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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Science Fiction Movies

Sci-Fi Movies! Yay! Nothing beats some good science fiction movies, but what do we have today? Babylon A.D.? Ultraviolet? Push? Unless its a cartoon or based on a comic book, don't even bother. Remember the good old days when science fiction was fun and exciting? The film genre was like a teenager - dark and moody one minute, and cheerful the next. I want to take a look at some of my favorite science fiction movies - nay, my favorite movies - from childhood (and it's a break from me yapping about video games). I was partially inspired to write this by Scalzi's "Notes from the Monolith" column in AMC. Not because its good, but because its often about the same themes (personal lists, sci-fi books,

Short Circuit
This probably my favorite movie of all time. This and Short Circuit 2 (which I thought was better, because you get to see Johnny 5's personality). There had been so movies with robots portrayed in a negative light (Terminator, Blade Runner, misc cartoons), that to see a child-like fun-loving robot was fantastic. That's why Wall-E is so awesome - it's the next extension of the Short Circuit meme (he even looks like Johnny 5's son). My favorite part of that movie is the ending when you see the robots and humans working together, as the animation steadily evolves. When Short Circuit 2 came out on Pay-Per-View (remember those, basic cable people?), I woke up at 5 in the morning (I had trouble with sleeping as a kid) and went down and watched the ever-cycling commercials for it. They had a short clip where Johnny 5 meets the gang members and is duped into stealing car stereos. I made Johnny 5's out of legos, and he frequently visited the ninja turtles. I also remember begging my parents for a Johnny 5 toy, like in the movie, but I was too young to realize they were movie props, not mass produced.

E.T.
My mom says this is the first movie I saw, and all I did was run up and down the aisles. Beyond that E.T. was a great love, but I had no memory of watching the movie. The closest I could get to it were scant clips on TV and storybooks. E.T. and Johnny 5 aren't too far from each other actually - big, wide, flat heads, squashy bodies, long arms and fingers (wait a minute, this sounds like me). Anyway, I remember in a gas station, in 1988 or so, there was an orange flyer that said "He is an alien. He is alone. He is 3,000,000 light years from home." Yes, E.T. was coming to home video. A miracle was upon us. I remember I always wanted an E.T. doll too.

Back to the Future
One of the first movies I remember watching. This is where I got interested in time travel. The problem was that this movie was really a nostalgia piece for people growing up in the 50's, not a science-fiction story. I hated the fact that the ending was open-ended, and it didn't seem like the producers had any intention of making another one. Until I was in the theater and saw a poster of some fire trails, and a licence plate that said "OUTATIME". Plus that car was so cool - also something I frequently made out of legos. I squeed with delight when I saw a DeLorean in real life on the road a few months ago.

Gremlins
I could never tell if Gremlins was a horror movie, comedy movie, or science-fiction movie. Damn you, Spielberg, for blurring the lines (also, stop making Indiana Jones movies). Some days it seemed like a family movie, and the next I'd be having nightmares about Stripe. Gizmo was essentially a talking toy (come to think of it, so were E.T. and Johnny 5). And where's Joe Dante, bring him back, man, he was good.

Ghostbusters
On my tapes, Ghostbusters was right after Gremlins (after which was "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" and "A Garfield Halloween Special"). So I'd often watch one, then the other. Ghostbusters was simply awesome, and a great thing to play act. Once again, its a cross-cultural thing. Ghosts are supposed to be scary things relgated to horror movies. You don't build a business around them. Plus the great thing about this movie is the characters. I remember once hearing that this movie was so popular because the audience loved the actors. What Wil Wheaton had for Star Wars toys, I had for Ghostbusters toys.

Willow
I think Willow is the first movie I remember seeing in the theater. It was also one of the bonding elements of me and my girlfriend cumma wife. One thing that was different was that I never play-acted Willow. There wasn't really any toys or cute objects or cross-genres that made it jump out at me. It was just a good movie.

The Dark Crystal
This was a hidden trove, constantly rented from the library (often in conjunction with Shari Lewis). But its the one movie in this list that we didn't have on tape. I didn't get it until my high school graduation party when I got from my sister a bunch of DVDs from our youth (also included were Batteries Not Included and The Adventures of Milo and Otis). It was never on TV, I don't even know how I knew about it. A lot of people remember Labyrinth better, but this was an excellent fantasy movie, because it was scary, but not too scary for kids. I think people like Labyrinth just for the campiness of it.

Now, if you haven't already noticed, there are two things missing from this list. There is NO Star Wars. There is NO Star Trek. Why? Because I considered those things too adult for me at the time. Unlike most kids, I took a long time to get interested in movies for adults - I liked family movies like Batteries Not Included. I'm not sure why I took so long to take the plunge. No one ever forced me to watch movies. I made my own decisions. Star Wars held no appeal to me, I think I was born too late so none of the children around me were into it. And Star Trek was a show for my parents. I watched these later in middle school, but after I pretty much knew everything. Like how everyone knows the ending to Citizen Kane, so no one can watch it the way it was meant to be watched. I wonder what kind of movies my kid will watch.
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