Week One of the Sci-Fi Film Festival Launches Tonight
Seattle’s vast geek contingent has cause for celebration for the next two weeks, as the Cinerama’s first annual Science Fiction Film Festival launches tonight.
Powered by the loving pockets of Paul Allen, the theater’s presenting an impressive line-up of feature films spanning the full spectrum of the genre’s highwater marks throughout the decades.
If you’re among the converted, you’ll relish the Cinerama’s display of sci-fi memorabilia from Allen’s personal collection–including one of the original alien heads from Aliens and costumes from Barbarella, Ghostbusters, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
But the sterling presentations of these movies (replete with several brand-new prints, some in genuine larger-than-God 70mm to boot) should offer goods to dazzle even non-obsessives. Tickets (on sale here) run $12 for most screenings. Enclosed, please find a complete rundown of the 2012 Science Fiction Film Festival’s first week.
Metropolis (screens tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m., and Saturday at 12:30pm): The main catalyst for this 85-year-old movie’s continued vitality is its visual scheme–an impossibly-detailed and stunningly-realized world that’s left footprints on everything from Madison Avenue to Blade Runner to the Wachowski Brothers. As for the plot, it details a dystopian city in which a monied minority lives off the backs of the working-prole masses. Oh, and a woman speaks out on said masses’ behalf while a wealthy jerk politician uses technology to paint her as a destructive robot slut (nah, none of that’d ever happen in real life…). Seeing this granddaddy of sci-fi epics in such a grand setting (with live accompaniment by the Alloy Orchestra, no less) more than justifies the $30 ticket price.
2001: A Space Odyssey (screens Saturday at 5:30 and 9 p.m., and Sunday at 12:30 p.m.): Is Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 sci-fi opus a profound meditation on the loss (and rediscovery) of man’s soul whilst he scales the heights of technological wizardry, or is it just an expensive classical music video taken to bong-hit-worthy extremes? Judge for yourself as the Cinerama busts out a brand-new 70mm print for the Festival.
War of the Worlds (Sunday April 22 at 4:30 p.m.): Decades before Spielberg injected H.G. Wells’ source novel with the requisite dose of 9/11 references, this effectively creepy 1953 adaptation evoked post-World-War-II imagery and McCarthy-era xenophobia.
Silent Running (Monday April 23 at 7 p.m.): Douglas Trumbull, the special effects wizard who gave 2001: A Space Odyssey its visual dazzle, directed this somber ecological fable in which an astronaut (Bruce Dern) embarks on a quixotic quest to rescue the last vestiges of the Earth’s flora and fauna.
Barbarella (Monday April 23 at 9:30 p.m.): Roger Vadim’s 1968 space-age bachelor pad of a comic book adaptation should provide an irresistible contrast to all the dystopia and sense of wonder that’s populated the preceding five days of the Festival. Plus, it’s got a zero-gravity opening-credits striptease that’s second only to Princess Leia’s Return of the Jedi slave costume in nerd-boner inducement.
The Omega Man (Tuesday, April 24 at 5:15 p.m.): This 1971 adaptation of Richard Matheson’s novella I Am Legend scared the crap out of me when I saw it as a small child. Today it dates some, but its horde of hooded virus-induced vampires elicits way more shudders than the CGI ciphers in the 2006 Will Smith remake, and I’ll readily stick up for Charlton Heston’s wounded-lion theatricality as the proverbial last man on Earth.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Tuesday April 24 at 8 p.m.): Close Encounters was a solid hit with audiences and critics back in the day, but it’s always been overshadowed by that George Lucas thing with the space ships and robots and stuff (both came out in the summer of 1977). Steven Spielberg’s alien-visitation flick works best in its first third, when the director’s knack for building suspense shines and the audience hasn’t yet had a chance to figure out what the hell’s going on. The patented warm-and-fuzzy (warm-and-glowy?) Spielberg finale works fine, but can’t avoid letdown status given that amazing first act.
Mad Max (Wednesday April 25 at 7 p.m.) and The Road Warrior (Wednesday April 25 at 9:30 p.m.): Screw the science-fiction tag: This double-feature represents some of the most kick-ass action cinema of the last thirty-odd years. Mad Max combines visceral revenge-tale grittiness with post-Clockwork Orange moral decay: It also (literally) bursts with car stunts so ferocious, you wonder how no one got killed during filming. The Road Warrior ups the ante to mythic status, turning rogue cop Max (Mel Gibson, never better) into a charismatic samurai/cowboy as he leads a band of refugees through a post-apocalyptic wasteland populated by a scary tribe of fuel-injected punks. The final 30 minutes consist of one long, exhilarating, breathtaking chase scene–accomplished without one frame of CGI (suck it, Fast and Furious movies!).
Week 2 of the Fest will bring more of everything: more monsters, more robots, some high-velocity thrills, lots of laughter, heaps of comfy ’80s nostalgia, and suspicious artificial food substitutes. Stay tuned.