“Blade Runner 2049”: Some Thoughts

Given my fascination with the original 1982 Ridley Scott sci-fi classic, I wanted to share my take on “Blade Runner 2014,” which we watched yesterday.

First, the bad:

  • So, yes: it’s long. Like, 2 hours and 43 minutes long. That’s…just too long. It is a fantastic film, but does any movie really need to be nearly twice the ninety-minute length that was commonplace not so long ago? Probably not.
  • I am deeply ambivalent about the cinematic use of 3-D technology. It provided this film with some stunning, memorable shots — one of my favorites showed Robin Wright’s character from outside her office building on a rainy night — but on the whole I found it distracting. I always wonder: Is the cool thing I’m seeing in here in service of the plot, or is added just to show off the sweet tech?

Now the good:

  • It is a story about what it means to be human and the nature of memories. It is deeply empathetic.
  • The audio is incredible. The eerie synthesizers in the initial “Blade Runner” are one of my favorite elements. Here, there are compelling uses of what seem to be monks chanting and other interesting stuff.
  • Ryan Gossling is excellent. He plays a replicant, so his emotions are often under the surface, but there are human rumblings throughout. Harrison Ford is also fantastic. As is Robin Wright.

Now: A warning for those seeing the movie in India and hoping for a pure cinematic experience:

Don’t get your hopes up.

Warning: somewhat crotchedy rant ahead:

We saw the film mid-day yesterday at the high-end PVR Director’s Cut theater, which has huge, comfy, reclining seats, food and drink service, and excellent sound and visuals.

The lobby is decked out in classic movie posters and the establishment seems to bill itself as a mecca for movie purists.

But at what felt like halfway through the film, at one of the most crucial parts — a quiet and contemplative scene — the movie suddenly shut off.

As the lights came on and the audience began murmuring, I thought: Jesus, has the projector broken?

Nope, it was an (unannounced) intermission. During which commercials were shown.

As people got up to go the bathroom and hit the concession stand, we were treated to perhaps ten minutes of blaring ads for items like pregnancy tests and window blinds.

Then the lights went down and it was back to the film, but about 5 seconds earlier, so we viewed a particularly emotional segment a second time.

“But, the movie isn’t supposed to have an intermission,” I said, during the break, to a guy outside the theater who seemed to be the manager.

He sympathized, saying it is common practice for films over two hours long to have such commercial-filled breaks in India.

Moreover, as apparently mandated in the country, every time a character was shown smoking during the movie, the phrase “smoking kills” appeared in the lower right portion of the screen.

I think a sex scene may also have been edited, but I’m not sure.

On the bright side, as I noted on Twitter, there was something oddly fitting about having a film about the apocalyptic future and powerful government controls broken up by crass commerical messages and mandated health warnings.

 ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Newley’s Notes 77: Uber in India; Apple Scoop; OMGWTF: New ‘Bladerunner’?

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Edition 77 of my email newsletter went out to subscribers yesterday. It’s pasted in below.

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Hi friends, thanks for reading Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter in which I share links to my stories and various items I think are worth highlighting.

I hope you had an enjoyable holiday period. Best wishes for a happy new year.

My apologies: This week’s Newley’s Notes is a couple of days late due to holiday travel.

A and I just returned to Delhi after an excellent stay at Neemrana Fort Palace, about three hours by car south of here.

It’s a 15th century fort that’s been turned into a hotel. It’s quiet, the countryside is beautiful, and there’s even a fascinating stepwell nearby. I highly recommended it for a quick getaway from Delhi.

Okay. On to this week’s edition.

WHAT I WROTE IN THE WSJ

Uber’s Drive Into India Relies on Raw Recruits – This is a story I’d been working on for some time, and I was happy with how it turned out. It begins:

NEW DELHI—How do you train a million new Uber drivers in a country where most people have never driven a car, tapped on a smartphone or even used an online map?

Uber Technologies Inc. faces that daunting task as it tries to avoid its fate in China, where it decided this year to sell its business to homegrown champion Didi Chuxing Technology Co.

The $68 billion San Francisco startup has plenty of cash and cutting-edge technology to bring to its battle in India. Also, the country hasn’t thrown up the kind of regulatory hurdles that have hindered Uber’s growth in other regions. So the company’s ability to find and teach new drivers could decide whether Uber can dominate this fast-growing market.

Click through for the rest of the piece, along with a video narrated by yours truly.

I also wrote a sidebar titled “5 Ways Uber Is Tweaking Its Strategy in India.”. These localizations include accepting cash payments, going app-less, using motorbikes and more.

Apple Is Discussing Manufacturing in India, Government Officials Say – A scoop with a colleague that was followed by Reuters and picked up by many outlets.

It begins:

NEW DELHI— Apple Inc. is discussing with the Indian government the possibility of manufacturing its products in the country, according to two senior government officials, as the company seeks to expand its sales and presence in the South Asian nation.

In a letter to the government last month, the Cupertino, Calif., firm outlined its plans and sought financial incentives to move ahead, the officials told The Wall Street Journal. Senior Trade Ministry authorities in recent weeks met to discuss the matter.

An Apple spokeswoman didn’t respond to requests for comment.

I’ve written, as you’ll recall, about Apple in India before. It’s a huge market for the firm’s potential future growth.

FIVE ITEMS THAT ARE WORTH YOUR TIME THIS WEEK:

1) Wait, there’s a new “Bladerunner” coming? How did I miss this news?

Longtime readers will know the 1982 Ridley Scott sci-fi classic is one of my favorite films.

Well, “Bladerunner 2049” will be here in October. The trailer’s on YouTube here. Wikipedia sums up the plot this way:

Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.

The trailer: meh. The idea of “Bladerunner” returning? A slightly more optimistic meh. I feel like I should be excited about this.

2) An analysis by Quartz of 36 best books of the year lists shows the title most mentioned has been Colson Whitehead’s novel “The Underground Railroad.”

I haven’t read it. Have you?

3) Jerry Lewis is a tough guy to interview.

In this seven-minute video, the famed, 90-year-old comedian had a remarkably cranky exchange with The Hollywood Reporter.

His mocking laugh is my favorite part.

4) If the less-than-robust Mosul Dam breaks, a million and a half people could perish.

That’s the thrust of this illuminating piece by Dexter Filkins in The New Yorker.

5) Was 2016 an especially bad year for celebrity deaths?

This week brought us news of George Michael’s death. Then Carrie Fisher. Then Carrie Fischer’s mom.

Snopes.com answers the question.

6) SPECIAL BONUS LINK: DESPITE WHAT YOU THINK, THE WORLD IS GETTING BETTER. There was a lot of bad news in 2016, but these six charts serve as a reminder that the world is, in the aggregate, improving.

Over the last century, extreme poverty and child mortality are down drastically, while democracy, education, literacy, and vaccinations have flourished. More info here.

Thanks for reading. Happy 2017!

Love,
Newley

142 Photos from the ‘Blade Runner’ Model Shop

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Open Culture:

Blade Runner, you see, represents perhaps the high water mark of the now seemingly lost art of miniature-based practical visual effects. Most everything in its slickly futuristic yet worn and often makeshift Los Angeles actually existed in reality, because, in that time before realistic CGI, everything had to take the form of a model (or, farther in the background, a matte painting) to get into the shot at all. You can take an extensive behind-the-scenes look at the blood, sweat, and tears involved in building all this in a gallery showcasing 142 photos taken in the Blade Runner model shop.

And:

Partisans of these sorts of techniques argue that miniatures remain superior to digital constructions because of their perceptible physicality, and perhaps that very quality has helped keep the look and feel of Blade Runner relatively timeless. Plus, unlike CGI, it gives die-hard fans something to hope for. If you dream about owning a piece of the film for your very own, you theoretically can; just make sure to do your homework first by reading the threads at propsummit.com, a forum about — and only about — Blade Runner props.

There’s more from io9:

A massive gallery of behind-the-scenes Blade Runner slides has been uploaded to the internet, revealing a teeny, tiny world of space blimps and flying cars, all crafted with special care and beautiful attention to detail.

Very cool.