The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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therewillbeblus
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Re: The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#426 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Oct 05, 2020 11:00 am

Yeah and to clarify it’s most definitely very funny, but there’s also a sadness permeating in the corners of every scene, which is how I like my comedy to begin with much of the time. While the film definitely becomes more serious, it becomes both more and less sad as the attitude shifts, depending on how you see the glass. Either way, it’s a top ten contender for me.

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Re: The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#427 Post by Dr Amicus » Sat Oct 10, 2020 1:15 pm

Count me in as another THX 1138 admirer. Back when I taught the SF class, the existing syllabus had Radford's adaptation of 1984 screening alongside the Dystopia / 1984 week. I changed this to THX 1138 and added Brave New World as a reading option as the film seemed to me to have elements of both and was less likely to be a known quantity for the students. Most went for 1984 for the reading option (I soon realised a LOT must have read it at A Level) but there were a few more adventurous students who went for the Huxley. Actually, I just got a copy of the Blu Ray recently and am aiming to rewatch soon - I've only seen the original cut before and am interested (if wary) as to how much Lucas has changed.

Barbarella (Vadim) - I didn't much like this 30 years ago and I can't say time has improved matters much, this is pretty tiresome with a few nice moments. It fits in more with the Euro spy-fi films of the period - such as Diabolik or Modestly Blaise - but is less interesting. The labyrinth sequence is nicely odd and unsettling and it really is all about the costumes and sets but that's about it. I seem to remember about 20 years ago there was talk of a remake with IIRC Drew Barrymore which obviously never saw the light of day.

Flash Gordon (Hodges) - This got a 40 year anniversary screening at a local cinema, so I took my 12 year old son and my mother-in-law to watch it. My son had never seen it before but enjoyed it (he also likes Queen) and the audience, over 100 I'd say, generally got into the spirit of things and clearly most had seen it before. Unlike Barbarella, another De Laurentiis production, this is actually a lot of fun - the cast is generally having a good time, including the maligned Sam Jones, and Brian Blessed perfected his shouty performance (although his signature line, "Gordon's Alive?", had gotten (much) louder in his (many) repeats of it over the years. The hoped for sequel never appeared unfortunately, but this remains as frankly batshit crazy as it ever was. Incidentally, Hodges was interviewed on a recent episode of Mark Kermode's podcast, Kermode on Film, and it's well worth a listen.

The Time Machine (Pal) Pal's second Wells adaptation and not bad, although I prefer the earlier War of the Worlds. The design, especially the titular machine, is quite something, although future earth does remind me of classic Star Trek. The first half is the superior, the use of the shop mannequin to show changing time(s) is justifiably famous, but the latter half has its moments. Somewhere along the line, Wells's satire about class has got mislaid somewhat - but the same could be said about the Pal's earlier adaptation which misses the point about imperialism. Anyway, this is probably as good an adaptation as we could realistically hope for - the later version, directed by Wells's great grandson, is less interesting.

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Re: The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#428 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Oct 10, 2020 2:22 pm

Dr Amicus wrote:
Sat Oct 10, 2020 1:15 pm
I've only seen the original cut before and am interested (if wary) as to how much Lucas has changed.
8-[

I was thinking that perhaps the weirdest thing about the 2003 director's cut of THX-1138 is that a lot of the extra features on the DVD edition revolve around justly celebrating Walter Murch's incredible sound design for that film (Murch also co-wrote the screenplay with Lucas, and of course the theatre sound system itself later got named after the film), where a lot of the impact of the sequences are heightened wonderfully by the score and effects (as well as the editing between them), which only makes the modern CGI additions feel like even more unnecessary, undermining, over literal doodling on top of an already perfectly functioning machine to emphasise things that were already being stated perfectly well beforehand!

On Barbarella I am afraid I only remember the opening title sequence with any clarity! Although I have to admit to preferring the Buck Rogers title sequence a bit more!

I think the demise of Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon is probably what caused my lifelong distrust of pointy objects! Although the Mike Hodges directed sci-fi film that really needs to be rescued at the moment is his 1974 adaptation of Michael Crichton's The Terminal Man. Well, that and Morons From Outer Space.

On George Pal I really like the The Time Machine and quite like War of the Worlds (does anyone else remember that they tried to make a TV series continuing the story from the 1950s War of the Worlds film in the late 80s? Though it ends up being closer in body snatching tone to Invaders From Mars or Robert Heinlein's The Puppet Masters than the Pal film, probably so that they can just show actors rather than lots of alien effects. It also has the kind of the equivalent relationship to the 1953 film as Return of the Living Dead has to the original Romero film) but the Pal-produced film that I really love is the ultimate disaster film When Worlds Collide which feels like it was the unacknowledged influence with its shadow looming over a lot of the most recent cycle of disaster films, from Armageddon and Deep Impact to The Day After Tomorrow and 2012! I would love a Criterion edition of that one some time!

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Re: The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#429 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Oct 11, 2020 10:54 am

Midnight Special (Nichols 2016). (1st viewing) This had promise, especially with the actors involved, and it definitely does start out with a tremendous bang. But about a third of the way in the film became a bit plodding for me, perhaps because I could easily predict the rest of the story, and because I didn’t feel we were successfully being made to care for the kid or the other people and their relationships. It goes for a sort of Close Encounters update (and a bit of E.T. too, i.e. the “e.t.” here also trying to “go home”) in more of a drama thriller mode, but doesn’t come remotely close in my book. Not bad by any means but it didn’t work enough for me.

@twbb: Sorry to rain on another one of your favorites and recommendations (which I much appreciate you putting out by the way, they’re definitely a part of the watch-list I’ve built up), especially when you relate having a spiritual experience with a film, which always makes me feel a little extra shitty. I have to say I liked
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the apparition of those giant structures at the end (the other dimension suddenly becoming visible), there was definitely something awe-inspiring about them and their designs.
Here again evidence that our tastes sometimes radically align, and sometimes radically… don’t. That’s part of the fun though.


Source Code (Jones 2011).
(1st viewing) A fun, captivating thriller, definitely better than the similar-trope-using Looper. Even if it’s a lot more consistent than the 2012 film, though, I felt with this film too that the second half wasn’t quite as solid. The film film adds a bit of existential depth when we learn more about Stevens’ actual circumstances, but at the cost of the sheer entertainment value; in fact I was getting frustrated myself with Stevens using those 8-minute loops to follow his own agendas rather than continue the mission! Overall the type of film I’d qualify as good but a just little below the line that marks a film for me as eminently-rewatchable and a should-own.


Image
Trollhunter (Øvredal 2010). (1st viewing) Found footage of budding documentarists following a mysterious, illegal bear hunter who actually turns out to be … yes, that’s right. It’s set up like a horror film but this has its tongue deeply in cheek throughout. I was taken aback by seeing the muppet-like head(s) of the first giant creature - however, of course, that’s not only being hypercritical but missing the point since these are trolls we’re talking about. I would have been intrigued to see this be a little more serious, but then that wouldn’t probably have worked. It makes the best out of a nifty idea and pretty successfully navigates the line between satirical, deadpan comedy and effective suspense, with some impressively fun, big-scale spectacle at times. Definitely worth a watch if you’re in the mood for something lighter.


Minority Report (Spielberg 2002). (revisit) Spielberg finally returned to the thriller format here, one he showed he had exceptional skill at starting with Jaws but rarely returned to afterwards, and the crime genre was a new foray for him at this point. I’ve seen it many times now and I’m always impressed at how consistent it is all the way through, exciting and suspenseful, visually appealing and going so many different places in its story. It’s extremely well-scripted and each section stands out in terms of originality and excellence of execution. The few clichés here and there (the macho rivalry between Cruise and Farrell’s characters early on, the small sentimental moments towards the end) are few and far between in a film that is frequently much darker than the director’s usual fare. The film pushes even further the stylish desaturated look of A.I. and in several instances creates a wonderfully inventive and fascinating future world reminiscent of the also Philip K. Dick-sourced Blade Runner.

The theme of a dystopian society preventing crime definitely mines a similar philosophical terrain to A Clockwork Orange, and even though the Dick novella came first Spielberg here definitely winks at the earlier film, obviously with the scene where Anderton gets his eyes clamped open for his operation, but also I could feel in a few of the scenes where Anderton’s former police buddies turn on him (especially the looks they give him the second time around). If Lamar Burgess wasn’t a name also used in the original novella, I would have though that was an homage too.


Ex Machina (Garland 2014).
(1st viewing) For a film that quickly impacted the cultural consciousness, I stayed pretty much unaware of what this was about apart from knowing it concerned A.I. In some ways this a retelling of the Frankenstein story, but the form is almost that of a psychological quasi-chamber drama(/thriller), which I wasn’t expecting. I liked it well enough, without being over the moon with it. Definitely a nice set-up to the narrative that eventually unfolds, Ava is a compellingly presented and acted character, and the film gets points for not locking in its different protagonists as heroes or villains ultimately.


Beyond the Black Rainbow
(Cosmatos 2010).
(1st viewing) bamwc2 wrote this up earlier. Really a trip movie, extremely slow and hypnotically paced, focusing on the dark side of the 60s psychedelic spiritual mindset. The director delights in hallucinatory Solaris/Kubrick visuals but to my mind there has to be some kind of interesting narrative, even slight, for that type of stuff to work - this bare story, with very little in the way characterization, about a psychopathic New Age research “doctor” holding a psychic girl captive, is no such thing. It was a great chore for me to get through. Mandy was fairly impressive and enjoyable, this was… neither.

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Re: The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#430 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Oct 11, 2020 1:26 pm

Nice write ups RV, Midnight Special’s “spiritual experience” is really sourced in a very personal response I had, complementing where I was at that year of my life in accepting my kind of atheism as sourced in fear of perspective’s limitations and an absence of trust. Through this metaphor that we literally cannot comprehend God or other life or whatever ‘reasons’ mankind demands access to, granted me a kind of permission to make peace with the innate lacking of the tools or skills to do so. I think the film does a good job at illustrating our constraints with a sense of humility, but it’s most definitively operating on the homaging level for its bulk and I don’t think you’re alone in feeling like the relationship dynamics weren’t strongly developed. Still, regardless of how much I felt included in their intimacy, the presentation of a father’s complicated love almost nullifies all the other elements in its potency, not overexplaining itself because it- like the sci-fi reveal- cannot be explained away and is a spiritual connection with its own enigmatic yet profound energy.

Personally I can’t stand Trollhunters or Beyond the Black Rainbow, and always felt like the odd man out in believing Ex Machina to be a fine but not great film- with unintended irony in
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how Vikander simply whispers something to the helicopter pilot, allowing herself to get away no questions asked- talk about deus ex machina!
I appreciate your love for Minority Report, one I always liked a lot as a kid, but the impressions of greatness were blocked by my irritation with Samantha Morton’s character, which I acknowledge is just a personal grievance but definitely made it challenging to view as a consistently structured film, and I’m still not sure it is. I’m looking forward to revisiting it soon to see if adult-me is able to let go of that sensitivity and access it on the level you can!

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Re: The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#431 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Oct 11, 2020 1:43 pm

Overall I found Trollhunter fun even though some elements are bad, like some of the creature designs, but like I said I was ultimately forgiving because it's basically a comedy.

A "fine but not great film" also very accurately labels my appreciation of Ex Machina.

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Re: The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#432 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Oct 11, 2020 5:31 pm

I watched Trollhunter many years ago after a bunch of friends, whose humor I generally trust, wouldn't stop pestering me to see it for months until I relented. It was recommended as a comedy though, so I knew what to expect, though my low opinion certainly isn't the norm amongst people I know

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Re: The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#433 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Oct 12, 2020 3:09 am

I’ve seen the first World of Tomorrow before but just caught up with the sequels, and my god, this 'series' speaks my language in so many respects I don’t even feel capable of describing why, but am still compelled to try. In the first film, there’s a dynamic fluctuation between the studious focus on the present, and the preoccupations with future and past that provide meaning too but also remove us from a state of mindfulness. The humor in how absurd differences in communication styles and unfamiliar ideas are to a foreigner (here exemplified by the ignorance in early developmental stages of life) is poignant, and there’s a stark- but not overwhelming- pathos in universal attempts of trying to forge meaning in a relationship with and against emotion, time, and memory, on a spectrum of friction and fluidity. In the second film, there’s a deeper juxtaposition between the young blissful optimism of youth and the inevitable pain that one accrues progressively with age and inherently traumatic life experience. And yet this ability to make meaning and compartmentalize memories informs one’s sense of self and grows exponentially larger, for better and worse. The hindsight about crushing the bug, for example, is a significant musing one can only have once they’ve encountered their fair share of afflictions, a necessary handicap to strengthen the muscles of empathy.

Hertzfeldt’s creativity in moving between the walls of these diverse philosophical outlooks and sentimental tones mimic the theme of whether our experiences can be authentic subjectively even if objectively there are complicated processes occurring outside of our comprehension. The function of “missing” someone, and appreciating the present only when it becomes the past, is a tragic and celebratory reality of the enigmatic, ineffable perspective of coping with loss, longing, living and dying in various forms through impermanent stages of life. This series hits on all emotions and contains a range of moods from random to gallows humor to witty social behavior gags to striking philosophical revelations that take time’s construct to inform our vapid mortality and limitless ability to pause in reflection.

This Oneness is best exemplified in the third chapter when the future Emily talks to David as a baby, an eastern framework for comprehending new avenues of connection. The journey that ensues is entirely motivated by this sense of yearning for connection and purpose, the kind of allure that by itself means everything. It doesn’t hurt that such an activation disrupts the tunnel-vision of an addictive tech-wormhole, with a literal ignition into being a participant in one’s life after a semiconscious stagnant residency in space. The gags in this latest film are perhaps Hertzfeldt's most inspired, especially in the visual computer ads, and the one-way ‘communication’ during the treacherous hike -with a deadpan tone from her that doesn’t match his emotional state- is great comedy independently from the intense themes in rumination. Plus the 2001 homages are infinitely more soul-stirring in their transcendence, and the actual Sci-Fi ideas are at their best in the latest installment. Hertzfeldt takes a supremely holistic outlook and skins it back to the intimacy of existing, holding the grander connective and micro isolative worldviews together, yet striving to also connect on a micro scale while fearing the isolative framing of the cosmic too. Only an artist this remarkable can make concerns so complexly daunting both intimidating and hilarious through oscillating perspectives seamlessly, with an imaginative execution that reinvents the possibilities of animation's spiritual power.

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Re: The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#434 Post by Roger Ryan » Tue Oct 13, 2020 3:10 pm

colinr0380 wrote:
Sat Oct 10, 2020 2:22 pm
... Although I have to admit to preferring the Buck Rogers title sequence a bit more!...
Ha! Thanks for letting me know this title sequence was on YouTube. I last saw this in a theater in the spring of 1979. Four months later, this low budget "theatrical feature" was revealed to just be the pilot episode for the TV series, minus this title sequence which was probably conceived of as a way to secure a PG rating and make the thing feel more "cinematic". This is similar to how a bloody psycho killer attack was added to the beginning of the intended-for-TV Nightmares (1983) which earned the anthology film an R rating even though the rest of the film was mild enough to be suitable for 8-year-olds.

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Re: The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#435 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Oct 14, 2020 10:48 pm

Minority Report is a film I saw in theatres and countless times on home video as a kid, but not for many years. Even though I remembered the details well, it's amazing how revisiting it in the context of increased familiarity certain subgenres grows appreciation for the whole picture. As RV mentions, this is taking a page from some of the sci-fi classics, but it's most obviously adopting the 'wrong man' narratives, having just as much fun enveloped in wild, inspired setpieces as it does posturing at the central mystery. The first half goes for broke a la North By Northwest with nonstop explosive action scenes (like the early jetpack piece, which is still the film's best scene) bleeding into each other. These have always been thrilling, but the rest plays out in a rhythm that mirrors Cruise's powerless confrontation with his psyche in a physical world of decay, as he can no longer hide from his trauma in predictable structure. The depiction of his loss colors our empathy for the character beyond the obvious feelies, since it contributes to our comprehension of his resilience applied to past, less clear forms of self-preservation. It may be strange for some to frame his drug use as part of that 'self-preservation,' but I love how Spielberg refuses to paint the addiction elements as a weakness but as a coping mechanism for an ultrasensitive yet strong person suffering from unbearable pain. The approach the people closest to him take in assessing his character is unfortunately a rarity in not defaulting to stigma, and naturally bestowing Spielberg's warmth instead.

Philosophically this is right up my alley, not only in the dilemma of assigning responsibility to an absence of action, but in the Spielberg humanist question posed in A.I. that wonders how we can de-humanize others for convenience through rationalism. Through robbing the pre-cogs of agency for the sake of 'objective' utilitarianism, systems are ignoring humanity in the process of assigning logical value to emotional beings. Even if I still don't love the last act, I respect Spielberg's commitment to his typical movement from busy ideas towards simple acts of compassion, which are dogmatic professions of godlike meaning that humans can actualize, with Cruise's support and transformation from selfish to selfless motives serving as a symbol for making peace with his past to move forward with grace.

I did appreciate some of the later sections RV mentions for their brilliance, especially the use of Morton for 'hiding' in plain sight- a kind of inverted chase scene where if an omniscient being is your weapon, you don't really have to escape with flashy force! The futuristic predictions of capitalism's infiltration on us in step with mass surveillance is uncanny when it comes to advertising and exploiting our progressively increasing needs for tending to fantasy. It's a very intelligent film that, unlike A.I., doesn't excel into fascinating terrain when it breaks consistency in its later acts- but with this much going for it, it's definitely a list-worthy contender that anyone who happened to miss this one should remedy.

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Re: The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#436 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Oct 15, 2020 1:38 pm

How do you feel about that theory that everything from the point at which Cruise is arrested, sentenced and put into the prison is potentially just a branch off into a Brazil-like pure wish fulfillment fantasy where he solves the mystery, brings the bad guy to justice, rights a long festering historical wrong and saves the day?

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Re: The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#437 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Oct 15, 2020 2:26 pm

As someone who really likes the way that's done in Brazil, I don't think it works here because
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we as an audience are granted an omniscient gaze beyond Cruise's experience to the scene where Max von Syndow murders Farrell, revealing to us that he's the killer. Cruise knows something is up but seems to figure it out later with the help of his wife (who is the one who really figures it out) and that theory would work much better if the evidence for the audience, as surrogates of the character, was gathered after Cruise went to prison, thus remaining consistent and giving us a sense of objectivity-as-subjectivity through his wish fulfillment, instead of both objective truth in the murderer's identity, and then... subjective wish fulfillment as a different kind of objective truth that validates what we know already to be true. I like the energy behind the concept, but the information would need to have been delivered differently for me to come aboard, since it would be rather pointless given how Spielberg's been involving us structurally.

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Re: The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#438 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Oct 15, 2020 5:07 pm

I'm afraid I forget the details, but I do remember that when I watched Minority Report I felt it was a pretty poor adaptation of Dick's story.

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Re: The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#439 Post by Mr Sausage » Thu Oct 15, 2020 9:19 pm

By and large with Dick adaptations the purely Dick aspects, ie. the ontological questioning, is beside the point. Is Dekard a replicant? Is Schwarzenegger actually experiencing the fantasy he paid for in the first place? Has Tom Cruise retreated from reality? Who cares? It makes not a jot of difference. If anything, it would make the latter two movies pointless in an 'it was all a dream' way.

Part of the problem is that the filmmakers who tend to make Dick adaptations are people devoted to coherence. They're not people who see cracks in reality, so they tend to create visual and/or narrative structures that are persuasive, continuous, and viscerally present. They prefer to imagine how worlds exist rather than how they don't. So you tend to get rather solid and internally cohesive films. Compare to filmmakers like Cronenberg, Lynch, and even Christopher Nolan, who not only favour discontinuity and destability, but like to mine them for intense emotional effects. The slippages are not merely tricks or nods, they're the crux.

I don't meant this as a criticism. I adore Blade Runner and enjoyed Total Recall and Minority Report. But their Dickian stuff is a wink to the audience and nothing more.

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Re: The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#440 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Oct 15, 2020 10:02 pm

On the other hand, I thought Scanner Darkly mostly got things right (and that being my favorite PKD book, I was particularly picky when watching and re-watching this).

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Re: The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#441 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Oct 15, 2020 10:04 pm

To Sausage's point that film is all about "discontinuity and destability" and it fits like a glove with Linklater's approach to the material's depersonalization

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Re: The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#442 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Oct 16, 2020 1:19 am

I thought I would also mention the other Philip K. Dick adaptation that came out the year before Minority Report, Impostor, in which the main character is suddenly arrested on suspicion of being a sleeper agent for an alien enemy. They suspect that before the events of the film he was kidnapped, killed and replaced with a cyborg implanted with his original memories and a nuclear explosive, which would give him the ability to obliviously wander into a situation as an innocent and then blow himself up. Of course our hero escapes and goes on the run, desperately trying to prove that he is real, even getting his wife on his side to vouch for him, though she herself has some suspicions.

Which is an interesting twist on the Body Snatchers idea, but also a very characteristic Philip K. Dick theme involving paranoia about identity and the sense of self put to extreme test by the world rejecting your identity as invalid, and the eventual sense that 'even if I am something or someone different than I began as, does it really matter anyway if I have had experiences that I never could have had in my old life?'
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Even if it ends in a much bleaker 'carrying out a terrorist bombing or driven to suicide by his pursuers?' way than Total Recall or Minority Report (at least if you discount alternate theories about both that they are open enough to accommodate the idea of the main characters going off into pure fantasy worlds at a certain point). Especially for the somewhat tragic idea that the 'Imposters' are so real that they can fool even themselves regarding their identity!

As with Rachael in Blade Runner, I suppose perhaps it might be better to never have become self aware as to the nature of your existence because it only leads to the collapse of your external life and a host of scarily unresolveable existential questions regarding your new identity and role in the world after the old one has been swept aside as 'fake'. Even if it does also provide the brief potential of another way of being, how is that not just a manufactured delusion in itself? Or is it that every way of life is a collective delusion to a certain extent and it all comes down to whether we are supported or vilified by outside forces for our way of existing in the society?

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Re: The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#443 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Oct 18, 2020 12:52 am

So, much to my surprise, it appears that Halloween III: Season of the Witch qualifies for this project. I thought I had seen the whole franchise but I either skipped this one or was too young to appreciate its fun departures, self-reflexivity, and unpredictability in narrative direction. It's an incredibly engaging experience that succeeds because of its messy, scattered ideas coming in from all angles. The film gets a lot of rope for throwing every creative regurgitation from the writer's room at the wall to see what sticks, and the self-conscious audacity provides enough grease to rig the game. This is way better than it has any right to be.

The genre twist also dilutes the original horror label into its naked psychological roots
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by swapping the dehumanized killer for body-snatchers, since they function completely the same and it becomes bluntly clear that these Michael Myers-type monsters are really just scary because they're aliens in human form. I guess all it takes is literal aliens-in-human-form doing the same cold murders to reveal that simplified horror device as plainly as possible.

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Re: The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#444 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Oct 18, 2020 1:08 am

Funny, I planned to revisit this on Halloween week. I also just recently noticed that it's categorized as sci-fi horror; I've seen it before but it's been too long for me to remember properly (I do remember it was the first 13+ film I was old enough to see in the theater!). Looking forward to it.

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Re: The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#445 Post by domino harvey » Sun Oct 18, 2020 2:06 am

Good movie, but I used to like it more than most people here, now it feels like most people here like it more than me!

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Re: The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#446 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Oct 18, 2020 6:01 am

I used to really hate Halloween III: Season of the Witch until I belatedly realised that it is the horror version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! The great Nigel Kneale was (at least the initial) writer for it and while I probably will not be voting for Halloween III for this project, I would recommend checking out Kneale's other work, particularly the Quatermass films and Quatermass And The Pit.

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Re: The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#447 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Oct 18, 2020 10:17 am

This is liable to change because, beyond the six other write-ups I'll post within a few hours, I've still got 116 (!) films scheduled to view, but right at this moment all three Quatermass films are on my list.

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Re: The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#448 Post by mfunk9786 » Sun Oct 18, 2020 12:02 pm

colinr0380 wrote:
Sun Oct 18, 2020 6:01 am
I used to really hate Halloween III: Season of the Witch until I belatedly realised that it is the horror version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! The great Nigel Kneale was (at least the initial) writer for it and while I probably will not be voting for Halloween III for this project, I would recommend checking out Kneale's other work, particularly the Quatermass films and Quatermass And The Pit.
This is a great description re: the Dahl, I don't have much to really say about it aside from the fact that it feels like RL Stine did a loose adaptation of The Parallax View with Bottle Rocket-era Wes Anderson directing. Good vibes all over. Saw it for the first time the other night (warning: skip Amazon Prime and/or Cinemax as they have the wrong aspect ratio!) - it is a rare five-star horror film for me, and one of the even rarer times that a movie beloved by VHS-collecting horror movie junkies is actually as good as, if not better than, advertised.

It's also very much a sci-fi film, as it shares more in common with A Wrinkle in Time or the aforementioned Stine's The Haunted Mask than it does Halloween.

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Rayon Vert
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Re: The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#449 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Oct 18, 2020 12:28 pm

Super 8 (Abrams 2011). (1st viewing)
therewillbeblus wrote:
Mon Aug 03, 2020 11:58 am
Super 8: The best Spielberg film, not made by Spielberg, for the next generation. When I first saw this film in theatres, I had the same feeling that more modern audiences likely had when they watched Stranger Things (which I believe would never have been made if it weren’t for this film that directly answers the question that, yes, the right artist can retain the magic of Spielberg’s tuned style). Painstakingly funny (to this day, I can barely keep a straight face when someone raves about production design, because all I hear is Riley Griffiths screaming about “production value!”), persistently thrilling, and imbuing a long lost sense of childhood camaraderie, this really is the ideal reincarnation of 80s childhood fantasy magic.
I’ll second most of what TW says here. I knew this was supposed to be Spielbergian but I was impressed with the degree to which it was not only so completely him, at least in his late 70s-to-80s style, but also so successfully. (It’s also surprisingly effective in the way it mashes-up pretty seamlessly the early Spielberg feelgood ET/Close Encounters vibes and the later War of the Worlds awe-and-terror onslaught.) If I saw this at the same age I saw E.T. and that kind of film, I can only imagine how thrilled I would have been. In the end this will be a bit too much in that kid-centric “80s magic”, every-button-pushed-and-everything-turns-out-perfect-in the-end style for me to probably make my list, but I’d still qualify this as a fine movie (and one I’d rank higher than other perfectly fine films that I’ve just seen like Ex Machina and Source Code). It’s smartly written and directed and entertaining all the way through. I also laughed out loud at different points (“drugs are so bad!”), and the kids were wonderful, sympathetic actors. I was so involved in the budding friendship/romance between the young leads at some point that I stopped caring about the mystery danger plot. I also liked how the way the
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alien creature was depicted as neither good or bad, which offhand I can’t think of being the case in another movie.
Good stuff.


Perfect Sense (Mackenzie 2011). (1st viewing) Added this to my viewing list after bottled spider’s write-up earlier in the thread. Virus pandemic films no longer feel quite as sci-fi as they used to, this one even eerily starting with people losing their sense of smell. The rest of it though is oddly comforting in the way it makes covid seem harmless by comparison! The film focuses on a forming couple’s experience of the outbreak and the virus. Mixed results for me: once the pattern of what occurs is established, the film becomes a little predictable, but on the other hand I liked the way the film didn’t hold back in the intensity towards the end. Similarly, there were moments near the end that were threatening to be existentially moving (I can easily imagine the movie working on this level for a lot of people), but there were other times when the virus’ consequences seemed so far-fetched as to verge on the silly. I could also have done without the heavy melancholy that drapes the whole film right from the start though. But definitely worth a watch.


These Final Hours
(Hilditch 2013).
(1st viewing) Earth is getting incinerated after an asteroid has struck and there’s only hours left before the flames reach Australia. This is pretty much Seeking a Friend for the End of the World played straight, but with extra violence and sex. Lots of elements shared here, like scenes involving a run-in with people having built a useless bunker, and a strangely similar ending. Also, in the 2012 film Dodge spends his last hours trying to reunite Penny with her parents, here the main character, a guy initially bent on obliterating himself with substances and orgy sex so as not to feel the cataclysm, gets his trajectory changed when he rescues a kidnapped young girl about to be raped (a dim view of humanity here - or is it western Australians? - trying to commit the worst atrocities as a way to while away their last hours) and reunite her in time with her father. I appreciated the humanism of that main storyline, especially in contrast to the ugly behavior of a lot of the people depicted on screen here. However the ending completely screws that up…
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So with less than an hour to go before the firestorm arrives on the shores, the girl, who’s about 10 years old or so, is reunited with her father, who is discovered having suicided himself like a lot of people do here, and not only is she OK with staying with her dead father for the live incineration and telling the dude who saved her he should go back to his girlfriend he left behind and spend his last minutes with her, but that’s what this guy does! And that’s supposed to be the noble thing where he fixes his wrongs. Pretty screwed up and just emotionally wrong.
This wasn’t a great film up to then, but still OK - however that ending really sunk it for me.


Star Wars (Lucas 1977). (revisit) It’s not really possible but I still tried to watch this with fresh eyes, as if I was seeing it for the first time and trying to put as much as possible out my mind everything that followed with the franchise. The technical aspects were definitely (no pun intended) out of this world for the time, adding the most impressive dimension to what was already memorable in the creativity involved in the creation of these characters, including the personalities of the droids, and everything else that makes up this world-making. But equally important are Williams’ remarkable musical themes here, a series of leitmotifs that are a large part of what creates the emotion and or course of what puts the opera in this space opera. Having said all that, at this point I only still really get a sense of admiration and enjoyment in the early sections where the story is being set up on the Tatooine planet, where Lucas’ idea to shoot in real locations made for quite beautiful and stirring images, and then the action thrills involved in the ending squadron attacks on the Death Star. I find the huge middle chunk of this film, pretty much from the cantina sequence through all of the chasing and shoot-‘em-up action that happens in the Death Star, to lose the slower pace and mysterious spirit of that beginning and get too mired in an overly juvenile, Flash Gordon-y, action-heavy adventure mode that drains my interest. Even if the script is rooted in underlying, resonant mythical narratives, most of this ends up feeling like stuff for kids only.


Her (Jonze 2013). (1st viewing) This was definitely the intelligent film I was expecting, and it was engrossing watching where it would lead, with different possibilities I could imagine, one of them being a threatening/dangerous one à la Ex Machina without a body (although you could still argue there’s a parallel with what ends up happening between Samantha and Theodore at the end). In the identification with Theodore, I clearly didn’t have the same unhesitatingly enthusiastic reaction he had to discovering his OS had a personality - I was more like “this thing has emotional reactions and needs?! That’s definitely gonna screw up the master-slave relationship I'm expecting with this tool!” Actually some of this film, especially when we get to the scene where a physical surrogate is employed to attempt to manifest the physical component of the relationship, brought to mind some of the same mind-twisting quandaries and issues that were brought up in purely comedic fashion in Reiner’s The Man with Two Brains.

As smart as this film was, though, I didn’t completely get on board with it and get to feel Theodore’s attachment and anguish. I don’t know if that says something about me or the script or other elements in the film. I know that as soon as Amy Adams shows up, she was immediately more interesting to me than Samantha and I was wondering why Theodore wasn’t choosing to go to her instead. And around three quarters into it, when things start getting complicated with the AI relationship, I just totally disengaged and couldn’t stay with Theo’s journey.

I also don’t know if this plays into it but I thought the idea of employing an easily recognizable actress like Scarlet Johansson hurt the movie, in the sense that through her voice the viewer already has an image in mind of her both as a physical person and as a “personality” and it creates a phantom in the film that perhaps ideally shouldn’t be there. I’d be curious to know the effect of having an unknown play that role. (And also hearing what the original version with Morton was like).

Still a very smart film, though, and an interesting ride, and I recognize there may be something very idiosyncratic in my response, and I’m sure plenty of people stay more deeply emotionally engaged with the story than I did.


Arrival (Villeneuve 2016). (revisit) I’m glad I watched this again, as my first viewing was in a social situation that prevented me from catching every plot nuance and making complete sense of the film. I don’t feel inspired to say too much here. It’s a beautiful film on different levels, and I didn’t experience any problems such as were discussed in the last posts of the movie’s dedicated thread. My own question to myself left unresolved was that thematically and visually it’s up my alley, but in the end I’m not more in love with it than I feel I should be. Still making my list, though, at least for the time being.

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Re: The Sci-Fi List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#450 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Oct 18, 2020 1:38 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:
Sun Oct 18, 2020 12:02 pm
I don't have much to really say about it aside from the fact that it feels like RL Stine did a loose adaptation of The Parallax View with Bottle Rocket-era Wes Anderson directing.
Spot on description, probably all there really needs to be said to sell its beguiling pleasures!
Rayon Vert wrote:
Sun Oct 18, 2020 12:28 pm
Her (Jonze 2013).
As smart as this film was, though, I didn’t completely get on board with it and get to feel Theodore’s attachment and anguish. I don’t know if that says something about me or the script or other elements in the film. I know that as soon as Amy Adams shows up, she was immediately more interesting to me than Samantha and I was wondering why Theodore wasn’t choosing to go to her instead. And around three quarters into it, when things start getting complicated with the AI relationship, I just totally disengaged and couldn’t stay with Theo’s journey.
I may have more to say about this once I revisit, but Phoenix's character is one of the best examples of an emotionally-driven person rather than a logically-driven one. The human need for connection is broadened as an idea so as to be inclusive of all forms of sentient beings, but it's also specific to the trauma of heartbreak and other negative core beliefs impacting our ability to take action. This is an oversimplification of his internal processes, but he doesn't "choose" Adams because something within him says she isn't safe. This is a man who has experienced interpersonal romance and come out the other side broken, and even if Adams was absolutely transparent about her feelings and commitment to him, there is still that painful worldview Phoenix has that he is unlovable and incapable of having a successful relationship, and objective rationale isn't going to persuade those deep-rooted internal parts. I think Her is perhaps the most psychologically accurate film about this kind of internal-systems logic, at least for people who have that self-conscious concept of themselves and weigh the ramifications of the hurt against the potential for joy in a subconscious emotional risk management, only to choose avoidance for protection. I think I relate a bit too much to this character in some respects!

As much as I love this film, which is Top 10 material, this SNL spoof of the trailer is one of the funniest fake-trailers ever, and takes some fair shots at the film!

Arrival packs such an emotional punch for me, and the idea of choosing life with the pain and joy together is both a devastating and celebrating form of acceptance. I also think the way language is recontextualized to embody nonlinear communications fits with the concept of memory as its own kind of 'nonlinear communication' we have with ourselves (or our internal parts have with each other), and this is another one of those kind of 'God/forces beyond our perceptions can/do exist because of the nature of our limitations to accessing all there is' spiritual experience that Midnight Special ignited a bit more concretely, as a levitating push away from atheism towards agnostic spirituality. [I also revisited the Nichols film, which I liked significantly less this time, even if I still appreciate its homaging and ethereal aspirations. Arrival is probably a better example of that impact.]

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