Richard’s Year of Movies — Brainstorm
HBO allowed me to see a lot of movies as a kid, but of course, they were all smashed up to fit onto those rapidly antiquating monstrosities with square picture tubes and actual channel dials on them. So sometimes seeing something I saw back then in widescreen is a bit of a revelation; I still remember being stunned by being able to see Richard Dreyfuss’s reactions to Robert Shaw’s Indianapolis speech in Jaws and how it added a whole new level to that scene.
Same thing with Brainstorm. Whenever we see the characters using the virtual reality headgear, the aspect ratio changes from the traditional box to widescreen, something I never would have been able to see on HBO back in the 80s. It’s a neat trick, too, making the supposedly virtual scenes look more real than the real-life ones. Although it did make me wonder at first what was wrong with the aspect ratio on my TV.
And holy cyberpunk but this film is just packed with all the tropes of that genre. A machine that records thoughts and experiences for playback? A shadowy government conspiracy that wants to use that machine as a weapon? Our hero hacking into a computer system to thwart said conspiracy? This is practically Strange Days only twelve years earlier.
It’s kind of weird seeing an almost normal Christopher Walken here. And it’s a little sad to watch Natalie Wood knowing she died before the film was finished. Also sad is knowing this is the last Hollywood film Douglas Trumbull ever did. You can definitely see hints of 2001 and Close Encounters in the finale, and it would have been interesting to see what he was capable of as the art of special effects advanced over the rest of the decade.
And hey, let’s hear it for PG nudity! I’m still amazed sometimes at how many topless women I managed to see in PG and PG-13 movies. Something else HBO was quite useful for.