Welcome to week two of this year’s Liststravaganza. If you’re confused about what the hell’s going on, go here and catch up.
Feel better? Ready? Ok, onward and upward:
Logan’s Run – 1976, Michael Anderson
This is honestly not that great a film. The acting is horrible, the effects are disco-tastic, and the sets and costumes are stunning in their cheesiness. Stunning. However, what I like about it is the depiction of a seemingly utopian society being found out and exposed as a functional dystopia, a machine that eats its youth and runs on brainwashing and misinformation. And what’s even better is that there’s no puppeteer, no overlord. The masses have so fully bought the propaganda that now they’re the ones running the system that’s lying to and killing them. As a card-carrying conspiracy theorist, I find this societal unraveling deeply satisfying. This movie also shows us that good scifi can look like shit but still be worth watching. Sometimes.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers – 1956, Don Siegel
I like both versions of this one, but here I’m going to go with the original. While making this list it occurred to me that I don’t have many really old-school movies in my repertoire. Most of the old movies I like are horror films, and most of the old scifi I like aren’t movies at all, but things like The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. It’s a weird gap in my love of pop culture, admittedly. This one stands out, though, as one of the few oldies that I didn’t find completely boring and kitschy. Probably because it plays on a deep-set psychological fear we all have of our identities (and those of the people we love and trust) changed or taken away, and being powerless to fix it. That’s some lizard brain shit. Scary. Interestingly, it’s also one of the few films that has some of the same actors in the original and in the remake. I’m not sure why, but that makes me really happy.
Back to the Future Trilogy – 1985-90, Robert Zemeckis
Yes, I am aware that I’m cheating by using a trilogy. So sneaky and underhanded. But this one (unlike the others that I mentioned before – I’m looking at you, Matrix) is good all the way through, if you ignore that whole Huey Lewis situation. They really hold up. Plus I needed something with time travel. It is absolutely necessary to the genre. Marty McFly has become the go-to reference point for both time travel paradoxes and Michael J. Fox’s career. As with any trilogy, the second one is the worst, but I give them bonus points for being self-deprecating about how the future will see their time period. Which is playing out right now in a weird way, isn’t it? Neon stripes and side ponytails were not that awesome the first time around, kids. Also, the cameo by Flea is great. Why does he always play the creepy guy? And does anyone else think it’s a little insensitive that his character’s name is “Needles,” given his particular place in heroin-related rock and roll history? Is that just me? It’s probably just me. Either way, it’s the future now and I want my damn hoverboard.
Ghostbusters – 1984, Ivan Reitman
This one seemed too obvious to put on the list. It was a very close tie between Ghostbusters and Close Encounters, but when it came down to time to choose I had to go with funnies that shaped my childhood over beautiful philosophical ramblings about the nature of communication. Sorry, Spielberg (and you’re already on the list once, so stop complaining). This is almost a perfect movie, and the flaws it has are mostly because it’s oh so very, very 1980s. But even though it’s dated as hell, it remains unimpeachably hilarious and quotable. “We’ve got one!” or “What about the Twinkie?” or “Cats and dogs living together…mass hysteria!” These things will always be funny. I don’t care who you are. No, stop arguing. That shit is funny. See also: a very insider Saint Jerome joke for the librarians out there. And Catholics, I suppose. Delightful. When I was little and this movie would come on tv, I always wanted to watch it. I must have watched it a hundred times, but I would always leave the room or put a pillow over my head when Gozer talked. Her voice creeped me right out. I don’t think I ever got over that. Weird voices or disembodied voices still give me the all-overs. Thanks, Ghostbusters. Thanks.
The Fly – 1986, David Cronenberg
A friend of mine used to have a poster in her bathroom with one of the grosser mid-mutation scenes from this movie on it, with the caption “Jeff Goldblum is watching you poop.” It was very unsettling. As is the film. That’s kind of why I put this one on the list – it bridges the small gap between scifi and horror. In many cases, that’s the finest of fine lines, but I wanted to at least give a nod to these inter-genre films that I think are important but hard to classify. The Fly also makes an appearance here to show that not all remakes are utter shit. A lot of them are, but some are better (or at least different enough to be considered completely separately) than their predecessors. I like the original, as well, but it’s a little hammy for my taste. It’s also another one that shows the heebie jeebie side of science, although perhaps in a more immediate and visceral way than Jurassic Park. On that note, I think that there’s an element of the unexpected and unpredictable fuck up here that is missing in Jurassic Park. They knew that shit could go really bad. Because massive teeth were happening. A fly in the capsule? Who would’ve thought to check for that? Not me. I guess every scientist who’s ever seen this movie thinks about that kind of stuff now, though. Hopefully. Oh, and Jeff Goldblum’s awesome. Extremely tall and awesome.
So, that’s it for the scifi films. Next week, we’ll move on to fantasy movies, which was a more difficult list for me. Difficult is good, though. Exercises the old brain muscles. Stay tuned.