Morning in America, as Seen by John Carpenter
A couple of weeks back, FOBGH (that's friend of BGH) Prisoner Abel emailed me about a film series that was going to be showing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (aka BAM). Now, if that sounds reprehensibly fancy, well that's because it is; but Abel and I are New Yorkers, and we like our culture extra fancy. BAM though, isn't just a snooty bastion of dance and theater, they also show current cinema (typically of the more independent variety) as well as film series, as I mentioned above.
What I'm getting to is that over Labor Day weekend, BAM ran a program called "A Four-Pack of Carpenter" where they featured four films by the genre master. Their choices, "Escape From New York," "The Thing," "Big Trouble in Little China" and "They Live," constitute the bulk of Carpenter's work during the 80's.
To accopany this set of films, "Moving Image Source," a website run by the Museum of the Moving Image (another awesomely fancy New York offering), featured a great critical essay by Benjamin Strong. It's entitled "Morning in America," a nod to the famous Reagan campaign commercial, and the piece looks at the four Carpenter films of that time as examinations of the cultural and sociopolitical milieu.
Strong provides some great nuggets about Carpenter and each of the films. In many ways, "Halloween" so thoroughly over-shadows Carpenter's other works that it's easy to forget just how talented a filmmaker he is. While it's not uncommon to encounter theorizing and critical analysis on "The Thing" and especially "They Live" in horror circles, Strong also gives a great deal of context on "Big Trouble" and "Escape." I can't say much more other than: go read it.