An Evening with James Cameron

semiotic_01 copyThe Terminator (1984) – Machines wake up and decide that Earth is infested with organic pests that need to go.

This was the first time that my son watched the film and I was happy to see that it held his attention. He even mentioned several times that the special effects weren’t ‘that bad.’ High Praise from the nine year old (crap, did I let that out that I let a nine year old watch The Terminator? Well, it was edited for television – a little bit. And csemiotic_01 copy 2ompared to today’s TV, he sees worse on the cartoon network.)

The little guy bailed on my for film #2 of the double feature: Alien (1979). This one wasn’t edited for television, but it has less sex and language than The Simpsons and and is no more violent than a typical episode of Uncle Grandpa. And, despite being the older of the two films, it holds up even better than The Terminator.

0_00_46Poor Ripley. Some days just don’t go the way that you hope they will when you crawl out of bed. Or Hibernation chamber.

Alien gets its power from great acting, a good script, and a simple premise that unfolds slowly and carefully, thrusting you into each characters’ point of view just as they make their exit. Slowly the crew is pared down, one by one until it’s just Ripley and her cat, Jonesy, trying to survive.


semiotic_01Flamethrower. Check.

Or whatever she has. Skerrit had a flamethrower, and Ripley certainly had one in the sequel, but even though I just finished the film, I can’t remember what she had here. It doesn’t matter. There is little or no gunfire through the whole movie. But it did look like a bear to carry around all the time.


Cat Carrier. Check.

If, perhaps, you don’t have a cat, let me tell you – they’re no use in these situations. With a dog, you can just say, ‘come on. We’re going.’ and they would be at your heel all the way to the life boat. A cat? Not so much. They bite and scratch and make noise like you’re killing them. And those are the easy ones. My old cat, Oliver, would have sold me out to the alien for the promise of a can of Friskies without a second thought.

Nostromo Self Destruct: …    Wait, How the hell do you destroy a massive mining ship while deep in space?


Perfect. Instructions. No big deal. Just calm yourself down and read them through carefully because one wrong move and the whole thing will fall apart.

1_34_591_34_54Just need open up the self destruct hatch by unscrewing a couple things, pulling a bunch of red levers, open what looks like an emergency suitcase and add these spark plug thingies  into some elaborate contraptions as soon as you punch in a bunch of secret codes that you keep memorized in case this sort of thing happens.

1_34_49(I’ve been known to fail at simple math when asked to do it in front of someone, but I’m sure that I could manage all this knowing there is an alien after me somewhere and everyone I know just got killed by this incomprehensible monster.)

Ian Wingrove-auto destruct01

Frankly, Kirk had it a lot easier. The whole self destruct encryption key is Kirk (and I think Scotty) saying out loud to the computer:

  1. Destruct sequence 1, code 1, 1A
  2. Destruct sequence 2, code 1, 1A, 2B
  3. Destruct sequence 3, code 1B, 2B, 3
  4. Code 000, destruct 0

It’s so easy, you can imagine them accidentally saying it while trying to remember their ATM PIN code.

I wonder how much worse these movies would have been if modern CGI had been available. Both films are a great testament to limitations helping to make you work better and smarter. Here’s where I’m NOT mentioning Star Wars as a great example.


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