Film | by Shane “Buford T.” Hnetka
It might be hard to believe but Star Wars turned 40 this month. On May 25, 1977, it became one of the biggest, most influential movies of all time. But Star Wars isn’t the only movie celebrating an anniversary this month.
EAST BOUND AND DOWN
Burt Reynolds’ classic car-chase comedy Smokey and the Bandit also turns 40 years this May. Released two days after Star Wars on May 27, 1977, Smokey was at the vanguard of the late-70s and 1980s screwball car chase craze.
The simple plot has Reynolds driving a 1977 Trans Am really, really fast as a decoy to get cops chasing him instead of his buddy, Jerry Reed, who’s illegally hauling booze over state lines in a semi. Along the way, Reynolds picks up runaway bride Sally Field. Jackie Gleason hams it up as Buford T. Justice, the determined redneck sheriff chasing the Bandit.
The movie spawned two sequels and more knock-offs than you can imagine. It’s good, stupid fun with amazing car stunts from a time when filmmakers couldn’t do everything on a computer.
NETFLIX VS. FRANCE
Netflix screened Bong Joon Ho’s latest movie, Okja at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and it’s controversial because the movie isn’t getting a theatrical release in France. At one screening, audiences even booed the Netflix logo.
At issue: the French law that bars movies from playing on streaming services until 36 months after theatrical release. By not opening the film in France, Netflix is essentially giving that law the middle finger. In response, Cannes changed its rules so that next year’s films must play in French theatres.
On the whole, this is a strange argument that ignores changes in the film industry, and in the world in general.
Okja is about an evil corporation run by Tilda Swinton that has engineered a new livestock animal for people to eat. The weird hippo-pig thing, named Okja, is befriend by a young Korean girl who, with the help of Paul Dano, fights to save the adorable creature. The movie looks strange and it’s getting pretty good reviews.
When Bong Joon Ho’s Snowpiercer was released a couple of years ago, I wrote at length about the studio refusing to give the film a wide theatrical release. Snowpiercer is a great film that more people should have seen. In Okja’s case, Netflix will give more people a chance to see a movie that, realistically, probably wouldn’t have hit theatres anyway.
Granted, you still have to subscribe to Netflix to see Okja, but that’s another problem for another day.
Shane Hnetka is a made-in-Saskatchewan film and comic book nerd.