My Top 20 SF Films-20-The Matrix

I’ve done my top 20 horror films in October, so as I’ve explained, I’ve decided to do my top 20 SF films. This is my personal list, so feel free to disagree with it and of course, you’ll be horribly wrong….

Diving right in at #20 is The Matrix.

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The Matrix came at a time when SF and films itself was being dominated by the first of the Star Wars prequels, so when it arrived it served as an alternative to what ended up being a horrible, horrible series of films.

What was great about The Matrix was that for those people unfamiliar with it’s sources (anime, Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles, Hong Kong action films, Philip K Dick) it all seemed new and fresh, while for those of us who noticed the influences still thought it fresh and exciting because it tried to give the viewer something different. OK, Keanu Reeves is wooden, some of the Aussie supporting cast are dreadful, and the posing in leather coats gets a bit tiresome at times, but it’s a solid, exciting SF action film that does everything it sets out to be. Unlike a lot of the films which followed it, this at least tries to say something about the state of humanity before diving feet first into the kicking arse and shooting people.

The first time I saw the film I was blown away by it as partly because I had such low expectations, but because it was this film that tried to do more than just be an action film. I’ve seen this film so many times but that’s because I can enjoy it each time, even if some of it does now start to look amazingly dated for a film only 14 years old. That’s progress for you!

Sadly, there were two sequels. Let’s not talk about them…

Next time, want to start a new life?

The weird day that was 9/11

It’s coming up to that time of year where everyone starts talking about ‘what were you doing on November the 9th?’.

I’ll credit Stewart Lee with that joke…

Anyhow, it’s nearly September the 11th, or 9/11 for most people, which means that the largest media event in the history of the planet happened in front of millions upon millions sets of eyes, and this is the story of how they unfolded in front of my eyes in particular.

It was a Tuesday and I was off work with flu/stress so I was a messy lump. This wasn’t helped by the fact that although I was kind of on good terms again with my then girlfriend after going to the Reading Festival a few weeks earlier, we were a wee bit frosty. That morning I was up early as she went out for a double shift which meant she wouldn’t be home til the next day as she had to sleep over at the care home she was working at, so I was up early and after a trip to the shops I settled in front of the telly for a day of recovery and doing nothing.

To help myself chill I decided to watch The Matrix again, so I settled into the comfy chair early on what was an amazingly warm and nice sunny day and watched Keanu Reeves shoot people and hit them with his fists for a few hours. After dipping myself into the violent conspiracy filled world of Reeves and company I went to make myself a bacon sandwich when this happened as Neighbours was just finishing…

I didn’t know what exactly I was watching as it felt unreal, and as you can see from the clip, the reporters are in a state of disarray themselves. What was unfolding was astonishing to watch, especially if you’re on medication for the flu and you’ve just watched The Matrix. It quickly became obvious that this was indeed very real and that thousands were probably dead .

I spent the next few hours sitting in front of our little TV flicking between the BBC and ITV who had both abandoned their normal programming to run continuous coverage of the events. Also, as this was the 21st Century I was able to follow developments online though in those days of a dial-up connection that was often slow, and of course, sites were crashing left right and centre but thankfully the internet keeps almost everything, and sites like this help show what webpages were like on the day..

The BBC site kept crashing but it was up in a basic form for most of the day while other sites crashed instantly, or were so slow that they weren’t worth looking at. All the while on the telly the images were unfolding in grim detail and then the rumours and conspiracies started-was a plane going to crash into London? Was the Whitehouse going to be hit? The lack of firm facts meant there was a vacuum which was being filled by speculation by most people. This meant people got scared quickly and this became apparent when I realised that one source of information were internet forums so i went to one comedy forum I used a lot at the time to read what was being written by various posters.  Most it was speculation, some was panic, a lot was ranting insane rubbish. In the midst of it all a picture was starting to form and by the night it was clear a massive atrocity had happened but unlike 99% of atrocities we saw it happen, unedited, in front of our eyes.

I was glued to the PC and the TV til gone midnight and beyond. Eventually I went to bed to be woken up the next day by a call from my girlfriend who was worried, so we had a chat and she said she had to cover another night so I spent another day off work sick glued to the TV watching things happen which nobody knew were events which ended up changing everything for the world.

It was an odd couple of days that every now and then I think about, and although I find the conspiracy theories that litter 911 on the whole to be ludicrous, I do find looking at the raw footage from various channels to be utterly compelling. The CNN coverage for example  is amazing to watch.

Some of the raw footage is painful to watch, especially when there’s a musak version of How Deep is Your Love? playing in the background. Be warned, this is the sort of raw footage that rarely makes it into news programmes anymore.

The more you get into watching these clips, the more you realise how filmmakers must have done the same in a massive scale to make modern Found Footage films like Cloverfield. Here’s an example of what I mean.

Here’s another example and if you look around the 20 minute mark or so you can see the wake of the boat in the previous video.

It’s astonishing that when you look back you realise how this one day changed politics, media, culture and the way things are done so effectively because these images are carved into the brains of anyone to have seen them. The problem lies in how they’ve been interpreted, so for some it’s a conspiracy by THEM to bring down the world, for others it’s a senseless act of terrorism for others it’s the excuse for war they’d always been looking for and so on..

It’s a Rorschach blot, but looking at the raw footage without scary music, or self-important commentary that gives a sense of the reality and impact of the day, so there’s one last clip left I’d like to share that is simply utterly terrifying as you can see the horror build up slower than you normally see when the clips of the second plane hitting are shown. It’s a clip that you need to watch.