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15 Movies You Didn't Know Were SciFi

Discussion in 'Sci-Fi and Fantasy Talk' started by Tom, Mar 25, 2008.

  1. Tom

    Tom An Old Friend

    Dec 6, 2004
    Gulf Coast
    15 Great Movies You Didn't Know Were Science Fiction

    8 1/2. A director, trying to finish his next movie -- a science fiction epic -- becomes creatively blocked, and starts falling into a fantasy world of his own id. The real and the imaginary become more and more blurred, until you can't tell what's happening in Guido's head and what's actually happening.

    Adaptation. Okay, we just talked about the reality-warping powers of Charlie Kaufman's movies, but Adaptation deserves to be included here. Everybody acknowledges Eternal Sunshine and Being John as science fiction or slipstream, but Adaptation also warps reality in amazing ways, with its made-up mind-warping flower and blurring twin Kaufmans.

    Babe: Pig In The City. Okay, first of all, Babe himself is a mutant, as we discover in the first Babe movie, where his miraculous powers of reasoning and communication startle the humans around him. And then this sequel takes him to Metropolis, a city that's a CGI blend of 5 cities. Mad Max maestro George Miller creates his most compelling future dystopia yet.

    Brimstone and Treacle. The 1980s were full of movies where people are sort of aliens. Blue Velvet and Sex, Lies & Videotape both feature characters who are so alienated and bizarre they might be from outer space. But B&T is the ultimate alien-among-us movie. The title might fool you into thinking Sting is the devil, but the movie doesn't actually say so. He's like the protagonist of Karen Joy Fowler's classic novel Sarah Canary -- a strange interloper that we're never told is an alien. We just sort of know.

    Chumscrubber. This dark comedy takes place in a weird alternate present where everyone's on prescription drugs, and reality starts to blend with the video game of the movie's title, which is all about a postapocalyptic warrior who carries his own severed head. It's a Tim Burton-esque suburbia without any actual Edward Scissorhands.

    Confederate States of America (CSA). This is possibly the greatest alternate history movie ever, because it does such a great job of reworking our media-saturated culture to a very different timeline. It's yet another "South won the Civil War" narrative, but with a sharp satirical edge to it. In the early 21st century, large swathes of America still own slaves -- and drugs like Prozac are used to keep the slaves under control, as we see in fake ads. CSA is not just alternate history, it also pays tribute to Brave New World.

    The Conversation. This Gene Hackman film takes surveillance technology to its furthest extreme. Says Film.com: "Decades ahead of its time, the brilliant final scene shared with us a glimpse of the future that was to come in which technology could see or hear us at almost any time. And Hackman's performance nails down a generation's feelings on the coming technology."

    Deep Cover. Lawrence Fishburne and Jeff Goldblum star in this tense thriller about a fictional designer drug created by a combinatorial chemist. The brutal drug trade becomes a metaphor for the destruction of the nation-state by the global economy.

    Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai. All of Jim Jarmusch's movies are full of quasi-aliens, but this one is actually a superhero narrative. He's a black samurai who works for the Mafia, and he communicates via carrier pigeon. He clings to the Bushido, the way of the Samurai, in the midst of a world of randomly murderous thugs, and seems to have almost superhuman fighting abilities. Plus he can communicate somehow with his friend who only speaks French. (Telepathy?)

    The Manchurian Candidate (original version). A Korean War hero is brainwashed and reprogrammed, using unreal mind-control techniques, to kill the president. The film derives a lot of its spooky menace from the Communists' bizarre mind-warping of Lawrence Harvey. The Jonathan Demme remake substitutes a microchip brain implant for the original's brainwashing.

    Modern Times. The original movie about human alienation from technology is also, arguably, the first cyborg movie. Charlie Chaplin becomes so ingrained in his dehumanizing factory work, he actually becomes part of the machine he works with. And then, in a famous scene, he's literally swallowed up by the gears of his machine.

    Pleasantville. We dissed this movie a while ago, but it actually is a terrific film. A brother and sister pass inside their television set, thanks to a hacked piece of technology in their remote control, courtesy of Don Knotts. The black-and-white world of the 1950s sitcom where the siblings get stuck is a metaphor for sexual repression and lost innocence, but also an alternate reality which they access through technology.

    Sneakers. It's the ultimate spy movie and possibly the greatest of the hacker movies of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Robert Redford leads a team of hackers who discover the ultimate codebreaking machine, which can decode literally anything. You could argue the ultimate decoder is just a fancy McGuffin, but it's wound in to the movie's theme of hackers uncovering secrets.

    W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism. Half documentary, half bizarre sexual-psychological drama, DuĊĦan Makavejev's strangest film explores the weird science of Wilhelm Reich, who believed you could collect orgasmic energy in "orgone boxes." It ties that science in with the sexual (and social) repression of Communism, culminating in a representative of Communism having sex with a woman and then beheading her with her own ice skate.

    Zelig. Woody Allen not only made Sleeper and the mad-science-heavy Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex, he also gave us this story of a man with the strangest superpower of all: he can blend in with the people around him. He not only acts like whoever he's with, he looks like them too. This movie also dips into alternate history, with its warped version of World War II.
  2. Tim

    Tim Creative Writer

    Jan 16, 2005
    I never saw anything scifi in Brimstone and Treacle myself. Was just a very screwed up plotline!

    The Manchurian Candidate was surely a thriller using existing technology? Although was the original using existing technology? But then I've only seen the modern version.

    Chumscrubber was steeped in the surreal, but it was all todays culture. I used the film as a reference in an essay for Uni on Jekyll and Hyde, showing the link between the drugs Jekyll made that freed him from social constraints being seen in the legal/illegal use in Chumscrubber (the youths with illegal, the adults with legal drugs that messed their heads up just as much) There is a large social statement on today's societal acceptance of prozac type drug usage to 'fix' problems that, quoting from the recent film Numb with Matthew Perry, the main characters father extols the age old prescription of "pulling your socks up".

    Deep Cover had an imaginary drug that merely pointed out Americas drug laws didn't it? A drug has to be banned to be illegal. Whereas in the UK we have a "misuse of drugs act" which makes using pharmaceuticals and even natural products (dependent on preparation) for "unnatural" purposes an illegal act! Scifi? Not given the historical laws surely? Historical context is so important to analysing texts.

    and on to Sneakers, wasn't the whole code breaking ability a reflection of legal encryption laws and summing up of conspiracy theories? It is actually illegal here in the UK to have encryption in civilian usage that goes past a set level if the government wants access. The government must be able to have that access to your files if they produce warrants (criminal cases.) Refuse to decrypt and you face jail terms, much like you hear about sometimes with reporters not giving away their sources (touchy subject :) ) although in many cases criminals feel the jail term is less than what they'd get based on the information they don't want the law to see!
  3. Kevin

    Kevin Code Monkey Staff Abductee

    Mar 20, 2004
    I've just seen CSA recently and it was, at the same time, one of the weirdest & thought provoking movies I've seen in a while. Some of it was over the top at times but for the most part it is an extremely compelling What if...? movie.

    This is a 'guilty pleasure' movie that I'll watch when on. The use of color in the alternate reality was portrayed in such a way that it makes the viewer realize how something as simple as a swath of color could have so many meanings. While the metaphors used in the movie are obvious I suspect that a lot of viewers will end up having a hard time deciding which version of Pleasantville they would prefer living in. Plus it's one of those movies that has a some memorable quotes; my favorite that I will use on occassion is "Well, we're safe for now, gentlemen. Thanks goodness we're in a bowling alley." with a deadpan delivery. I give myself bonus points when I am able to use that line in an actual bowling alley. :D

    Another guilty pleasure movie that I'll watch when it's on. It is so corny & over-the-top that at times it seems like a spoof movie but its message that it wants to deliver still comes through. The oddball collection of characters work as a cohesive so effectively that you start to actually buy into it. And let's not even talk about "SETEC Astronomy" spawning it's own little movement. ;)
  4. Tom

    Tom An Old Friend

    Dec 6, 2004
    Gulf Coast
    The only one I saw was Pleasantville and I only 1/2 payed attn to it.

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