Sunday, July 13, 2014

Strange Days [USA, 1995]


Nine Things About the Movie Strange Days

1. This movie was a flop in theaters, but is one of the most underappreciated movies of the 1990s. I almost never use the phrase “ahead of its time”, but this movie was ahead of its time.

2. It’s an alternative-history science-fiction thriller set on the last two days of the year 1999. Police technology developed a new version of wiring up informants, but was leaked into the social underground. It allows the wearer to record events exactly as the brain perceives it. Then the recordings are sold to people who experience it exactly like they were there, in the person’s body. Of course, the illicit technology is used mostly to record violence and sex.

3. Ralph Fiennes (you know, you know, the guy from “Schindler’s List”? OK fine, he also played Voldemort in the “Harry Potter” series) plays a sleazy dealer that buys and sells these "experiences" like the best drug dealer you can think of. Although he tries to stay away from recordings of death (called “black jacks”), he ends up in possession of a recording of a brutal rape and murder that has implications on a larger societal level.

4. The movie was made by an amazing group of people in the 1990’s. Not only is Ralph Fiennes in it, but Angela Bassett and Juliette Lewis are too (Lewis was in “Natural Born Killers”, “From Dusk to Dawn”, and “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”). This was the first role that Bassett had where she played a woman that actually kicks ass, and not someone recovering from being a victim (like her most famous performance as Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got To Do With It”).

5. The movie was written by James Cameron. Yes, James Cameron. It was directed by the amazingly talented Kathryn Bigelow, who later went on to direct “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty”. She was the first woman to win the Saturn Award for Best Director for this movie (The Saturn Awards are like the Academy Awards, but just for science fiction, fantasy, and horror movies).

6. The movie depicts one of the most psychologically devastating scenes against women I’ve ever seen. It upset a lot of people. The fact that the movie was directed by a woman and has several strong female characters make it all the more interesting.

7. Most people didn’t know what to do with this movie at the time. It was long and weird. It was a restless, cyberpunk, dystopian future/present that had it’s thumb on social issues ranging from drugs to racism to entertainment to police brutality. It was a mirror of American society in the late 1990’s, and predicted some of the things we are seeing today, 20 years later.

8. You know the 1999 EDM hit by Fatboy Slim called “Right Here, Right Now”? The main lyric was sampled from this movie. It’s Angela Bassett’s voice.

9. This movie is as fresh, if not fresher, than when it was made. It’s relevant, interesting, and creative. I hope someday it gets the recognition it deserves.