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devincf

Episode 82: THEY LIVE

  

116 members have voted

  1. 1. Is THEY LIVE Canon?

    • OBEY
      75
    • Don't OBEY
      41


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I can think of 5 JC films I would put in the Canon ahead of this one.

But would you put this one in?

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No for me.

 

It's a thoroughly enjoyable movie, but definitely not canon. Roddy Piper is not that good of an actor and there are many bad scenes and even worse lines.

 

I don't get the "it's okay if it looks bad because they meant it that way" argument. So, it's doesn't matter how bad the actor is as long as you meant it that way? What about the other option, like hiring a good actor that can make the bad part right and still look good in all the other scenes.

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Strong Yes, simply due to cultural significance. OBEY and associated imagery. has become part of the pop culture lexicon.

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I think it's crazy that everyone is just voting yes. Clearly the people voting here are all ghouls and I'm the only one able to see through the bullshit. JK.

 

But seriously this movie does not at all deserve to belong in the canon, and I think the standards of what are and are not canon-worthy movies are steadily declining. It's like a "meh" is good enough.

 

This is a fine movie. I love it. It's really entertaining. But it isn't canon material.

 

It's also incredibly ham-fisted. The message slaps you in the face. It's not particularly deep or interesting or original. There is a complete and total lack of subtlety. I think that's absolutely purposeful, but the purpose was to make things easier for John Carpenter, who is a totally pragmatic filmmaker who just doesn't have the skills to make something with more nuance. He knows that about himself, and knowing that limitation makes him a good director. But it doesn't make the film any better and isn't an argument for it's goodness.

 

Frankly the movie is sophomorically simple on every level. The acting, the cinematography, the creatures and the makeup, the message, the humor, etc. I just don't think there's room in the canon for every entertaining movie that makes a good point, but does so without any of the deftness and virtuosity that makes the difference between a "meh" movie and a great one.

 

Not only that, you can't even make the history argument for this movie. Precisely one other movie pays homage to it, and it is just as sophomoric and overly direct — The Matrix. Other than that, it hasn't had virtually any real impact on later films. It's had a long-lasting but minimal effect on the culture as well, with no one even able to quote a line from the movie, only able to recall and reproduce the starkest of images from the film, like "Obey" and the ghouls face. The things that are, again, driven home really, really hard.

 

Please, people! Come to your senses! Put on the glasses and see this film for the entertaining mediocrity that it is! Just 'cause it's a cult classic and speaks to our times doesn't make it a movie worthy of the canon!

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I love John Carpenter films of all kinds. And I was excited to watch They Live for the first time recently because it's such a cult favorite. And I have to say I was truly let down by the film. Maybe it was my expectations but iPad not a fan of the movie. Now I will concede that the themes that Carpenter puts in the film are interesting and important but I just don't feel that this is the movie to put in the canon that has these themes. I understand why people like this movie, I'm not discrediting them by any means; I just feel that this movie is not satisfactory enough for me to vote yes in the canon. And so it goes for me to vote NO.

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There's nothing I can say about They Live that hasn't been said before. It's a masterpiece from a guy who has a few masterpieces. Every scene and set piece is rich in detail and meaning: i.e., you could write a term paper on how the church is used. And ham-fisted, my ass. It's pulpy science fiction, not There Will Be Blood. It's allowed certain liberties in the presentation of themes. Also, if you're solely focusing on the message that's hitting you over the head, then you're missing ten things flying right past you that moment. This is a movie for people who love movies.

 

Plus, it's just so goddamned awesome. YES.

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There's nothing I can say about They Live that hasn't been said before. It's a masterpiece from a guy who has a few masterpieces. Every scene and set piece is rich in detail and meaning: i.e., you could write a term paper on how the church is used. And ham-fisted, my ass. It's pulpy science fiction, not There Will Be Blood. It's allowed certain liberties in the presentation of themes. Also, if you're solely focusing on the message that's hitting you over the head, then you're missing ten things flying right past you that moment. This is a movie for people who love movies.

 

Plus, it's just so goddamned awesome. YES.

 

It's definitely one of those movies for people who love movies — precisely because it exists in that area right between art film and bad film, like Devin pointed out. But existing in that space doesn't automatically mean it's a canon film, that just means it's easy to talk about and there are many possible interpretations of what are actually really dumb things. Just because you can write a term paper about it doesn't mean it's good. That just means it's intellectually interesting on some level. And believe me, I am saying all this as a fan of this movie. And frankly if you can't write an A+ term paper about literally any movie ever, then you never learned how to bullshit your way through college. :P

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I am really on the fence with this one. I am such a Carpenter fan that I fear I may my bias may come into play. Honestly, this is one of his films I go back to the least, and may not even make my Top 5 Carpenter films. But perhaps time has made me forget about it, so I'm curious to re-watch it tonight and see where I fall. I've had the unopened Blu-Ray for months, so I'll finally crack the seal. I haven't seen this movie since the 20th century. I watched "Dark Star" a couple of weeks ago followed by "Escape for New York", so at least this gives me an excuse to to keep my JC summer theme going.

 

It may make my personal (small "c") canon but I'm not sure if it will make The Canon. I really could fall "soft no" or "soft yes". Either way, it was a great episode again and that has me amped-up for the viewing.

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It's definitely one of those movies for people who love movies — precisely because it exists in that area right between art film and bad film, like Devin pointed out. But existing in that space doesn't automatically mean it's a canon film, that just means it's easy to talk about and there are many possible interpretations of what are actually really dumb things. Just because you can write a term paper about it doesn't mean it's good. That just means it's intellectually interesting on some level. And believe me, I am saying all this as a fan of this movie. And frankly if you can't write an A+ term paper about literally any movie ever, then you never learned how to bullshit your way through college. :P

This seems to be a debate about what the canon is and isn't and not so much on the film itself. I think we can all agree that Carpenter deserves to be in the canon. Through a 2016 retrospective lens, They Live is one of his most important films, alongside the The Thing and Halloween. It would be hard to argue those two films don't belong in the canon on influence alone, which in context, means They Live deserves the same consideration (regardless of quality). I don't think it's a film that exists between an art film and a bad film: it's an art film disguised as a bad film; the art has a lot to say about the process and presentation of the film. The crappy and goofy things people refer to are iterations of the very themes the film is trying to convey. Constrained by budget? Sure. But it used the budget to its benefit.

 

I understand the argument against it. I just have a hard time believing one of the most important films of the 1980s wouldn't be in the canon.

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I think it's missing the point to focus on the message being "obvious" or Piper's one-liners coming off badly (and I do think that's a legit flaw).

 

They Live is rough around the edges, but it succeeds as art. It's kind of like the Boyz n the Hood episode, except that this movie has a lot of amazing production and screenwriting detail to go with the cheese. The question is "does it work," and They Live knocks it out of the park. It's simple in design, but filled with quality detail that resonates.

 

It's kind of "baby's first step toward class consciousness" but it's a great first step so whatever. Easy yes.

 

 

bri-witched pretty much nailed it in a sentence back on the first page. Carpenter's going for a general message but approached it with a surprising depth and exceptional presentation. It stuck with people.

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And I'm 100% with Amy in that I was also completely unaware of the alien faces being redone in pop culture. When I saw the faces in this movie, it was, to the best of my knowledge, the first time I'd ever seen them.

 

Same with me. This movie has never been a pop-cultural touchstone in my life. To be fair, I'm young (early twenties), but I think Devin may have exaggerated the extent to which this movie has permeated the cultural consciousness. All I knew about it going in was that he came to kick ass and chew bubblegum...

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Same with me. This movie has never been a pop-cultural touchstone in my life. To be fair, I'm young (early twenties), but I think Devin may have exaggerated the extent to which this movie has permeated the cultural consciousness. All I knew about it going in was that he came to kick ass and chew bubblegum...

 

But did you know that he happened to be all out of bubblegum?

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It's also incredibly ham-fisted. The message slaps you in the face. It's not particularly deep or interesting or original. There is a complete and total lack of subtlety. I think that's absolutely purposeful, but the purpose was to make things easier for John Carpenter, who is a totally pragmatic filmmaker who just doesn't have the skills to make something with more nuance.

 

 

Newlin, I don't think they live is the best example of Carpenter but I think it's unfair to label him as a director who is incapable of nuance or subtlety.

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It's also incredibly ham-fisted. The message slaps you in the face. It's not particularly deep or interesting or original. There is a complete and total lack of subtlety. I think that's absolutely purposeful, but the purpose was to make things easier for John Carpenter, who is a totally pragmatic filmmaker who just doesn't have the skills to make something with more nuance.

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It's also incredibly ham-fisted. The message slaps you in the face. It's not particularly deep or interesting or original. There is a complete and total lack of subtlety. I think that's absolutely purposeful, but the purpose was to make things easier for John Carpenter, who is a totally pragmatic filmmaker who just doesn't have the skills to make something with more nuance. He knows that about himself, and knowing that limitation makes him a good director. But it doesn't make the film any better and isn't an argument for it's goodness.

 

Frankly the movie is sophomorically simple on every level. The acting, the cinematography, the creatures and the makeup, the message, the humor, etc. I just don't think there's room in the canon for every entertaining movie that makes a good point, but does so without any of the deftness and virtuosity that makes the difference between a "meh" movie and a great one.

 

I mean, yeah it's ham-fisted but that doesn't make the message unoriginal and less thought-provoking. Most people, frankly, and especially in America, think they're above systems in place. Everyone thinks they're a special snowflake who's totally unaffected by media and the political commentary around them when it couldn't be further from the truth. This film is working in the tradition of other genre flicks where they're campy on some level and have really overt political intentions, but they're doing something really good in the process-explaining complex systems through allegory, and using genre elements to still entertain their audience (Snowpiercer and I Walked With a Zombie are both good examples of this-I'd argue Under the Skin does this too with gender, but more subtly). Carpenter has proven he can be subtle in other projects he's done so it doesn't make sense to say that because he isn't here that it's bad.

 

Which is why you're also wrong about it not being historically significant-the film came out in 1988. It's a perfect period piece for Reaganomics and it still holds true today. Even on a pop culture level everyone knows the bubblegum line and the "Obey" sign.

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As I always find with John Carpenter, this seems way ahead of its time. I love the movie, lengthy fight and all.

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like Amy, I'm a soft no. Probably my least favourite Carpenter. Love the aesthetics, appreciate it's cultural relevance, but it just doesn't do it for me.

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Count me in as a no; Newlin covered my arguments pretty effectively earlier in this thread. But suffice to say that it hurts to see Keith David -- who was great in the Thing, for example -- acting so woodenly.

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I swear I read or heard it in a John Carpenter interview that a lot of Piper's one-liners came from his own notebooks full of lines he planned to use in wrestling interviews.

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What is the point of the canon, if every movie gets in? I mean, will this end up as a list of 5000 random movies. What is the value here? Will we see The Seventh Seal alongside the fourth best Michael Bay movie in the canon?

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As long as it's a great film that is in some way exceptional, it gets in. That's my criteria. If Devin and Amy chose pictures to talk about by random chance it'd be much different, but they get chosen usually because they're great/exceptional to one of them.

 

It's not that a film needs to be "just good" for it to get in. It's that usually they choose films that are better than "just good." A lot enter that way, but I'd rather they discuss a lot of really interesting films that pass than to choose a lot more average films just for the flavor of voting them out. The fun's in the discussion, not just the voting.

 

It took the striking down of the "neither" option for me to fully understand that.

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I swear I read or heard it in a John Carpenter interview that a lot of Piper's one-liners came from his own notebooks full of lines he planned to use in wrestling interviews.

That's true. Carpenter and RRP discussed that in the DVD Commentary.

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