Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The 1st annual(?) SF/F Movie Marathon

Jane and I were at one of Tom and Marie's parties when the subject of old Science Fiction/Fantasy movies came up -- and how films like The Invasion of the Bodysnatchers and The Wizard of Oz are evergreen but get so mangled by interruptions of commercial TV... the discussion triggered fond memories of a "movie marathon" event, put on by Filmex in Los Angeles about 25 years ago.

Anyway, that was the genesis of the idea:
Put on a movie marathon as a sort of all-day-and-all-night party at our house. I have always been a reader of science fiction and I've collected over 100 AVI files of rips od SF/F movies. I typically use Jane's laptop as a "video server" sending output to our Hitachi 48-inch TV, but I got the idea of using Jane's presentation projector to get an even larger picture. The result was a 127-inch diagonal-measure screen -- the size of the king-sized bedsheet we used as the screen. That's larger than any TV I've ever seen and I guess it's about as big as you can get without actually going to a theater.

After going back-and-forth with the idea, I finally sent out the invitations for a weekend-after-Thanksgiving event. This coincided nicely with the kids being home (Amanda had flown back from Wittenberg to do an interview in San Francisco, then via train and bus on to our house, and Robert came in from San Jose). The invitations suggested bringing pajamas and plan on staying up all night -- but indicated that you can come and go as you want.

I did a few test runs with the equipment, and Jane and I spent many hours rearranging furniture and shopping (for industrial quantities of popcorn, Raisonettes, RedVines, high-cafeine soda, coffee, and RedBull, etc. I even found some Hersheys chocolate that claimed it was high in anti-oxidents, which I carefully marked as "for medicinal purposes.") We bought some low-to-the-ground futons, and cushons for the "nest" in the front row. With the top of the screen at ceiling level, everybody had an unobstructed view from a comfortable seat.

One of the hardest things was narrowing down the selection of movies. 24 hours is just not all that much time! So I extended the event on both ends, with a "Friday afternoon pre-marathon Terminator Marathon," and a Saturday night Post-marathon Lord of the Rings Marathon" The latter was a bit much, but how could I omit LOTR?

Anyway, I printed up copies of the flyer, below, to describe my thinking on each of the selections.

How did it all turn out? Everybody had a good time. People struggled with keeping awake, and I'm nearly certain that everybody dozed off at one point or another. Geroge and Vanessa were there and at one point, I noticed that Vanessa was sleeping soundly with Chocolate Chip nestled comfortably on her lap! I'm pretty sure that we are all "pod people" now :-)

The Terminator (1984) also T2 & T3

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088247(et al.)
T1 was on the “absolutely must have movie” list. It’s the source of pop-cultural reference such as “I’ll be back” and “The Governator” And can you say “James Cameron?” It’s virtually unique in that the sequels were separated by so much time and that they basically maintained the high quality of the original. Look for the really weird credit at the end, “Acknowledgement to the works of Harlan Ellison”I don’t know the details, but I think this relates to Ellison having (then) recently won a large settlement over some other SF story and Cameron doing some butt-covering.

This 6-hour “pre-marathon marathon” will be running Friday afternoon as guests arrive. I suspect that we’ll be mostly chatting in the next room and doing Thanksgiving-type stuff, like playing Monopoly or doing jigsaw puzzles simultaneously. We’d really like to see you “drop in like family” Friday noon-ish.

Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902)http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0000417/
This has to be the very first Science Fiction movie ever made; it’s a silent movie, about 15 minutes long. I apologize that I could only get the version that has some guy narrating the action with a grating French accent (rather than a simple musical score), but it is what it is.
Contact (1997)

In honor of the ten-year anniversary of Carl Sagan’s death, and also an AMHM (absolutely must have movie) entry. Sagan’s book gave extra depth to the characters and the story line and the underlying examination of personal belief systems, but the movie carries the main points brilliantly.

Perhaps my favorite scene comes early when we segue from the young girl to the adult Dr, Arroway I’m gunna need a bigger antenna (brushes hair back).
And who could forget: Would you like to take a riiiiiide?

Total Recall (1990)http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0100802/
Hard SF - inspired by a Philip K. Dick story. I could have blown half of the time budget on PKD-based films, and Blade Runner (1982) would top most people's lists, but I settled on this because of the mutant Kuato character (that’s just too cool) and the three-for-the-price-of-two mutant in the bar scene. Also: Sharon Stone, before Basic Instinct, and of course the always-impressive Arnold.
The Matrix (1999)

Iconic. And another AMHM. A rousing adventure with an excellent Hard SF storyline. One pop-cultural meme: Neo’s hand gesture when he and Morpheus are practicing fight technique (meaning Bring it; I’m ready). Another: There is no spoon Also: In high school, Amanda scripted and performed Agent Smith’s perfect world soliloquy in her drama class. I am so proud...
Nearly everyone will agree that Matrix 2 and 3 are crap in comparison, there’s no way they could make the final cut, but even so, they are watchable.

Zardoz (1974)http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070948/
This is usually not considered an all-time-great, so you may not have ever seen it. But it has some very cool SF concepts -- eugenics and utopia among them. How bored would you get if you were an immortal in a cloistered environment... forever? What sorts of complex social rules would evolve? Meme: The Plague of the Apathetics. And it does have a post-Bond Sean Connery looking awfully studdly.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

This is a true classic. In my mind and (I think) in that of many of my generation, this film has a special place. You’re at a sleepover and at midnight, the guy on TV says, It’s Friday Niiiiiiiiiight-MaaaAAAAAre Theater and you settle down to watch an old B&W Frankenstein film or perhaps I was a Teenage Werewolf. These films don’t really scare you, but they do tend to stick in your memory banks.

Bodysnatchers holds up well and IMDB gives it very high 8.0/10 User Rating. I’ve scheduled this for the wee hours since one theme is that if you fall asleep, you get pod-ified! The fact that Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, Lenoard Nimoy, and Nicole Kidman would deign to participate in remakes of this classic is an indication of the quality of the story. I really wanted to also show the 1978 remake because the ending is so chilling, but the time budget ran out... for this year :-)

Starship Troopers (1997)http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120201/
As a 5th grader, I looked forward to Tuesday evening, because the bookmobile parked down the block. The SF section was meager, and I had read everything in it, but occasionally, a new (to me) Robert A. Heinlein novel would appear on the shelf in the back corner. I can still feel the rush of anticipation, knowing I’d be up late reading by flashlight under the covers. Heinlein always delivers, and he holds an especially special place in my heart.

It amazes me that so few of those books have been turned into movies. Although Troopers is not an all-time great movie, it is very good and it is worthy to represent the Dean of SF. The 1940’s-propoganda feel of the film is brilliant, and there are some great characters and moments: The enemy cannot PUSH a button, if you disable his hand! and Good job Sergeant Zim / That would be ‘Private’, sir.

One reason that I scheduled this for just before daybreak is because of the wake-up-and-take-notice effect of Denise Richards :-)
City On the Edge of ForeverMy one nod to the Star Trek franchise. Probably the best ST TOS episode; selected in part because it was written by Harlan Ellison (and there is some controversy surrounding the screenplay). I saw this projected large-screen at the only Star Trek convention I ever attended, back in about 1978.
The Incredibles (2004)http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0317705/
One of the ideas of showing this animated feature is to re-experience that Saturday-Morning-Cartoons feeling.

This is a high-quality "cartoon" and fun to (re)watch -- a good example of quality SF comedy. I especially love when "E" (the Edith Head-style costume designer) convinces Mr. Incredible to avoid the cape.
7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057812/
I first saw this a few months after moving to Los Angeles when I attended my first (and only) LASFS convention. I had just finished reading A Mote in God’s Eye and I found myself sitting in front of a rather inebriated Jerry Pournelle as this 1964 film was screened -- I kept cracking up at his running commentary.

The movie is notable for several other reasons, with the incredible performance of Tony Randall and a pre-Jeanie appearance by the Dreamy Barbara Eden.
Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0052948/
One of Jane’s favorites (she always drools over Pat Boone). Jules Verne was a pioneer in the SF genre, perhaps even "The Father of SF." so a movie based on one of his books must absolutely have a spot in the lineup. Following the trail of the mysterious Arne Saknussemm, adventuring deep into the bowels of the Earth, a raft-ride on an ocean therein and a magnetic whirlpool at the center... giant mushrooms, and Pat Boone. What more could one want in a movie?
Time Bandits (1981)http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081633/
A sort of juvenal but perfectly watchable for all ages. There are some semi-subtle funnies here -- the bits with Michael Palin and Shelley Duvall always crack me up and I especially love how deliciously evil Evil is.
Jason and the Argonauts (1963)http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057197/
Another mandatory requirement for this event is to show at least one example of the stop-motion special effects produced by Ray Harryhausen. Who among us was not deeply impressed by the giant bronze statue and the fighting skeletons?
Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0486576/
This was a last-minute inclusion that I can probably be convinced to swap it out. I did want to show one very recent movie, and this one is not all that bad. My family used to always watch Dark Angel together, so Jessica Alba is a family favorite. I’m a big fan of Michael Chiklis, going back to The Commish and he does get a few moments where his face is visible in this movie.
Wizard of Oz (1939)http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070948/
This is the mother of all pop-culture references. When I was a kid, this movie was shown on TV every year, around Thanksgiving. Having had a B&W TV, it was many years before I knew that most of the film was in color! I have a cousin who would do the witch’s voice exactly, and she’d crack us up with and Toto, too? at odd moments.

Wizard of Oz was shown at one of the FilmEx's 24-hour marathons back when Jane and I were dating (or maybe just recently married) and that was the first time I’d seen it on a big screen. Our screen is not quite that big, but the movie is big enough on its own :-)
Lord Of the Rings 1,2,3http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120737/(et al.)
Tolkien’s masterpiece is rich in characters and images. This is High Fantasy at its best. Several tries were made at making a LOTR movie, but all were terrible until Peter Jackson took a run at it.

Back in the ‘70s, if you picked up a long-haired hitchhiker, his back pocket was likely-as-not to be bulging with a tattered copy of one of The Trilogy (no other qualifier necessary). It’s a shared experience in my generation, and I am ecstatic that the next generation can own it, too.

Robert and I have previously done this back-to-back-to-back 11-hour marathon, and it was great fun. I hope we have enough hard-core fans to stick around for the post-marathon marathon -- I think you’ll find it worthwhile.
(clips)I made a series of short clips to show between films by brutally slashing larger works. These include:

* The obelisk/monkey scene from 2001 A Space Odyssey (volume turned up)
* Trimmed-down TwilightZone ep It's a Good Life
* Trimmed-down OuterLimits ep Zanti Misfits
* Start/end of The Jetsons
* The "theatrical production" in Reboot ep End Prog [this is a classic]
* The "Dutch apple pie, it's terrific" scene from Starman
* The "slight glitch" from the start of Robocop
* The Farah Facett sequence from Logan's Run
* The opening credits from Barbarella (sex-kitten/political activist snicker snicker)
* Some flying saucer movie trailers from the 1950's
* "You maniacs, you blew it up" from Planet of the Apes.


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