Somewhere in Time (1980)
Written by Richard Matheson
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
I approached this film with moderate expectations but found myself enjoying it quite a bit. Somewhere in Time is a melodrama dripping with maudlin sentimentality. But it’s a well crafted one, so those excesses and silly bits can easily be ignored or enjoyed. The film is based on the novel Bid Time Return, also written by Richard Matheson. Between this film and my Twilight Zone series, I have enjoyed Matheson’s work this year. I’d only previously read I Am Legend, but I think I may need to do a deeper dive into his work. Somewhere in Time feels like a Matheson episode of Twilight Zone, which is stretched out a little longer and gives us a relatively decent tragic love story.
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A dystopia is generally defined as an imagined society where suffering is plentiful with people living in either a totalitarian or post-apocalyptic state. As you’ll see from my list, my preference leans on the tyrannical side of things. I tend to think societies won’t collapse in as dramatic a fashion as Mad Max, but rather people will reassemble a twisted skeleton of what is familiar & comfortable. To hold things together, people will accept the glue of authoritarian rule, whether through an individual despot or a faceless corporation. In most of these dark futures, there is not tangible governmental leadership; instead, it operates behind the scenes and is typically a merger of government & private corporations.
Continue reading “My Favorite Film & Television Dystopias”
Person or Persons Unknown (Season Three, Episode Twenty-Seven)
Original airdate: March 23rd, 1962
Written by Charles Beaumont
Directed by John Brahm
The Twilight Zone could really delve deeply into some intimately existential fears. In this episode, we meet David Gurney, a man who wakes up after late-night drinking. His wife reacts with horror, claiming she doesn’t recognize him and has no idea who he is. David thinks she’s playing a prank on him and leaves for work. But once he arrives at the bank, he finds his coworkers are in the same boat as his wife. They have never seen or heard of him before. Eventually, David ends up in a mental hospital where his doctor tries to convince him he never had this life; he seems to remember so vividly.
Continue reading “TV Review – The Best of The Twilight Zone Part 3”
Southland Tales – The Cannes Cut (2006)
Written & Directed by Richard Kelly
The promise of Richard Kelly was huge and seems to have dimmed in the last decade. In the wake of Donnie Darko, he was suddenly rocketed to the list of hot up-and-comers. I was definitely one of those people caught up in the Darko hype. I still hold that it’s his best work to date and that his subsequent work never felt quite as honed and clear. Southland Tales was the follow-up with a bigger budget and big names in the cast. It debuted at the Cannes Film Festival, and it was hailed as a disaster, bloated and too sprawling. Another cut was made for the theatrical release, and the reaction was much the same from audiences.
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The Quiet Earth (1985)
Written by Bill Baer, Bruno Lawrence, and Sam Pillsbury
Directed by Geoff Murphy
The Last Man on Earth trope is a prevalent one in popular science fiction, being the fodder of the Twilight Zone multiple adaptations of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend and even a Fox television series. There’s the old scary story “The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door.” This is the foundation on which The Quiet Earth is built, exploring what it would be like to exist as the last member of your species, knowing that with your end, so goes all memory of your civilizations.
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Written by Barry Hines
Directed by Mick Jackson
If you’ve spent any amount of time perusing YouTube for the 1970s/80s British Public Service Announcements, then you know they are some of the most horrific content produced for television. They are unflinchingly direct and severe in how they communicate warnings. It was that this sense of not holding information back that led to the BBC commissioning the filming of Threads. Mick Jackson had done a short film about Armageddon and the result of a nuclear war a couple of years earlier, but the BBC wanted a full-length feature to air on their network.
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Eye of the Beholder (Season Two, Episode Six)
Original airdate: November 11th, 1960
Written by Rod Serling
Directed by Douglas Heyes
Janet Tyler lays in a hospital bed, her face covered in bandages. When a nurse comes to check on her, the patient laments about her hideous visage, the problem that brought her here. The doctors have done plastic surgery, but everyone is worried that Janet’s disfigurement is so severe there is not much they can do. This is one of those episodes that you’ll likely know the twist for if you are pop-culture savvy, but it doesn’t diminish the impact of the story.
Continue reading “TV Review – The Best of The Twilight Zone Part Two”
The Twilight Zone was not the first anthology of the fantastic, but it has gone down as the most memorable and best-written one. That writing was due in part to Rod Serling setting the standard. Rod Serling looked pretty “square,” but he was a political radical, virulently anti-war and firmly in support of racial equality. He made sure that his anthology told stories relevant to what was happening in the society around his viewers. Serling’s wife, Carol, remarked that he would often say, “the ultimate obscenity is not caring, not doing something about what you feel, not feeling! Just drawing back and drawing in, becoming narcissistic”. So you can see that Serling felt compelled to not just entertain but educate whether audiences wanted it or not.
Continue reading “TV Review – The Best of The Twilight Zone Part 1”
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Written & Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick has no shortage of controversy in his filmmaking career, and probably the most incendiary of his films is this adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ 1962 satirical novel about a violently out of control youth culture. In reflecting on my rewatch of this movie in the context of Kubrick’s body of work, I think it is shortsighted by people who are offended by the picture to push it aside so brusquely. The director has composed a movie that sits as a discomforting companion piece to Paths of Glory, asking some tough questions and making sure that our contemplation of these inquiries is not an easy task. The most important aspects of our society should be very hard to address and tackle.
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2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Written by Stanley Kubrick & Arthur C. Clarke
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Film does not work without images. In the same manner, music does not work without sound, and comics do not work without illustration. With 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick dove deep into the very heart of what gives cinema form. The result is a movie that is actually an incredibly traditional narrative, shaking off all the unnecessary exposition and focusing its lens on movement, space, both the presence & absence of sound, color, lighting, every essential component of the craft. I get entirely if someone doesn’t like 2001, and the first time I saw it, I felt very dissonant with the picture. It took some additional viewings, reading & hearings others’ thoughts, and forming a picture of what the movie represented for myself.
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