Q2 2023

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58 C I N E M O N T A G E T A I L P O P REMEMBERING AN '80S SPACE THRILLER Ripley's Game By Willie Castro F or me, the summer of 1986 was an awesome time, filled with perfect- ing street ollies on my skateboard, pranking with friends, and all-around lol- lygagging because it was "vacay." But on one July day, I felt something that puzzled this 16-year-old delinquent. My neighbor Joe wanted to scope out an action flick with a poster featuring a lady holding a youngster in one arm and massive artil- lery in the other. What could be wrong with that? Not being a film connoisseur, (but of course loving me some Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones fare), I ventured into my local Whittier theater not understanding the tapestry of artistic endeavors that make up a film — in particular, in this instance — the score. If you said "score" among my tribe of knucklehead skaters, you'd hear back, "… with whom?" Anyway … Right from the opening credits, I heard this building, ominous rumble, hinted with a military cadence, climaxing with the title reveal — "Aliens" — then a classic white flash and massive cymbal swell. Back then, I had no clue of all this music lingo; my initial reaction was, "Whoa!" I walked out of that theater chanting, "Game OVER Man!" and "Get away from her, you bitch!" As silly kids do, I was recanting the action scenes with realistic people in extreme situations shooting up naughty aliens. (The basic story is that crew member Ripley, played by Sigourney Weav- er, is called back to help fight off sinister extraterrestrials first seen in "Alien.") What stuck with me that day wasn't quite tangible enough to describe, but it was clouding my mind. I needed to figure out this mystery, so I asked my mom if I could go see this movie again. We weren't exactly poor, but my mom didn't have extra cash laying around, so she said if I wanted to see it, I would need to pay for it myself. So my piggybank got shaken, and off I went to the matinee. Growing up a latchkey kid, TV was a best friend to me. I passively watched all its mind-numbing offerings, from "Scoo- by-Doo," "Three's Company" to "Voltron," so this was the first time in my life that I was actually focused on viewing something with purpose. My second viewing was as if I stumbled upon a big new world of entertainment I'd never considered. This novice was taking mental notes on what I liked or felt. The realistic spacecraft, dialogue and charac- ters, the unique noteworthy sounds from guns and machines. But what got my Spidey senses tingling was the composer's musical motifs. He was playing with the mind via suspense, mystery, and tension, and in concert with the music, I was quickly real- izing the film's shots were being married to the musical pace. I was getting clues on how this "movie magic" thing worked on emotive response. I was learning to view, hear and feel with a much more sensitive compass. James Horner's score, with Ray Lovejoy's editing, led me down a curious path where I now spend most my time — in the edit room. My first inspired edit trick was when the aliens found a way to invade the secured area, and Hicks (Michael Biehn) explores the attic space: a musical pause, breath enhanced, the use of only sound effects to draw us in and then, WHAM!, all hell breaks loose. As an unscripted TV editor, I've used t h a t te c h n i q u e o n m a ny a ga m e s h o w build-up. I learned to create unique sound effects builds for signature moments, as in motivated actions like transitions or end of scenes — something to get the audience familiar with the structure and feel com- fortable with what's to come. A lot has changed since that initial view- ing of James Cameron's kick-ass sequel. Now that I have young ones, you might find me watching some "Scooby-Doo" adven- tures with them, and even to this day you can find me frolicking on my skateboard as I teach my six-year-old how to tame these streets. But that summer day viewing experience almost 30 years ago still reso- nates with me. You can even recognize it coming out of my mouth when I say, "Let's ROCK!" to my kids when we're out enjoying silly shenanigans. ■ Willie Castro is a five-time Emmy nominated editor (reality competition) who loves tacos, beer, and the Los Angeles Lakers. He can be reached at HELLO THERE: Sigourney Weaver in "Aliens." P H O T O : P H O T O F E S T

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