The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Memories are meant to fade. They’re designed that way for a reason.

with 36 comments

See… I can get you what you want, I can. I can get you anything, you just have to talk to me, you have to trust me. You can trust me, ’cause I’m your priest, I’m your shrink… I am you main connection to the switchboard of the soul. I’m the magic man… Santa Claus of the subconscious. You say it, you think it, you can have it”.

I don’t take notes as I watch movies. But sometimes as I watch a film, the thought crosses my mind that I would like to do that: freeze the DVD and move forward just a few seconds at a time so I could write down some of the lines so I could get back to them later and enjoy them over again.

It never happens though. I tell myself that there probably is some nice person with a lot of time at hands who has written down the best quotes from the movie at IMDb. And sometimes they have. Other times I get disappointed when it turns out that people have made some pretty strange choices, writing down throw-away lines, but not getting to the brilliant lines that you want to tattoo into your brain so you can hold onto them forever.

One man’s mundane and desperate existence is another man’s Technicolor.”

Strange Days was one of those movies where some of the lines stood out to me particularly. Not all are completely natural; some come out like written little speeches, nothing that a person would say in a normal conversation. And yet there was just something to it that stuck with me and that now makes me sprinkle this text with quotes from it. It’s not my usual way to write a review, but this time they were irresistible.

Memories are meant to fade. They’re designed that way for a reason.”

I don’t blame you if you’ve never heard of it. This science fiction thriller from the mid 90s appears to be a little overlooked, judging from how it did at the box office and from that at least I hadn’t heard of it before I was presented to it the other night.

It’s really a shame if you ask me, because it’s a wonderful film, a true gem for someone like me. But then I’m really into the kind of science fiction that explores the relationship between mankind and technology in future that is just around the corner. Blade Runner is one of my favourite movies and while this one isn’t quite as good, it reminds me a little bit of it in the style.

Look… everyone needs to take a walk to the dark end of the street sometimes, it’s what we are.”

The story takes place in the last few days of the last millennium, as New Years eve 1999 is closing in. Lenny Nero, played by an astonishingly young Ralph Fiennes, is an ex-cop who does shady business with data-discs that contain recorded memories that you can plug into your brain, reliving the memories of someone else. One day he’s contacted by someone who says that his ex girlfriend is in some kind of danger and he also receives a disc with a strange recording on it. He starts to investigate it and the more he learns, the worse things start to happen to him and his bad-ass female friend Mace (wonderfully played by Angela Bassett).

Paranoia is just reality on a finer scale.”

But it isn’t the action that is the unique selling point – even if it’s engaging and exciting enough – it’s the idea of those devices tied to your brain with and the consequences of their offerings to bring you to a virtual reality that will stick with me in the long run, bringing me all those questions to dwell over long after the film is finished.

I also loved the crazy the-end-of-the-world-is-near atmosphere – dense, dark and believable, associating to the riots that followed after the case of Rodney King in 1999.

This tie costs more than your entire wardrobe… it’s the one thing that stands between me and the jungle.”

Despite the obvious time marks, like the millennium shift that is over and done with a long time ago without anything particular happening, the movie has that timeless vibe that makes it feel fresh. 17 years after its opening it’s almost in mint condition.

Considering how much I liked this film, it feels a little bit petty to mention that there is a moment of cheesiness that I could have lived without. So, there I said it. But it’s such a small spot that I easily can overlook.

Because in the end Strange Days is a shiny piece of a movie and it increases my interest for the director Kathryn Bigelow, which was raised by her Oscar award winning  The Hurt Locker, which was one of the most exciting films I’ve seen. I really need to check out her other films. If they’re anywhere near as good as those two movies, I’ve got some great experiences to look forward to.

Cheer up. The world’s about to end in ten minutes anyway.”

Strange Days
(Kathryn Bigelow, US, 1995) My rating: 4,5/5

Written by Jessica

July 19, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in Strange Days

36 Responses

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  1. My god, it’s been a long time since I watched this Jessica. I’m with you on it though. I absolutely loved it. I’ve often praised Katheryn Bigelow for competing in the action genre when it’s normally male directors behind the camera. As much as this isn’t all about the action though, the scenes depicting the 1st person virtual experiences is some sublime pieces of camerawork. I really want to see this again now.

    Mark Walker

    July 19, 2012 at 1:19 am

    • I can definitely recommend it. Sci-fi often ages quickly but I didn’t feel that was the case here at all. I like the fact that Kathery Bigelow isn’t a “good female director”. She’s a good director, regardless of gender. Period. I really want to watch more of her works.


      July 21, 2012 at 9:43 am

  2. I hated this film. I’m a sucker for sci-fi and cyberpunk, but this was just baaad. The whole video-cartridge-uplinked-into-mind was alright, but I felt like they didn’t utilize it to its full extent. I don’t think the whole Millennium scenario was utilized well either. It felt too forced and contrived. Plus, the performances were just BORING, with the exception of maybe Michael Wincott.

    The biggest problem with this movie is how its fans act like its deep and meaningful, but in the end is just shallow and, most of all, cliched. The storyline is very predictable and the whole villain twist can be seen coming from a mile away. And then the James Bond-style monologue where he pretty much just explains to Ralph Fiennes what happened? Give me a break. Could go on, but must stop complaining about this god awful film.


    July 19, 2012 at 6:25 am

    • Considering the name of your blog it appears to me as if you have a talent for and an interest in disliking movies. To each one his own. I suppose you can criticize the film for all the reasons you mention. I didn’t see it that way at all. I’m lucky enough to like most of the movies I watch. This one I liked even a little bit more than the average.


      July 21, 2012 at 9:44 am

      • Ah, yes, the typical pretentious response: let’s judge a guy by the movies he talks about. Just because I review mostly crap doesn’t mean I like/dislike only crap. Hey, here’s a question for you: you even try reading any of the crap on the site, or did you just blindly judge? I wonder if you go around judging movies blindly, too.

        It’s hard to judge a movie in a short comment, but if you notice, I also say what I felt SHOULD have worked but didn’t. In fact, I really wanted to like this one. I love sci-fi, I love cyberpunk. But this one was just outmatched by its potential. It’s not as deep or substantive as its fans suggest; cliched and generic more like. Very disappointing.

        Oh, and I actually love movies, so you really have no idea what you’re talking about.


        July 22, 2012 at 8:07 pm

        • Hey there. Cool down a little will you? There’s no need to get angry with each other because we have a different view on a certain film. I didn’t mean to insult you honestly. And yes, I judged you completely from the name of your blog, as I stated in my reply.

          I think we just need to be a little bit more clear in the way we express ourselves. Because YOU think it’s not deep or substnsive or because YOU think it’s cliched and generic, it doesn’t mean that it objectively is so. Equally: because I think it’s awesome, of course it doesn’t mean it’s objectively awesome either. In movie criticism there is no right or wrong, remember. Only different opinions. Which we clearly have in this case.


          July 22, 2012 at 8:36 pm

          • I AM cool. But it’s glad to know that judging someone by appearance is still alive and well.
            Also, I think the meaning one gets from a movie CAN be subjective (not always), but I don’t think there’s any denying that this movie is heavily borrowed from other movies and completely generic. The James Bond style speech at the end by Sizemore just confirmed it for me. There are films that I do not like (this one, being an example) and films that I DO like that I can still be objective about.


            July 22, 2012 at 9:00 pm

        • Bruce, it’s bad practice to be losing your rag on someone else’s site man. Differing opinions are what keep the whole blogosphere interesting and your entitled to disagree but its unnecessary to disagree so vehemently. If you need to have a rant (like we all do sometimes) keep it on your own site out of reasons of respect.

          Mark Walker

          July 22, 2012 at 8:49 pm

          • Nobody’s losing their rag here actually. Also, I’m not making a post about something this trivial.
            The reason for my perceived hostility isn’t differing opinion. It’s the fact that the reviewer blindly judged the kind of person I am by the name of my site. It’s always the typical pretentious response I get from people who think their tastes in film are better than mine. Address the views in the post, not the poster.


            July 22, 2012 at 9:04 pm

            • If you find this place pretentious and think that I’m judging you unfairly, I have a suggestion for you Bruce. Please try the café on the other side of the road. I’ve heard they have excellent coffee over there and some great reviews that are more of your liking. I think we’ll both be happier that way. This place probably isn’t for you and it’s time to move on. Cheers!


              July 22, 2012 at 9:20 pm

              • Where did I say I found your site pretentious? I said your comment was the typical pretentious response that I get. Bit of a difference. I’ve actually read a lot of your posts, and while I don’t agree with all of it (obviously), I’ve enjoyed it. Kind of sad you should be so judgmental though. Seriously, get off that pedestal sometime. Your ass will hurt less and I’m sure you’ll enjoy life a lot better.

                Oh, and I’m not much of a cafe fan. Thanks for the suggestion though.


                July 22, 2012 at 9:53 pm

                • I’m sorry if I come off as judgemental to you Bruce. It’s not what I intend or who I am. I think you triggered the reaction by using a way to express yourself that for me feels quite judgemental as well. Maybe you didn’t intend it that way but it felt very aggressive. As a good hostess I shouldn’t let myself be dragged into aggressive arguments in the first place. I’m sad it turned out this way. I don’t mind that people have different opinons about movies than I have and express it. But I wish to keep a nice tone here and in this case I obviously failed.


                  July 22, 2012 at 9:58 pm

                  • Allow me to apologize in return.. if I’ve said anything you’ve felt was less-than-juvenile. I admit my personality can come across as abrasive, both on and offline, though I try to be cordial in other people’s houses, so to speak. I think the worst thing about this is that what could have been a good discussion got pretty much out of control.

                    Just forget it. I already have.
                    And I do look forward to reading yours in the future.


                    July 23, 2012 at 12:46 am

                    • Cheers Bruce. I glad we could sort this out. No hard feelings.


                      July 23, 2012 at 7:00 am

                • I have to say, I’ve never found Jessica to be pretentious or judmental. In fact, I’ve always found her site to be one of the most hospitable out there. It doesn’t matter where or how you feel judged. What matters is bringing someone else down on their own home turf. Bruce your getting outta line man and I agree, you’re sounding quite aggressive.

                  Mark Walker

                  July 22, 2012 at 10:39 pm

                  • I get what you’re saying… but bringing someone down in their home turf? That’s the last thing on my mind. I’d rather watch movies than go around trolling people. I DO like to talk about movies though, which is something I attempted to do here. Maybe I failed. Depends on your perspective. But I don’t wear my dirty shoes into other people’s houses. But it doesn’t mean I’ll just sit around and let them poison my coffee either, if you get my drift.

                    My first comment might have been a bit abrasive, but I do not feel there was anything out of line. I did not attack anyone. I merely stated how I felt about a particular movie. The worst thing you can do is to stifle discussion. When you post something online, on the net, publicly, you open yourself up to people and invite those with different opinions. Does it call for rampant trolling? No. But if you don’t like it, then either shut down the comments section or moderate it so my comments don’t show up.

                    Your experiences and your experiences. Mine are mine.

                    I WILL apologize for the “get off your pedestal line”. I do not wish for it to get any nastier than that. I’ve always liked WordPress precisely because its comments sections aren’t like IMDb or YouTube. But at the same time, I get this feeling that a lot of people don’t want to say anything really negative about a movie on other people’s blogs, which I think is a problem.

                    But that’s a different discussion for a different time. I think I’ve plagued Jessica’s comments section for too long, and I’ll bow out now.


                    July 23, 2012 at 12:54 am

  3. I would like this movie just for showcasing how hot Angela Bassett’s arms can be. Sexist as it may be, I liked seeing a woman look attractive while still looking like she could actually get in a fight and carry heavy weapons.

    If “Gattaca” was the thinking sci-fi movie most often overlooked by fans of the genre, “Strange Days” would be my pick for fun popcorn-style sci-fi overlooked gem. It really is a fun movie to sit back and watch on a late night when you have nothing better to do. Is it some great masterpiece of thoughtful drama? No. But it is a ride. It kind of feels to me like somebody took a bad straight-to-video script and classed it up a bit. Polished the script, got great actors, budgeted for some special effects and crowd scenes.

    I’m a little surprised this movie has never developed a cult following. More people should see it… if just for Angela Bassett’s arms alone.

    Fyling Squirrel

    July 19, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    • I never gave much thought to her arms to be honest. But she was bad-ass, really, in a natural, wonderful way. For as much as I like Ralph Fiennes, she was the tough one here and I really enjoyed it. It’s a wonderful ride indeed and it seems to be strangely underrated for some reason. I’m glad to spread the word about it, hoping someone who hasn’t seen it yet might give it a chance.


      July 21, 2012 at 9:47 am

  4. I reviewed this film a couple of months ago, thinking that few people had probably seen it because I rarely ever saw it mentioned. I got a number of comments from people who also liked the film. And as it turns out, it’s in the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book, so some people have watched it because of that.


    July 20, 2012 at 4:28 am

    • It’s in that book? Yeah, why not? I think it’s a good candicate to put there. It’s take on VR alone makes it stand out compared to ordinary action movies. Glad to hear there are more fans.


      July 21, 2012 at 9:48 am

  5. Great post as always. You know, I do take notes when watching a movie, but I try to keep those at a minimum. And that thing you said with the IMDb, that happens to me too!


    July 21, 2012 at 6:42 am

    • Thanks Fernando. I don’t hold it against anyone taking notes as long as they don’t use their cellphones or any other source of light to make it possible. The day someone brings out their laptop I will complain!


      July 21, 2012 at 9:49 am

  6. Huh, I would have bet that Strange Days was pretty well known, simply because of Kathryn Bigelow (just like Blue Steel tends to pop up here and there).

    But maybe I should watch it again, because my memory of it is definitely not the gem you apparently experienced. I remember a movie with a tantalising concept but pretty cheesy in the execution.


    July 21, 2012 at 10:49 am

    • I don’t deny that there IS a certain amount of cheese in it and there is one moment where I get an overdose of it. Hence I can’t give it my very highest rating. But I still enjoyed it a lot. Maybe I was in a cheese friendly mood that day. 🙂


      July 21, 2012 at 10:51 am

  7. A friend advised me to see this movie and I really liked the Hurt Locker so I went and saw it a few months ago. I loved this movie.

    It’s so rare to find intelligent SF movies that those few that there are, are there to be treasured.


    July 21, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    • I’m glad but not surprised that you liked it. We often agree on movies, don’t we?


      July 22, 2012 at 8:39 pm

  8. I’m glad that someone is shedding a little bit of light on this film! I love it. It’s so underrated 😦


    July 24, 2012 at 5:18 am

  9. […] Jessica at The Velvet Cafe is one of my favourite blogger, humble and kind yet hilarious to read&#82… […]

  10. I just saw this not too long ago. I like parts of it but overall I thought it was just well, strange. I like the actors though, I mean Ralph is just gorgeous!! But my fave is Angela Bassett, that woman just kicked ass! LOVE her! I wish she’s in more movies! I agree though, it’s not as good as Blade Runner but the sci-fi concept is intriguing. I was at the panel at a local film fest where Tom Sizemore was in, I wish I had asked him how itchy that wig thing he wore, ahah.


    July 24, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    • She really stood out. It’s not all that often you see such good female action characters, but she really stood out.


      August 1, 2012 at 12:30 am

  11. Sounds strange and fun. On a personal I take notes when at press screenings — for the same reason you mentioned. I love keeping some great lines from films — helps me remember what I loved about them so much.

    Sam Fragoso

    July 28, 2012 at 8:31 am

    • It’s great. If you feel like some easily digested and yet thoughtprovoking sci-fi I think you should give it a try.


      August 1, 2012 at 12:29 am

  12. This is one of my favorite sci-fi movies, I loved the idea, Ralph Fiennes’s work as unusally laid back character for him and the soundtrack – this movie had seriously amazing music. The ending was especially lovely!


    July 29, 2012 at 4:14 am

    • I’m so glad to year you liked it! I loved it until the very, very ending… which in combination with the music… was just a little bit too much for my taste. Still: up until that point it was wonderful.


      August 1, 2012 at 12:32 am

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