Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Great (film) Debates vol. 64

I can't believe we haven't asked this before? Well, here goes... an impossible question:

What is your favorite science fiction film?

Panelist: AndrewPrice

I hate giving this answer because it's so expected, but it's probably Star Wars. That's just awesome on so many levels. BUT I don't like being predictable, so I'm going The Fifth Element! Ha! It's hip! It's stylish! It's got emotive aliens! And it's just all around a freakin' good time.

Panelist: BevfromNYC

Is Fahrenheit 451 considered “science fiction”? Yes, of course it is. To me, the film is the perfect representation of the ‘60’s sci-fi film genre and as a lover of books, the most frightening premise ever.

Panelist: T-Rav

Back to the Future counts as science fiction, right? Time travel, personal growth, sort of a love story--what more do you need?

Panelist: Tennessee Jed

When it came out, I thought 2001: A Space Odyssey was as good as it gets. That is a somewhat more serious film. For fantasy sci-fi, opening night of Star Wars in Wilmington, N.C. was and is hard to beat.

Panelist: ScottDS

Gee, this isn't difficult at all! [sarcasm off] At the end of the day, it would have to be Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. I know we've talked about it on this site ad infinitum but it still remains the best Trek film. All the pieces click together seamlessly and nearly every subsequent Trek film would try to duplicate it. (By the way, I have about a dozen runner-ups but we'll leave those for later!)

Comments? Thoughts?


Tennessee Jed said...

wow, up late tonight in the east. No real surprises here, but in reading our responses long after the fact, I wonder "what is it people look for most in good science fiction? There are good old popcorn features, modern day morality plays clothed in the future, and so on. Of course it always comes down to a good story, but there is something to be said for pondering big ideas. Catch up with this one later today :)

AndrewPrice said...

Good morning, Tennessee! :D

I agree, I think it's always interesting to see how people define something like best or favorite to see what they prefer. One of the problems I always have with ranking things like "top 10 X" is that there are too many different ways to look at X.

K said...

Used to be 2001, now it's Forbidden Planet with Equilibrium and Idiocracy somewhere in the field.

Any movie with space ships that make wizzing noises in space is not science fiction.

Anonymous said...

Hard question (which I guess it is meant to be and it usually is....).

Without any thought I immediately said Star Wars, but then after a bit of thought I realised that I loved The Empire Strikes Back more. But my love of the Star Wars universe has lessened some after watching the prequels so I'll go another way.

Well there are many types of SF movies and quite often some people disagree on what is a SF movie and what isn't. I wouldn't have picked Back To The Future as a SF movie, but as T-Rav said, it does include time travel and that is SF.

When it comes to comedy SF I love Galaxy Quest and Spaceballs, Action SF I love Serenity (also has comedy), Escape From New York, Dune, Aliens, Total Recall, The Matrix (like Star Wars it suffers by the sequels), with Time Travel SF I love Back To The Future, Twelve Monkeys, the first two Terminator movies (which also have action), Army Of Darkness (which has action and comedy) and so on.

I'm hopeless I cannot just pick one. Favourite SF just to sit and enjoy is The Fifth Element, favourite SF classic is Blade Runner and favourite lesser known SF movie is Dark City.


shawn said...

Star Wars. I know Lucas went off the rails post Empire, but Star Wars was a magical experience for me back in '77.

Next up would be The Empire Strikes Back.
Then the classics: Forbidden Planet, The Day the Earth Stood Still, War of the Worlds.

Anthony said...

I might feel differently if I had seen the Matrix after I saw its smarter predecessor Dark City, but I saw the Matrix first and was blown away by it.

There aren't many movies which can pull off extended rants well, but the interrogation of Morpheus was gripping stuff (however much they paid Hugo Weaving, it wasn't enough). And the action scenes were spectacular in the best sense of the word, filled with memorable moments and dialogue ('Dodge this').

I've watched the Matrix more than any other movie (if optical media could wear out...).

Tennessee Jed said...

One thing about Star Wars. It changed science fiction as cinematic expression. It was a good old fashion Saturday Matinee type of story done in a way never before seen. However, more recent re-screenings have, at least to me, exposed the script, and certainly the acting, as pretty pedestrian.

Anthony, I haven't seen Dark City, and you strike me as a man of impeccable taste so . . . that looks like one to see. I really did like The Matrix, it also "raised the bar" of the possible. For some reason, though, I never hung in for the sequels.

Tennessee Jed said...

Shawn - I too am a huge fan of Michael Rennie and Gort, though even back then, it was more of a "high camp" experience with a space ship lifted straight out of a cracker jack box. (l.o.l.)

Anon Scott - Time Travel just may be my favorite type of S.F. even though I didn't pick from that sub-cat. There is just something about it that is compelling to me.

"K" isn't that why they call it "fiction?" l.o.l.

tryanmax said...

Well, it's a pretty objective reality that my favorite scifi is Dark City. It's the only scifi I own on VHS and DVD (two versions, no less) and it will probably be the first BluRay I buy when I eventually get a BluRay player.

Of course I have to look to animation as well, and my favorite there is The Iron Giant as schmaltzy as it is. Monsters vs. Aliens is a tight runner up. Leave it to a kids movie to actually do the "________ vs. ________" genre well.

T-Rav said...

Bev, good pick. As a lifelong bookworm, the thought of burning them bothers me on an elemental level.

Andrew, they've been running The Fifth Element several times on AMC the past few days. To be honest, after repeated watchings, I still can't follow it.

Tennessee Jed said...

Tryanmax - vis-a-vis "the vs." genre. Mad Magazine--"Spy vs. Spy"; accept no substitutes! (oh wait, this is a sci-fi question? . . . never mind."

Anonymous said...

Tennessee Jed, I love time travel in both movies and books and I find that if a movie/book has a time travel plot then I'll judge it more then the sum of it's parts because of that. I think it has something to do with my love of history and the idea of fixing prior wrongs. It's not for nothing that one of my favourite types of books to read are Alternate History books.

Oh and do yourself a favour and watch Dark City, great movie and it isn't known by nearly enough people. It was made by the guy who made The Crow, so it has great style and a good story to go with it.


EricP said...

Nice to see the Dark City and Fifth Element love, so I'll kick some non-Blade Runner love Ghostbusters' direction. Also nice to have some comedy to keep the "science-y" stuff entertaining.

Outlaw13 said...

Definitely, "Blade Runner" is in there somewhere.

Is "The Andromeda Strain" considered science fiction? That and "West World" are really entertaining Michael Crichton films.

Another film that was really good was "Gattaca"...but what do I know I liked "The Island".

T-Rav said...

Jed, consider yourself lucky. The Matrix sequels pretty much sucked (although the freeway chase scene in the second movie was pretty cool, I have to admit). That's a movie where they really shouldn't have made a sequel at all.

Tennessee Jed said...

Oh yeah, Outlaw-- got to give a nod to Crichton, although for some reason, I always enjoyed the books a tad more than the cinema versions (possible exception disclosure.) My main remembrance of Andromeda was that it featured "Owen Lawrence Counselor at Law" actor and I felt like it was a very "realistic" way to portray how a pandemic from space might impact.

A.B. Dick and Blade Runner is, of course, a great film, but I think one of the things that hurt it when it was released was wasn't it Harrison Ford's first "post Hans Solo" role. That is like trying to succeed Bear Bryant or Vince Lombardi.

Tennessee Jed said...

Anon - Scott - I am absolutely with you. Love of history is at the root of my love for the sub-genre.

Tennessee Jed said...

Rav - I feel that way about most films unless the original story is part of a planned larger saga such as Star Wars through Jedi.

Outlaw, I liked "The Island" a lot more than I thought I was going to like it. Maybe it's a tired of Leo thing that started me out in a negative frame of mind.

Tennessee Jed said...

Eric - there is that Dark city again. Seems to be a wave washing over me on that one. :)

Mycroft said...

What, no love for Men In Black?
I have to agree with Anonymous, my favorite comedy SF has to be Galaxy Quest. Blast From The Past would be a close second.
It's amazing how many great SF movies spawned horrid sequel(s) (though not always immediately):
Star Wars (the prequels)
Star Trek (the odd numbers)
Alien (starting with Alien 3)
Mad Max (Thunderdome)
Terminator (starting with T3)
Predator (Predator 2)
Robocop (starting with Robocop 2)
Matrix (Animatrix was ok, but both sequels)
Men In Black (MIB2 - haven't seen MIB3)

I left out 2001, but I never really cared for it. The book was ok, but the movie puts me to sleep.
Dark City and Gattaca are great, but I have little desire to see them again.
Same problem with many of the classics: Forbidden Planet, When Worlds Collide, War of the Worlds, etc...
The one movie that I have to finish when I run across it channel-surfing is...
The Fifth Element.

AndrewPrice said...

K, I've never seen Idiocracy as science fiction... I see it as a documentary.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, It sound like you and I have the same movie collection! I love all those films and they are all on my favorites list! :)

AndrewPrice said...

Shawn, Star Wars blew me away when I first saw it... and for many years after. I do think it was lessened by the sequels, which is too bad. But it definitely deserved its status as earth shattering.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, The Matrix blew me away on so many levels! It was gripping, it was exciting, and when it was over it got my working overtime just thinking about everything in it. I wish the sequels had been different, but they shouldn't detract from the film itself.

Dark City is another personal favorite -- what an awesome film. What a great idea!

shawn said...

I would also like to throw in Close Encounters of the Third kind. Spielberg knew what he was doing back then.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, You absolutely need to see Dark City. That is a fantastic film! I reviewed if you're interested in spoilers, but I recommend just seeing it. It's really well done all around.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I think that there is something about time travel which just captures our imaginations. Time travel films or episodes on television are usually the most popular form of science fiction.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Monsters v. Aliens was fun. And Dark City really should be way at the top of all science fiction lists. :)

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, LOL! It's not that complex. It's actually very straight forward, it's just densely packed with stuff.

Do you now that Fahrenheit 2051 will be about burning Kindles?

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I'm trying to remember, but I think Dark City came out the same week as two HUGE films, so it got ignored. But it absolutely deserves to be known by a lot more people.

I think the time travel stuff fascinates everyone because it lets us consider how our lives would have been different if we had made different choices.

AndrewPrice said...

Eric, Ghostbusters is one of those that I have a hard time seeing as science fiction, but you are correct and it's a great film.

The Fifth Element and Dark City are fantastic! :)

AndrewPrice said...

Outlaw, I watch both of those all the time -- The Andromeda Strain and Westworld. Both are classics in my book and never grow old. :)

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. Blade Runner deserves to be at or near the top of any list.

AndrewPrice said...

Mycroft, I don't understand why science fiction has such problems with sequels either? I don't know if they are trying too hard to give the films meaning or if they don't respect them and just try to cash in or if the sequel formulas just don't work, but for some reason, science fiction sequels typically are pretty horrible.

AndrewPrice said...

Shawn, I agree. I will watch Close Encounters whenever it's on. Spielberg really knew how to make films back then!

tryanmax said...

Mycroft, how are you hating on Thunderdome? That's the best one! Tina Turner, Master Blaster, the Thunderdome!? Come on!

No one would even remember Mad Max if it weren't for The Road Warrior (a.k.a. Mad Max 2 outside the US). Thunderdome is just more of the same, and there's nothing wrong with that. "Two men enter, one man leaves." People still use that saying.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I have to say that Thunderdome does nothing for me. Road Warrior was fun, Mad Max was great, but Thunderdome felt manufactured to me.

Anonymous said...

The trouble with this question is that sci-fi seems to leave itself open to interpretation and to this day, people can't help but ask, "What's sci-fi want isn't?" Some would argue that Star Wars and Star Trek aren't "pure" sci-fi: the former is fantasy and the latter is space opera, though space opera is a subgenre of sci-fi.

Something like Ghostbusters is even more difficult to classify. It's a comedy but it also has elements of horror. Does that make it sci-fi? (It's also a genre hybrid and people seem to have a difficult time combining comedy with sci-fi.)

There have certainly been some great movies mentioned here and like I said in my answer: I have about a dozen runner-ups!

Andrew - I was curious... per Wikipedia, Dark City opened up against Kissing a Fool with David Schwimmer and Krippendorf's Tribe with Jenna Elfman and Richard Dreyfuss... but who remembers those movies today?

Incidentally, it opened two weeks after Sphere and The Wedding Singer and one week before another modern day cult classic, The Big Lebowski.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, I could totally get behind burning Kindles. Stupid electronic book machines--closing down Borders and those other bookstores, so I can't get stuff there....

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, This is just memory, but I thought it was wedged between a couple of big hits. I know Twilight came out that week or the next.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, You Kindle burners are all the same! ;P

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

Yeah, but not THAT Twilight, a different one!

Anonymous said...

T-Rav -

I'm a geek and I love my tech toys but I have yet to jump on the e-book bandwagon - too many issues with regards to ownership and migrating from one device to another. I'm content with paper. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Huh. Ok. Maybe I'm wrong, but it struck me it got ignored because of something else. Maybe it was just limited release?

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

It might've been. It was probably lost in the wake of The Wedding Singer and I believe Titanic was still making tons of money at this point as well.

In addition to Trek, by the way, I need to give it up for Star Wars and Empire, the first two Alien films, Close Encounters, RoboCop, and Back to the Future... all modern day sci-fi classics (to one degree or another).

I also have to disagree with mycroft - the odd/even Trek rule stopped working after Nemesis!

T-Rav said...

Scott, glad to see I'm not the only one! ;-)

It seems like most sci-fi/fantasy film franchises follow a basic pattern. First movie's usually pretty good, second movie's as good as or often better than the original, and then the third almost always ends up sucking. See Star Wars, Terminator, Spider-Man, X-Men, Alien, apparently...etc.

T-Rav said...

Jed, I don't think Leonardo DiCaprio was in The Island. Are you sure you're not thinking of Shutter Island?

Tennessee Jed said...

yes i was, Rav. Only 1 word off.

Tennessee Jed said...

Dark City, blu-ray, amazon, used like new, four and change plus tax, ships from Tenn.; done deal, boo-yah. Pontypool looks like they are trying to rip you off with a Region B disc. grrrrrh!. Have to wait on that. Triangle and the Liam Neeson undertaker movie. See Andrew, I actually take this stuff to heart :)

I have heard Kindles make great street hockey pucks once you get used to them.

Mycroft said...

Mad Max was a great Drive-In movie, made on a low budget with vision and style. It made enough money that Hollywood gave director George Miller a bundle of money and said, "Do it again" with the result of The Road Warrior, which did even better.
Then the dark times, Hollywood came through with more money, but added "suggestions." Nothing against Tina Turner, but Thunderdome sucked. No cars, no guns and a bunch of Peter Pan type kids with a hokey prophecy. Arggghhhh!!!

Scott, the odd/even rule went out the window after First Contact.

Andrew / T-Rav - keep your paws off my Kindle, you damn dirty apes! I didn't need glasses until I hit 40 and you cannot increase the font size with a paperback.

Tennessee Jed said...

Mycroft - I think that is called a magnifying glass l.o.l.

K said...

Andrew:I've never seen Idiocracy as science fiction

It's essentially based on the Sci Fi short story, "The Marching Morons" published in the 60s if memory serves.

Just because older science fiction is coming true doesn't mean it wasn't good science fiction. In fact that just makes it better. :)

We were warned and we didn't listen.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I got too many favorites.
Galaxy Quest
The Fifth Element
Day Of The Tripids
Terminator and T2
The One
Planet Of The Apes

Then there's iffy Scifi or kinda/sorta:
Starship Troopers
Universal Soldier
Independence Day

Now I gotta read the comments as I think of more.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I wonder if there are just more science fiction sequels than in other genres?

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I'm glad you do! :) I've found a couple great films too from things other people have recommended. I just wish I had more time to watch everything I want. My DVR is at 91% full and I never get the time to watch any of it!

AndrewPrice said...

Mycroft, LOL! Don't worry, I'm just teasing T-Rav, I love the Kindle. It's honestly changed the way I read for the better.

Totally agree about Thunderdome -- it was the first in the series to feel "produced". It had no heart, just a lot of glitz.

AndrewPrice said...

K, I know. I was joking... sort of. Everything in Idiocracy is dangerously close to coming true. :(

AndrewPrice said...

Nice list, Ben! Many excellent choices. :)

K said...

Important note to so called film buffs who post here:

If you haven't gone out to see "Hitchcock" yet you should have your film geek secret decoder ring confiscated. It came in at #16 with only something like 1.6 mill over the weekend. It was more fun than a barrel full of "Lincoln"s.

Anonymous said...

K -

I don't get out to the movies as much as I should but Hitchcock is definitely on my radar!

AndrewPrice said...

Who is this Hitchcock? :P

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi Jed, good point about Star Wars.
To me it was like an epic western in space. Although it did have a few scifi ideas such as the light saber and droids (robots but cool name).

Then again, Star Wars never delved into any scifi in depth unless you count The Force as scifi.
I concur it's popularity definitely showed that scifi can be very cool and successful.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, maybe that genre just lends itself to sequels better than others do (except action movies--how many Rambos are we up to now?).

Jed has a point. There are these things called glasses, and reading lamps--you guys are gonna love them. I've been loving them since I was six.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Andrew, I believe the President in Idiocracy was actually smarter than the one we have now. Documentary indeed, LOL.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, He's not as much of a narcissist either.

On your sci-fi point, science fiction is broken into two branches. In one branch, you have the technical types who think science fiction is about technical schematics and man building bigger and better machines. These are the hard core science fiction types. In the other branch, you have scifi/fantasy types who think science fiction is about farm boys on quests and slaying electronic dragons. The two groups, from what I've read, truly despise each other.

I think they're both nuts. I just like stories on their own merits.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, That's probably true because these sci-fi stories typically leave the door open very easily for further plot. Something like a romantic comedy really doesn't.

As for you and Jed... Pshhaw! Glasses and reading lamps indeed... luddite magic!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Andrew, I agree. The story and characters is what matters to me. It's icing on the cake if they happen to give me something to contemplate and wonder about.

The ideas that stretch not only our imagination's but our minds as well to make for an i8ntertaining experience.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

ScottDS, wasn't the Big Lebowski scifi?
The Dude abides. :^)

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I agree. To me, it's all about story and I don't really worry about whether or not something "counts." A lot of the fans do though, and it's led to some interesting hostility.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"As for you and Jed... Pshhaw! Glasses and reading lamps indeed... luddite magic!"

Yeah. Next they'll be telling us we can get lamps made of lava.

tryanmax said...

Reaching back into the convo: the awesome thing about Ghostbusters is that it falls into multiple genres but it mashes them all together perfectly.

Question: would Groundhog Day count as sci-fi? Technically he is time traveling every 24 hours and he does have to employ deductive reasoning to learn how to break the cycle.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Nope... there are no killer robots in Groundhog Day. ;P

Technically, I guess Groundhog Day could be science fiction, but I personally wouldn't count it as such.

Ben, Lamps made from lava? Outrageous!

Individualist said...

Let's see

Hard Science Fiction: Gattacca
Space Opera: The Wrath of Khan
Horror: Alien
CyberPunk: FreeJack
Post Apocalyptic: Matrix

Floyd R. Turbo said...

My favorite is Dark City.

I also like John Carpenter's version of Thing and Escape From New York is underappreciated sci-fi.

Others I love:

Matrix -- natch
Event Horizon -- flawed but a fascinating premise
ST -- Wrath of Khan, First Contact and the reboot
SW -- 4-6
Pitch Black
Aliens, Alien
I'm also going to give Metropolis some love.

AndrewPrice said...

Excellent list Floyd. I love Carpenter films. And I can't believe I didn't mention Pitch Black!

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, Nice breakdown of the different classes of science fiction.

Anonymous said...

Floyd, thanks for mentioning Pitch Black, but it and The Chronicles of Riddick are classics.

Other films mentioned that I forgot would be Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, FreeJack, Event Horizon.

And I don't think anyone has mentioned Demolition Man yet (if they have then my apologies), but it is a great movie.


BIG MO said...

Late to the party here. Some of my favorite live-action films were made at a time when sci-fi fiction and movies still reverberated with a sense of wonder and the thrill of exploration/discovery (and lots of scientific fallacies, but what can you do):

Forbidden Planet -- Many have already mentioned this, the best of all series sci-fi from the 1950s. I love when the captain and scientist walk through the humongous computer (predicated on the belief that future computers would be big to be powerful instead of miniscule in size).

When Worlds Collide -- Simply a great, if implausible, tale.

The War of the Worlds -- Despite the awesome f/x, the Spielberg/Tom Cruise version pales next to George Pal’s phenomenal storytelling.

The Time Machine -- In George Pal’s version, the Time Traveler builds his machine to explore, whereas in the 2000s version (which I do enjoy), the Time Traveler builds his machine to undo the past.

Things to Come -- Like the previous two, this is based on an H.G. Welles tale (The Shape of Things to Come. Made before WWII, it’s a fascinating, if cynical, glimpse of a future utopia after the final catastrophic war.

In addition, some animated gems, which I consider to be on par with live action films – or even better sometimes:

Ghost in the Shell -- Both it and one of its sequels, Ghost in the Shell: Innocence, are fantastic explorations of what it means to be human – or remain human – in an age of super science.

The Girl Who Leapt through Time (I usually don’t go for “silly schoolgirl in love for the first time” stories, but this one is fantastic.)

K said...

I forgot one. Death Race 2000. The original Death Race. Also the original "Hunger Games".

David Carradine vs Sylvester Stallone? Matrix eat yer heart out.

" You know Myra, some people might think you're cute. But me, I think you're one very large baked potato."

rlaWTX said...

First thought was Fifth Element - but that could just be because it was on this weekend - and when I ran across it, I had to stop... T-Rav, poor T-Rav :)
But I also love Aliens (I think it counts), the ONLY Star Wars trilogy, Demolition Man, Terminator 2, Serenity, the Riddick movies.

I repudiate pretty much any movie made from an Asimov book or story so far.

K said...

.... and Buckaroo Banzi. I forgot that one too.

Using a Ford pickup to break the matter barrier?

Red Lectroids from the 8th dimension?

That's science fiction.


Anonymous said...

What - no mention of the Terminator? Time travel, cyborgs - James Cameron at his best.

I'll go foreign - Solaris - the origal Russian version (haven't seen Clooney). A planet that sends to you fully formed (and functional!) people as you remember them? To quote the matrix, "whoa!".

djskit said...

And now I have a profile.

AndrewPrice said...

All excellent additions everyone. :)

K, I love Death Race 2000.

Scott, Demolition Man is great.

Big Mo, The original Time Machine is great.

rlaWTX, I would love to see someone do The Foundation, but you are right that they only seem to make lousy films from his books. I'm not sure why?

AndrewPrice said...

K, I love how they are all named John.

djskit, Congrats! I thought the Clooney version was interesting and had a ton of potential, but never really hit its stride. There is so much more they could do with the concept.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

No list can be complete without Zardoz... Sean Connery, pirate boots, guns, and a red banana hammock.

On a more serious note... Silent Running was good.

And High Noon in space... Outland! Also Starship Troopers and the original Total Recall. And The Running Man.... Ah-nuld rocked it in the 1980s.

Dave Olson said...

How about a film that hasn't been released yet? Bill Whittle is in the process of getting an epic sci-fi saga off the ground called "Aurora". Based on what he has teased us with, I'm as excited to see it as I was to see the original "Star Wars".

Otherwise, my favorite science fiction flick is the classic version of "Red Dawn". No, really! It's the greatest sci-fi movie ever made, telling the tale of an alternate universe in which Jimmy Carter won his re-election, and the consequences thereof. It's Pottersville to our Bedford Falls.

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