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I might argue that the point of the Transformers movie is that little, “unimportant” people can make as much, if not more, of a different than the big ones.

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*applause*

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True Romance: If you have recurring visions of Elvis and he tells you to start killing people, just go with it and everything will turn out okay.

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Agreed, that’s a pretty nice one. Now I’m just happy that I stuck around through The Limey that one time on TVO, so I can truthfully say Ive heard of all of these movies.

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RichardAK said on June 19th, 2011 at 1:06 am

I’m pretty sure that the one-sentence summary of Aliens is “Nuke the site from orbit.”

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The Crazed Spruce said on June 19th, 2011 at 1:28 am

Mr. & Mrs. Smith: The most dangerous thing in a relationship is secrecy. (Or; Some people were just meant to be together.)

Kick-Ass: People will watch anything on the intenet these days.

Reservoir Dogs: When you’re in a criminal gang, don’t trust anybody.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: Even the most thrilling adventure can be ruined if you choose the wrong travelling companions.

Ocean’s Eleven (the orignal): Even the most carefully laid plans can fall apart at the last minute. (Also applies to the original The Italian Job and pretty much any 60’s and 70’s heist movie.)

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Cespinarve said on June 19th, 2011 at 1:53 am

I disagree with Aliens. In never felt like an anti-imperalism message to me. “Corporations that hold profit above your well-being are not worth working for”. “Failing to communicate is rarely beneficial”. “Leave the cat behind.”

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Chalkwhite said on June 19th, 2011 at 2:01 am

These aren’t synopses- these are morals. As an English teacher, I feel the need to point this out.

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Yyyyeah, what does Aliens have to do with imperialism exactly?

I don’t think the Raiders one fits too well either. Though it’d be an apt summation of Last Crusade.

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Die Hard: Don’t take off your shoes, even to alleviate the effects of air travel.

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Spaceballs: 1. Only that which is guarded is worth taking. 2. Being open-minded does not mean you have to be gullible. 3. Putting your name on something doesn’t mean others will respect it. 4. Never order the Special.

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To be fair, no where does John say they’re meant to be synopsis and not one-sentence summaries of the movies messages.

‘Cause a one sentence synopsis of Ghostbusters would be: Scientists capture ghosts with nucleur lasers…

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Lessee, ‘Aliens’ is about a bunch of people who go to a strange, foreign land and find out that the natives are hostile. The army is called in to rout the hostile natives and expects to win easily due to a combination of superior firepower and cultural arrogance…only to find out that the natives’ cunning and numbers negates the army’s technological advantage, and they’re in deep shit.

Sub out “Americans” and “North Vietnamese”, “British” and “Zulus”, “Custer” and “Native Americans”, and you can see the analogy a lot clearer.

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Cespinarve said on June 19th, 2011 at 10:58 am

Except that the Aliens aren’t natives, they crash landed in a giant spaceship, as can clearly be seen in the first movie. The planet doesn’t have any natives because it doesn’t support life. And sure the Natives won against Custer. They were still slaughtered everywhere else. And yes the North Vietnamese won. They not only had familiar jungle terrain to hide in, but they received heavy financial backing from their communist neighbors. And yeah, a gun was more advanced than the spear in the Zulu wars, but it was a cumbersome, slow to reload piece of scrap metal, and that it really wasn’t an advantage in the slightest.

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Amy Coates said on June 19th, 2011 at 10:58 am

Interesting list. Of course, as these are more “What I, personally, learned from this film” than anything else, my interpretations differ on a couple of them. Most notably:

Little Mermaid: Being willing to do anything for a guy is all well and good, but you should still make sure it’s an actual good idea first.

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Cespinarve said on June 19th, 2011 at 11:23 am

That’s not to say the Zulu wars and the like weren’t imperialist ventures. They were. But victory had less to do with being the cunning scrappy underdog than a bunch of really stupid command decisions. Anyways, like i said, the Aliens are not antives to the planet, they are foreign parasites. they’re only there because one of the incubated in the chest of the pilot of the (non-killer alien) spaceship, which crash landed. They then laid a bunch of eggs and proceed to do NOTHING AT ALL. They didn’t build a civilization, they don’t even seem to be that intelligent. They’re just really good at killing. Anyways, it’s not until the colonists find the eggs cache and bring some back to study that the Aliens do anything- to whit, slaughtered the whole colony.

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Cespinarve said on June 19th, 2011 at 11:28 am

If anything, I’d be willing to grudge the argument that the Aliens imperially oppressed the colonists, except that I don’t consider the Aliens capable of such an action. They’re just parasites- they need a living host in order to gestate and breed. They then proceed to expand until they run out of foodsorces and, presumably, then die. There is no anti-imperialism message in Aliens, just a message that evil corporations are bad. While Avatar might be a piece of shit, it at least does the anti-imperialism message “right”. The Na’vi are living peacefully on their own, with an established culture and ties to there environment, mean old humans show up and try and kill them all because Humans Are Bad And Imperialist. Also, stupid, because they could have just wiped the Na’vi out from orbit. Seriously, rather than fly that shuttle across, they should have just crashed it from above, and no amount of magical creatures is going to stop a deorbiting shuttle at terminal velocity hitting their world-tree. God that movie sucks.

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Very good, John. Some are funny, some are flippant, some are insightful… very nice.

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@Cespinarve: The Native Americans aren’t “native” either, they crossed the Bering Strait to colonize the continent. But they were here long before the Europeans arrived, and there weren’t any people that they had to displace, so we grant them the status of “native”. I see no reason why that same rule couldn’t apply to the aliens in ‘Aliens’. (And note that anti-corporation and anti-imperialism aren’t contradictory at all…the Indians, as opposed to Native Americans, could tell you a few things about that.)

As to whether the aliens are intelligent…that’s actually not established one way or another. They seem to be clever enough to build their nest in a location that negates their enemy’s weaponry, they seem to be intelligent enough to use flanking maneuvers and diversions, the Queen at least is smart enough to recognize the implicit threat Ripley poses with her weapon and to get out of Dodge when the reactor goes up (and to conceal herself on board the spaceship instead of just leaping out and attacking while it’s in flight…) Heck, going back to the first film, the original alien hides out in the one escape pod that’s certain to make it out of the ship. It could all be coincidence, but taken together it kind of seems to indicate that they’re not just mindless killers.

In fact, the only evidence for a lack of intelligence is that they don’t speak and their culture doesn’t resemble ours at all. That’s a common trend in imperialistic cultures, to write off as “savages” anyone whose cultural values don’t match your own. Just another part of the message of the film. :)

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Cespinarve said on June 19th, 2011 at 2:03 pm

I hold them to the same level I hold the velociraptors in Jurassic Park- they might be smart enough to open doors, but I don’t feel them to be self aware as a human. And to be blunt, the cultural values of the Aliens, such as they are, seem to be KILL EVERYTHING. As wikipedia phrases it “Unlike many other recurring enemy extraterrestrial races in science fiction, the Aliens are not an intelligent civilization, but predatory creatures with no higher goals than the propagation of their species and the destruction of life that could pose a threat. ” I have no problem with any goal to wipe out the Aliens, they really are “savage” in the purest form. Co-habitation just doesn’t exist. Hell, you can at least talk to a klingon or a Dalek (annoying as talking to a Dalek may be)

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Vellocet said on June 19th, 2011 at 2:51 pm

The lesson I learned from Aliens is totally apolitical: stay the fuck away from anything that lives in hives. Send a goddamn robot if you’re so curious.

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@Cespinarve: There were plenty of people who said the same thing about Africans, Native Americans, Chinese and Indians over the centuries, too. “Sure, they’re smart enough to open doors, but I don’t feel them to be self aware as a human.”

And maybe they see us the same way. “Sure, humans have complex instinctual behavior…some sort of strange, innate compulsion to make useful things out of metal, the way beavers build dams. But to suggest that they’re actually intelligent? Please. They’re mindless savages, fit only to incubate our eggs. Now, I wanted to ask you what you thought of that spit-based installation art I put by the north entrance…”

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Jurassic Park: When attacked by a hungry carnivor,don’t hide in the WC
Lost World: Nor the long grass, obviously
3:sigh… some people just deserve to be eaten…painfully munched , crunched & swallowed…

Sweeney Todd:curse you Depp, now I hunger for more meat! lunchtime!

Bad taste: pine cone > chainsaw,brooms can decapitate & human flesh is the tastiest meat in the cosmos

Hors-la loi , Indigènes: remember what MGK said about the Wire? well switch the titles & get on it…

Independence Day:the USA are the center of the world, & aliens can hide behind the moon & go unnoticed

Return of the living dead: the heart is the hardest organ to incinerate (as well as the most delicious muscle in the sheep!no really try it! it doesn’t lose its taste & no bones in it)brains are an excellent painkiller, we need more naked dancing chicks on graves & for the love of god when you find a goddamn military barrel ,CONTACT THEM!

Braindead: never buy a sumatran rat-monkey…

King Kong: Giant Gorillas are unharmed by flesh tearing T-rex bites, but can be killed by bullets…

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Alegretto said on June 19th, 2011 at 7:39 pm

C’mon John, now you’re just being a contrarian. The Aliens from “Alien” were intentionally *designed* to be a horrifying, ever-hostile, hellspawn of a lifeform incapable of pretty much anything other than “kill you” and “feed you to our babies”. I would hope that something as belligerent and intentionally dangerous as that would be deemed worthy of our aggression, or at the very least unworthy of our self-important attempts at political correctness. Seriously, will there be nothing left for our space marines to kill anymore? Maybe we should give the Xenomorphs an embassy?

Other than that, nice post!

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Black Rabbit said on June 19th, 2011 at 9:37 pm

I’m enjoying seeing how many of these morals-of-the-story are the same as other movies.

@Crazed Spruce: Reservoir Dogs is “Just because bad things happened to someone does not automatically make them worthy of your sympathy.”

“Revenge is an ultimately hollow and meaningless pursuit that makes you into a monster.”
-Straw Dogs, Irreversible, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy.

“It still beats not getting revenge.”
-The Wild Bunch, Death Wish 1-84, Kill Bill, Lady Vengeance.

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To flog the dead horse some more, Aliens: you will go through hell to protect the ones that you love, (Ripley/Newt).Also the only corporate bastard in the movie is Burke. All the other corporate people are skeptical of what Ripley said due to lack of hard evidence. Which is of course how most people would react, Burke on the other side earns his fate many times over. Also, Aliens was written as an allegory for the Vietnam War.Finally, what the hell ever happened to the original transmission the crew discovers in Alien?

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@Alegretto: Actually, Ridley Scott intended for it to be intelligent. (Possibly Dan O’Bannon as well, if the Alan Dean Foster novelization is anything to go by, but definitely Scott.) His original planned ending was for the Alien to kill Ripley and then mimic her voice to send a distress signal. I grant freely that the final story wound up being far more ambiguous, but you really can’t argue that creators’ intent was a mindless monster.

This doesn’t mean that I think the characters in these movies should just try to understand the xenomorphs and give them hugs; whether or not they have a culture, it’s clearly one that’s inimical to ours. But on the other hand, they are literally incapable of threatening us if we don’t invade their territory. It literally cannot happen. If you don’t stick your face directly in front of their egg, they don’t hatch. That’s a pretty strong anti-imperialism piece of symbolism.

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@John Seavey

holy shit… that’d be even more nightmarish & pessimistic than alien3…
I mean an alien talking with Sigourney Weaver’s voice , that’d be terrifying , yet strangely there’s a certain beauty to that! Bizarre isn’t it

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Fargo: You shouldn’t assume someone is an idiot just because they’re “folksy”.

Punisher War Zone: FU, we have your ten dollars and we aren’t giving it back.

@ Saidi

I’m pretty sure that King Kong was a cautionary tale about removing animals from their natural habitat and placing them in an environment that can’t support them. Or a warning that falling for the wrong woman will get you killed. Whichever.

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@ Beacon: I know my friend , I wasn’t being all serious, except for some of them & the fact that the heart is a tasty muscle.Y oue=r summing up was perfect
But still you have to admit it’s pretty impressive he didn’t lose a single pound of flesh or even bleed while fighting a t-rex

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John 2.0 said on June 20th, 2011 at 10:34 am

@John, Scott may have wanted the Alien to be intelligent to some degree, that’s true, but he’s also pretty clearly said that Alien is a haunted house story in a space ship.

Well James Cameron intended Aliens to mimic ‘Combat’ movies of the 60’s, and those are pretty much as anit-imperilistic as they can be, since they are about the US fighting against an aggressive imperalistic force that was brutally oppressing other nations.

It’s not like the LV-426 colonists invaded and killed the native population. They terraformed a barren rock, and then unknowingly tempted fate because of corporate greed. There’s a moral there, but it’s ‘Pandora’s Box’ not ‘Custer’s Last Stand.’

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Fun post. What I took from Reservoir Dogs (and The Godfather, and Goodfellas, and Wall Street and really a thousand other movies) is, “When it comes to fucking people over, the line between accomplice and victim is razor-thin.”

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The Thin Man: chronic alcoholism makes you intelligent and charming.

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Jonah Hex: One good performance won’t save a film full of terrible ones … especially when the dog is only actor who is trying
@ Saidi
I was half joking on mine too. My second King Kong observation is essentially a watered down version of something said in Boondocks (the comic strip that they based the cartoon on) about the movie being fundamentally racist.

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The most important lesson of all:

Donnie Darko is Spider-Man.

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“Ma’am, I already said it was not indigenous. It was a derelict spacecraft. An alien ship. It was not from there. Do you get it?”

I don’t have a problem with calling aliens “intelligent”, but I wouldn’t grant them “indigenous” status in the way Native Americans are. For one thing, Native Americans actually traveled across the Bering Strait by themselves, whereas aliens infected some other race (whatever the “space jockey” was) and were inadvertently transported to the planet. For another thing, the Aliens are clearly dependent on host organisms. It’s to their advantage to invite organisms into their space.

There’s certainly an imperialism message in the film about blindly expanding into space, mixed with some corporatism messages about how heartless the bottom line can be, and I guess there’s some Vietnam parallels as well. But these are all somewhat muddled messages.

Ultimately, the message I took from Aliens is something along the lines of “Don’t piss off someone’s mother. She’ll kick your ass.”

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