How do you see the state of SF on TV and in Movies?

jayembee

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Mar 29, 2020
Messages
154
Reaction score
111
Points
110
Age
66
Real Name
Jerry
At the risk of getting hammered, I’ll go even further with E.T.- in my opinion, it’s the most overrated film I’ve ever seen. I saw it twice- when it was still new in the theaters (I was 19 at the time, and uneducated in film)- I didn’t like it. I gave it another chance about 10 years ago, being a more educated film fan with a wider
scope of tastes, and my opinion changed not
in the slightest.
I saw it on its opening day. Got completely suckered into it. A week later, an out-of-town friend was visiting, and she hadn't seen it, so I dragged her to the theater. By the end of the film, I couldn't for the life of me figure out why I had been so enamored of it the first time. Nor could I quite put my finger on just what I thought was wrong with it.

A half-year later, I saw Airplane II. There's a scene where a boy and his family arrive at the space shuttle gate. The boy is excited and tells the security guard about how he's especially excited because he's taking his dog Scraps to the moon! The guard frowns, and says in a concerned voice, "I'm sorry, but they don't allow dogs on the moon. I'll have to shoot him here." He pulls out a gun, fires it, and the dog falls over on the floor. The kid is distraught, the parents horrified. Then the guard laughes and says, "I'm only kidding; just blanks!" Scraps bounces to his feet, and the boy and parents heave a sigh of relief, and they all have a laugh.

And I said to myself, "That's what was wrong with E.T.! Spielberg killed the title character, and after wringing every tear out of his audience, said, "Only kidding; just blanks!"

I slowly lost interest in Spielberg's work after that. He's just too manipulative. I feel odd saying that, because all art is manipulative. Inherently so. But Spielberg isn't subtle about it. As I put it to a friend later on, when I see a film from a director like, say, Kubrick, I see Oz The Great And Powerful. When I see a film from Spielberg, I see a man behind a curtain throwing switches and barking into a microphone. And sorry to say, given that many people hear seem to like Minority Report, I didn't. I hadn't bothered with it until FOX started their failed TV series based on it, and found it just barely watchable. On the SF end of things, I also thought his War of the Worlds was a yawner.

I still like Jaws, and maintain a fondness for the Indiana Jones movies (even, much to my surprise, Crystal Skull), but otherwise, I can't think of a single film of his I liked unreservedly.
 

jayembee

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Mar 29, 2020
Messages
154
Reaction score
111
Points
110
Age
66
Real Name
Jerry
La Jetee is incredible. I don’t know if I’d say that 12 Monkeys is a remake. I’d probably say more that La Jetee is a seed and 12 Monkeys is the tree that grew. Sorta like how “2001” is inspired by the Arthur Clarke short story “The Sentinel” but is a much larger story in its own right.

There are very few short films that I’d want to spend $20 on and that was one of them.
12 Monkeys is another well-regarded film that I didn't like. Personally, I love La Jetée, and feel that Marker was able to accomplish in 30 minutes what it took Gilliam 2 hours to do. Marker's film was, to my mind, highly imaginative in how he presented his story. It was sui generis. Gilliam's film seems bloated to me. I was also driven to distraction by Brad Pitt, who seemed to me to be channeling Dennis Hopper's performance in Apocalypse, Now. On the other hand, I did like the relatively recent TV series.
 

jayembee

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Mar 29, 2020
Messages
154
Reaction score
111
Points
110
Age
66
Real Name
Jerry
I love “2001: A Space Odyssey” more than any other movie and have spent a significant portion of my life studying all aspects of it. And yet, I’d never dream of calling someone stupid for not liking it, or for preferring “2010”. And I’d much rather hang out with people who are similarly “live and let live”.
2001: A Space Odyssey was what I call my transcendental movie experience. I saw it during its first run in Boston (on a three-panel curved screen at the Cinerama Theater) at the tender age of 14½. I couldn't figure out what the hell happened at the end, but I was mesmerized by it and couldn't stop thinking about it. Two weeks later, I went to see it again, and loved it even more. It didn't take me long to figure it out after that.

But what it did for me is make me realize that movies could be "art". Up to that point, movies to me were just a way to tell a story with pictures. Like TV, but on a big screen. But though I didn't realize it at the time, it gave me my first lesson in "cinematic language". My whole approach to film appreciation changed.

I also love 2010. The secret is to tell yourself that Hyams isn't trying to make a Kubrick movie; he's just making a Hyams movie (oddly enough, I haven't found any other Hyams film to be worth the time it takes to watch). It's not 2001, but a perfectly good movie in its own right. To quote Chiun from the Remo Williams novels, "You can't make diamonds out of river mud, but you can make an acceptable brick."
 

jayembee

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Mar 29, 2020
Messages
154
Reaction score
111
Points
110
Age
66
Real Name
Jerry
I don’t think it’s a lack of understanding issue; it’s an issue of drama. Watching any movie or TV show in an area that you’re well-versed in can be frustrating if you’re expecting an accurate portrayal of what’s going on. Writers by necessity will oversimplify or change how something works in order to make a dramatically interesting story that holds the audience’s attention. The goal isn’t 100% accuracy or realism; the goal is to create something that seems plausible in the context of the show that an audience member can accept and follow.
It's referred to as "artistic license" or "dramatic license".
 

jayembee

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Mar 29, 2020
Messages
154
Reaction score
111
Points
110
Age
66
Real Name
Jerry
Gravity is actually a pretty great movie and very impressive technically, it’s just not remotely scientifically accurate. They decided to construct a story first and then figure out the science second, instead of starting with “our story takes place in space, so how would a real space agency try to recovery their astronauts in a catastrophe”.
Actually, I've heard a number of, well, rocket scientists, actually praise Gravity in being surprisingly reasonable science. There are definitely issues regarding orbital mechanics in the film, but, again, "dramatic license".

Among some of the things that Neil DeGrasse Tyson picked on was why the movie's space debris orbited from East to West. Well, back in 1970, in the first edition of his novel Ringworld, Larry Niven had the protagonist using transporters to travel around the world, so he could enjoy New Years celebrations in every time zone. The problem was that he was going in the opposite direction necessary to do that. Niven got a lot of grief for that, and had to correct it for the second printing.
 

jayembee

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Mar 29, 2020
Messages
154
Reaction score
111
Points
110
Age
66
Real Name
Jerry
OK...I got through all of the previous posts...well, rushed through them...and posted some specific comments to what others have said. To respond to the conceit of the thread...

I think a lot of it depends on what you as an individual wants to get out of science fiction. What does that term mean for you? I recall a discussion with some friends back in 1972 about nominations for the Hugo Awards. When got around to Best Dramatic Presentation, someone said that there were two ways of looking at it. She said if the award was for the movie that was the best science fiction, she'd choose THX 1138. If it was for the best movie that could be categorized as science fiction, she'd pick A Clockwork Orange. Me, I'd go with the latter way of looking at it, but I can understand if someone wants to go with the former.

Get a bunch of fans of "visual" SF together and it's inevitable that they'll get around to discussion/debates/arguments about what the "best" SF TV series is. Most of the time it's the Usual Suspects: Twilight Zone or Star Trek. More recently, there are those who will offer the Battlestar Galactica reboot, or The Expanse. But for the last 30 years, my answer has always been the same: Max Headroom. Why? Because I've always felt that when science fiction is at its best, it's about introducing a new technological/scientific idea or experience and seeing how it affects the (to use a perhaps over-used expression) "human condition".

And Max Headroom does exactly that. It assumes an advance in Information Technology, and each episode deals with how that advance affects society. In one episode, it deals with the effect on commerce. In another, sports. In another, education. In another, politics. In another, the law. And does all of those with a sharp wit. And if you think about how IT has become so integrated into our society...well, it's just like what we saw in the show. Especially the integration of computer networking and television.

But that doesn't mean that there's no room for other series that may be just as aspirational, but in a different direction. One of the things that connect some of my favorite "space opera" shows -- Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica (reboot), Farscape, Firefly, The Expanse, and even some at the fantasy/horror end, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- is that they are about characters who strive to do the Right Thing because it's the right thing, and regardless of the personal consequences, because they know it needs to be done and they are in the right place and the right time to do it.

As far as whether it's better or worse than what was around in decades past...I dunno...I'd say that it's about the same, on average. There were some excellent movies/shows back in the day, and there have been some awful ones (for every Star Trek there was an It's About Time). Likewise, there have been some excellent ones in the last 20 years, and some awful ones.

It's tempting to present a big list of what I think is good or bad in today's SF films or series, but I'm going to point out just one SF movie that I think highly of, and one TV show, both of which are little known. But I'll introduce that by mentioning what I think of as one of the best SF films of all time: Metropolis.

A month or so ago, I attended a dinner-and-discussion about science fiction, and one of the panelists suggested that, by and large, SF isn't really that good at prediction. That's debatable, but I pointed out that one instance in which it's spot-on is Lang's film. It's on the final stretch to being a century old, and yet it speaks to us today about, among other things, our current issues of wealthy inequality and the dissolution of the middle class.

Anyway, a relatively obscure film that does something similar is Bertrand Tavernier's La mort en direct (Death Watch). It's based on a novel by D.G. Compton titled The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe (a.k.a. The Unsleeping Eye). It's set in a near future where death by disease is rare. So much so that the most popular TV show is "Death Watch", where the producers contract with a terminally ill person to allow someone to follow them around as they go through the process of dying. The movie was made in 1979, the book written in 1972. And it "predicts" our culture's obsession with the most egregious forms of "reality TV".

(It's also got a killer cast: Harvey Keitel, Romy Schneider, Max Von Sydow, Harry Dean Stanton, and in an early role, Robbie Coltrane.)

The obscure TV show is a Canadian/South African coproduction titled Charlie Jade. It's set in a multiverse of at least three universes. What's called Betaverse is basically us. Alphaverse is about 50 years ahead of us technologically, and the world is, as in Rollerball, is run by corporations instead of governments. Gammaverse represents what the world would be like if the Industrial Revolution was "green". The title character is a private detective in Alphaverse who while investigating a case gets shunted to Betaverse, and he ends up investigating a conspiracy that could have drastic consequences for all three universes. One of the characteristics that I love about it is that it's like The Wire in that Attention Must Be Paid. You really have to watch it to keep track of what's going on. It's not something that can be glanced at while you're paying bills.
 
Last edited:

TJPC

Producer
Joined
Jul 15, 2016
Messages
3,738
Reaction score
3,238
Points
4,110
Age
68
Location
Hamilton Ontario
Real Name
Terry Carroll
2001: A Space Odyssey was what I call my transcendental movie experience. I saw it during its first run in Boston (on a three-panel curved screen at the Cinerama Theater) at the tender age of 14½. I couldn't figure out what the hell happened at the end, but I was mesmerized by it and couldn't stop thinking about it. Two weeks later, I went to see it again, and loved it even more. It didn't take me long to figure it out after that.

But what it did for me is make me realize that movies could be "art". Up to that point, movies to me were just a way to tell a story with pictures. Like TV, but on a big screen. But though I didn't realize it at the time, it gave me my first lesson in "cinematic language". My whole approach to film appreciation changed.

I also love 2010. The secret is to tell yourself that Hyams isn't trying to make a Kubrick movie; he's just making a Hyams movie (oddly enough, I haven't found any other Hyams film to be worth the time it takes to watch). It's not 2001, but a perfectly good movie in its own right. To quote Chiun from the Remo Williams novels, "You can't make diamonds out of river mud, but you can make an acceptable brick."
I saw it at the Cinerama theatre in Detroit, but to my knowledge it was never shown in a 3 panel format. By the way, as I have said before, and although I appreciate it now, we found the films ending intensely irritating in the extreme. It was shown in the premium theatre and very expensive and we were angry at the waste of money on this incomprehensible film. I did not understand it until I read the original source novel.

I was impressed by the music however and wore out a couple of copies. It started my love of both classical music and sound tracks.
 

jayembee

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Mar 29, 2020
Messages
154
Reaction score
111
Points
110
Age
66
Real Name
Jerry
I saw it at the Cinerama theatre in Detroit, but to my knowledge it was never shown in a 3 panel format. By the way, as I have said before, and although I appreciate it now, we found the films ending intensely irritating in the extreme. It was shown in the premium theatre and very expensive and we were angry at the waste of money on this incomprehensible film. I did not understand it until I read the original source novel.
No, it was never shown in the 3-strip Cinerama format. But Boston's Cinerama Theater did have such a screen, and the film was projected onto it.

The ticket price when I saw it back then was the astronomical (pun intended) amount of $2.00!

Makes me think about the oil embargo in 1973 causing long lines and higher prices at gas stations. One time, as I was looking for a station without a long line, I noticed the price on the pump at one station, and said to myself, "I'll be damned if I'm going to pay 60¢ for a gallon of gasoline!"
 

TJPC

Producer
Joined
Jul 15, 2016
Messages
3,738
Reaction score
3,238
Points
4,110
Age
68
Location
Hamilton Ontario
Real Name
Terry Carroll
No, it was never shown in the 3-strip Cinerama format. But Boston's Cinerama Theater did have such a screen, and the film was projected onto it.

The ticket price when I saw it back then was the astronomical (pun intended) amount of $2.00!

Makes me think about the oil embargo in 1973 causing long lines and higher prices at gas stations. One time, as I was looking for a station without a long line, I noticed the price on the pump at one station, and said to myself, "I'll be damned if I'm going to pay 60¢ for a gallon of gasoline!"
On the way out of the theatre, my best friend and I sang “$2.50 down the drain do do do do” to the Blue Danube exit music.
 
  • Like
Reactions: jayembee

Forum Sponsors

Forum statistics

Threads
343,737
Messages
4,688,547
Members
141,025
Latest member
Stew1911