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William C. Altreuter
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Friday, November 12, 2010

If I read about a movie that piques my interest, I add it to our Netflix queue. Sometime latter it arrives in the mail, and usually I have no idea why I thought the damn thing would be something I wanted to see. Sometimes it works out, but most of the time I'm just left puzzled. Last night was an odd exception. The movie was John Carpenter's "Dark Star". I'd read something about how it had been very influential to something or someone, but I couldn't for the life of me recall what. It looked like it was about some astronauts who are really into the Grateful Dead, and it reminded me of the Flaming Lips' "Christmas on Mars", but I knew that couldn't have been why I'd wanted to see it. (I'm glad I've seen Christmas on Mars, but not even Wayne Coyne's mom would be interested in his influences.) And then, enlightenment. About a third of the way into it I realized that this was the template for Ridley Scott's Alien. In fact, the late Dan O'Bannon was the screenwriter on both. It would be fun to teach the two movies, which were only made five years apart. Dark Star was a low budget affair, a step away from a student film, and Alien had all the bells and whistles, but they are both doing a lot of the same things, and asking the same sort of questions. Each is, in its way, an equally valid work.

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