Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, July 29, 2011

Will Cowboys & Aliens go together more like a Reese's cup or oil and water?

Opening up this weekend at a multiplex near you is the Daniel Craig/Harrison Ford tag team summer flick,Cowboys & Aliens,that pits the western genre against science fiction. Craig plays the mystery man with no memory who comes to town and Ford is the corrupt boss man,quick to haul him to jail for various crimes.

That typical Old West tale takes a twists as strange vehicles from the sky enter the scene and start snatching up the locals. Turns out the dubious newcomer may be useful in fighting this bizarre enemy with the odd device that happens to be strapped to his wrist.

All of this leads to the former foes banding together to face a much greater threat,which is standard for both genres:

So far,C&A is getting a mixed set of reviews but regardless of that,it will probably do reasonably well at the box office. I happen to find this blend of classic tropes intriguing and it puts me in mind of other hybrid genre movies that scored rather high points with regular and critical audiences over the years.

Harrison Ford is no stranger to crossbreed cinema,having starred in the sci-fi noir film Blade Runner back in 1982. Critics were divided about the movie but due to later viewings of the director's cut,many came around to calling it a classic. It was a cult favorite amongst film fans before being considered worthy enough to be included on AFI's list of Top Ten Sci-Fi films and 100 Best Movies.

What is compelling about Blade Runner is the seamless melding of the hard boiled detective story with the existential musings on the nature of reality for the doomed replicants in this futuristic world. No matter which version of the movie you've seen,it still holds a strong visual and emotional resonance to this day:

A truly tricky balancing act is the horror comedy;too much terror,the laughs get lost in the shuffle and too many laughs can water down the scares.

Luckily,the British are nimble jugglers when it comes to genre mixing and 2004's Shaun of the Dead gave us one of the best "zom-rom-com" flicks of our time. Headed up by Simon Pegg(who also co-wrote the film with director Edgar Wright),the smartly chosen ensemble cast made their social quandaries merge nicely,if not gruesomely at times,with the impeding approach of the ravenous undead.

The success of this film gave a much needed shot in the arm to the zombie genre but the horror comedy division is still lagging behind there,even with the likes of 2009's Zombieland staggering forth from Hollywood:

One crossover genre that's proven hard to be taken seriously is the live action animation film. Most of the time,it's considered to be strictly kiddie fare and for a long while,not even made into a full length feature film. Such scenes were slipped into musicals like 1945's Anchors Aweigh as a throwaway gimmick but audiences fondly recalled them long afterward.

1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit used live action and animation as a vital part of it's story which also tossed film noir into it's zany mix. Another ground breaker here was the combining of Disney cartoon characters along side classic Warner Bros. Looney Tunes favorites in various featured roles through the film.

While the movie only received Oscars for technical categories,it remains the only live action/animated feature to do so. No small potatoes there,especially for such a sharply satirical family film:

No matter how much money Cowboys & Aliens ultimately rakes in this summer,I hope that it doesn't affect the future of genre mixing in a negative way. While it can be easily overdone,there is still some life in this media blending yet. Even Jane Austen's timeless tales have benefited from a little monster mashing and it would be a great pity to deny ourselves such a bounty of amusement that such creative crossovers can provide:

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