastic job. I am a HUGE POTA freak, and that end scene from the first film is, IMO, one of the best film endings ever.
    Dreaded Dreams
    Petunia Scareum

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  17. Will: That snowy town IS from Gremlins, nice job.

    Stephen: You are the gentleman who started this whole thing off, so I should thank you for your creativity and imagination! This is really a fantastic "meme" and I had a great time thinking about and finding these images. I have discovered your blog through this exercise too, so it's been a great pleasure all the way around!

    Trick or Treat Pete: Good guess on the missiles pic, but it's actually from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, which had that amazing, end-of-the-world denouement. And I'm a POTA freak, myself! By the way, I love your blog and referenced it below in my Zanti Misfits post.

    regards to all,
    JKM

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  18. Will: That snowy town IS from Gremlins, nice job.

    Stephen: You are the gentleman who started this whole thing off, so I should thank you for your creativity and imagination! This is really a fantastic "meme" and I had a great time thinking about and finding these images. I have discovered your blog through this exercise too, so it's been a great pleasure all the way around!

    Trick or Treat Pete: Good guess on the missiles pic, but it's actually from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, which had that amazing, end-of-the-world denouement. And I'm a POTA freak, myself! By the way, I love your blog and referenced it below in my Zanti Misfits post.

    regards to all,
    JKM

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  19. Thanks very much, John.

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  20. Stephen: My pleasure! I just signed up to follow your blog too. Looking forward to getting acquainted with your writing and imagery more fully.

    Le0pard13: Hello, my friend! I see that J.D. tapped you for this exercise as well. I can't wait to see what you come up with! This is really a great meme...

    best,
    JKM

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  21. Anonymous10:49 PM

    John...
    I found your blog several moths ago and have become an avid reader. Anyway, I saw this post and decided to try one of my own. Check it out and let me know what you think, if you have time. Thanks.. and keep up the good work.
    Jeff.

    Link: http://sliderockmpc.typepad.com/slide_rock_motion_picture/2010/07/the-vastness-of-outer-space-images-from-films.html

    P.S. - I'd love to see reviews for Event Horizon and Alien 3.

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  22. Great pictures, and a great theme. I enjoyed your thoughts on said theme as well - particularly the ICBMS from the heartland. I'd love to know what films these are from (though there are some hints scattered throughout the comments).

    Btw, in case you/your readers are interested here's the post with which I kicked off the meme in Stephen's honor a few weeks back. Theme is "beginnings" (most of the pictures are near the bottom):

    http://thedancingimage.blogspot.com/2010/07/in-beginning.html

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  23. P.S.

    Will - comment on my blog under the link above when/if you finish your own entry. I will link to it at the bottom of my own piece, where all the entries have been gathered so far.

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  24. Jeff: Thank you for the kind words regarding my writing. I just read your blog post on "The Vastness of Space" and I'm honored you enjoy my film criticism and posts. I loved your gallery, and just blogged a post with links to it. Fantastic. I'm a huge outer space movie fan myself (as you probably realize...) so this hit the spot.

    I did write reviews for Alien 3 and Event Horizon for my upcoming book Horror Films of the 1990s. I loved both films, to tell you briefly, but especially Alien 3.

    MovieMan0283: Thank you so much for originating this meme in honor of Steven, and in honor of the medium of film. I love what you've done. Thank you also for tallying up the contributions on your blog. I really appreciate what you've done here, and it has been wonderful to be involved.

    best,
    John K. Muir

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