Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Thinky Sci-Fi

We haven't had a lot of brainy science fiction at the movies recently. Most science fiction has moved away from the philosophizing headspace to the easy accessibility and fun of the space opera / adventure variety, the Star Wars school if you will. There have been a few attempts to bring it back: Steven Soderbergh's Solaris remake, Danny Boyle's Sunshine (to some degree) and indies like Primer. People don't tend to think of it as sci-fi but Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind also fits into this camp: movies using outlandish and/or futuristic scientific premises to illuminate something about the human condition or tie us up in theoretical knots.

One of the reasons I loved Battlestar Galactica so much during its run (2004-20009... sniffle) is that it lived in an enormous suite in the headier wing of the genre mansion but also kept a couple of rooms in the other, so as not to scare away that sizeable audiences who lives for gunplay and explosions. Loud fireworks work the same action magic whether they're inside an earthbound action movie or light years away between humans and machines.

This is a long way of introducing two recently released indie trailers. The first is the "what if?" implant/romance scenario of TiMER.



I love that the trailer introduces its crazy premise with a coincidental (?) reunion of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's hilarious she-demons Anya (Emma Caulfield) and Halfrek (Kali Rocha), don't you?



The second trailer there is for Moon starring Sam Rockwell. It seems a bit Solaris inspired but maybe that's a simplification (I haven't seen the movie).

I've read from a few sources that Rockwell is just terrific in the movie. But Oscar watchers should probably ignore that buzz. Sci-fi is the last place* awards voters look for acting skill. Even the widespread lengthy brilliance of Battlestar's ensemble resulted in 0 Emmy acting nominations. What they were accomplishing with their ridiculously complex and sometimes alarmingly sneaky characterizations on that show was simply no match for the revolutionary advances in the acting artform taking place over on Law & Order, Grey's Anatomy and Boston Legal [/sarcasm]

*Do awards voters like horror acting slightly more than sci-fi acting? Which is to say 'are they slightly less eager to spit on it?' It's arguable but maybe.

20 comments:

Devin D said...

I believe that Moon is going to be superb.

Karen said...

Timer looks amazing! Thanks so much for sharing the trailer. I'm gonna have to post it on my blog soon. :)

Deborah said...

Both very intriguing, and I had the same Solaris thought.

Carl said...

As a fan of SF in any form ahead of movies in general, I often bemoan the lack of quality in most SF in cinema, especially the writing. So I am excited about having an opportunity to see a couple of movies that are quietly special (as well as "Avatar" and "Parnassus", which promise to be anything but quiet).

Regrettably, market forces being what they are, lowest common demominator entertainment will likely outnumber by a wide margin the better stuff for the forseeable, if only because the intellectually simpler stuff seems to have a better track record for putting butts in the seats. Sad, but true.

Still, if one of D'Hoffryn's minions would grant me a wish, it would be that the various guilds and academies lose their prejudices against comedies and genre material and check the quality of all the offerings. So they would have to sit through 300 or so films a year...just give up eating, sleeping, and sex, and it would be a snap!

NATHANIEL R said...

you can eat and have sex while you watch movies.

only sleep must be forfeited!

Fernando Moss said...

Specially if the movie is boring!!!

Fernando Moss said...

I mean, the having sex during a movie.

Fernando Moss said...

And I'm looking forward for Timer, I think Emma Caulfield deserves more opportunities in cinema.

She was terrific in Buffy (have a great monologue in The Body I recall).

Wayne B. said...

I think award voters are slightly less resistant to horror film acting than they are to science fiction. I mean just look at the history of the Best Actress category: "The Exorcist", "The Silence of the Lambs", "Carrie",
"What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?", "Misery", "The Bad Seed" & "Requiem For A Dream" are all horror films. In the category only "Aliens", "Testament" and "Resurrection" could be perceived as sci-fi movies.

Wayne B. said...

Ahh, Emma Caulfield, *swoon*

Fernando Moss said...

So, in order to be nominated for a genre film your name must be Ellen Burstyn?

hokahey said...

Both films look very interesting. The first thing that struck me regarding the visual look of Moon is the phenomenal influence of 2001: A Space Odyssey on subsequent sci-fi.

Guy said...

I fail to see how "Requiem for a Dream" is a horror film, however disturbing it is.

Drew said...

Battlestar Galactica's cast hasn't had any Emmy nominations... yet.

Yes, I am living a dream.

brianmaru said...

I attended the Seattle screening of Moon and really dug it. The trailer wasn't out yet so I didn't know the "twist" and enjoyed but was a little unsure of the opening. After the first act though it kicks in big time emotionally and it really wowed me. Probably the best film I've seen on 2009.

Chris Na Taraja said...

looking forward to any reunions from Buffy. Especially our 2 favorite vengence demons

Glenn said...

That looks great (and the poster is excellent too). I got more of a 2001 vibe than Solaris though.

Jen said...

Well said -- I was just musing about the difference between science fiction/speculative fiction and space opera the other day, as we are currently re-watching Babylon 5... which in the early days couldn't quite make up its mind. I think you characterize BSG very well as moving between the two... my husband pointed out that BSG does a lot with the "what-if" social questions too -- what would the government look like if there were only 40,000 people left, etc.

It's a real shame there's been no Emmys yet for that show - -I think the acting (and writing) is amazing. ESPECIALLY in rewatching Babylon 5... it's like looking at a fingerpainting next to the Mona Lisa.

The new trailers look great -- and thanks for calling out "Eternal Sunshine" as sci-fi -- right on!

Chris Na Taraja said...

that moon looks like 2001 mixed with an episode of the twilight zone.

Hombrewolf said...

Both movies look really good. Sam Rockwell is a great actor, but I missed Emma Caulfield, and I think that "TiMER" is a gret oportunity to see her in more movies. Great blog!