Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

Blade Runner

After the kids went to bed, I put “Blade Runner” on in the background while working. I saw it when it first came out, as part of a midnight movie double header with “Night Shift,” a comedy that starred Harry Henry Winkler, Michael Keaton and Shelly Long (as a hooker– a role completely unlike her subsequent TV character, and a difference only topped by Paul Reiser’s Yuppie bad guy in “Aliens” and his Paul Bruckner Buchman). At the time, I thought “Night Shift” was far and beyond the better movie.

One thing I’ve never noticed about “Blade Runner” is how much it manages to make light pollution and bad air beautiful. All those views of the high-tech chaos of the L. A. landscape, of flying cars zooming past giant Coke ads or building-sized screens of Japanese women selling soy sauce, are cooly atmospheric, because the atmosphere is really terrible.

It’s also interesting to see what a vision of the future from 25 years ago was like. Los Angeles is a city whose influence is now overwhelmingly Asian, and that’s something I’ve always liked about the movie; but what’s really striking is how un-Hispanic Ridley Scott’s L.A. is (except perhaps for some of the architecture).

There’s also at least one wide shot of the city that has a Pan Am logo. Remember Pan Am? The global airline so much a part of America’s jet-age identity it could be used by Kubrick in “2001” (the shuttle that went to the space station was a Pan Am craft)?


  1. Buchman.

  2. Harry Winkler. Would he be related to Henry Winkler? Just askin’

  3. So noted! Thanks to you both.

  4. Roxane Winkler

    July 29, 2004 at 6:25 pm

    I noticed that somebody wanted to know if Henry Winkler (AKA the fonz) and Harry Winkler were related. My father was Emmy-winning TV writer Harry Winkler (George Gobel Show, Addams Family and many others). As far as we know, the two families are not related but he was amused by the mix-up in mail delivery, etc. When Happy Days was at its height, my dad would get phone calls from teenaged girls asking for the Fonz. I have to say that he was remarkedly patient with them.

  5. Thanks for the clarification! And what a great story about being mistaken (over the phone, anyway) for the Fonz. It sounds like your father handled it just right– it would have been crushing to young fans to have been hung up on.

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