CLASSICS: Blow Out

Blow Out
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Written by: Brian De Palma (screenplay)
Starring: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, and Dennis Franz

It’s sad that Blow Out, perhaps the finest film I’ve seen from the 1980s if not certainly one of the top five, is a forgotten relic of that decade.  Director Brian De Palma is known more for 1983’s Scarface, which looks like child’s play compared to this masterpiece.  John Travolta is known for fading into obscurity until Pulp Fiction, yet in this film he gives his greatest performance.

In a decade where the political propaganda of Top Gun and the teen angst of John Hughes’ films are the lasting impressions of American cinema, it’s easy to see how a film like Blow Out that uses a dominant color palette of red, white and blue in a story of political corruption and murder, would fade away.  Thanks to those people at The Criterion Collection, it has resurfaced and been redistributed for the generation that missed it so they can get swept up in its mastery.

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Where have all the landmarks gone?

It’s interesting to think about which movies will be remembered as classics 20-30 years down the road.  Interesting, and also depressing.  Stop and think.  Is there one film made during the modern movie age that will resonate throughout pop culture like a Godfather or a Star Wars? There are no more Godfathers, mostly because the Mafioso in the modern studio system don’t believe in them anymore.

Movies mirror the culture they’re released into.  It’s no coincidence that the biggest movies now are sloppily constructed rehashes used to make a quick buck.  See also: the housing crisis.  The most endearing movies of the old age are often blockbusters, but they’re also something more: risks that paid off.  George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola had to fight like hell to get their movies made, and struggled to keep them once they were financed.  In modern times, once you’re inside the system, there is no fighting.  You make the movie they tell you to, or else you pay for it yourself.

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