My Top 20 SF Films-4-2001: A Space Odyssey

I’ve recently dived into doing ”best of’ lists, 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.

Previously at # 20, The Matrix19, Seconds, 18A Boy and His Dog17Sunshine16Dark Star15Rollerball14 Altered States13, Close Encounters of the Third Kind ,12Forbidden Planet11The Star Wars Trilogy10The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension9Dark City, 812 Monkeys, 7, Starship Troopers6The Day the Earth Stood Still and 5, Videodrome.

At number four it’s what many consider not just one of the greatest Sf films ever made, but one of the finest films ever made. It’s Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

2001

 

For year’s this was to me a perfect SF film. It’s thoughtful, smart and it doesn’t attempt to speak down to the viewer at all in any way which even back in the 1960’s was amazing, but now it’s astonishing. Though this is as much Arthur C. Clarke’s vision as Kubrick’s, not to mention the army of people involved with making this classic.

When I was growing up this was always proclaimed in magazines I’d read that this was the best of the best, so when I finally saw it one wet summers day in a now long gone cinema in Glasgow’s Renfield Street during one of it’s many re-releases during the 1970’s I was blown away. The images in it were, and are amazing. They still are even in an age of digital effects because they feel real, and ok, the film is cold and detached. Some of it has even dated badly in places, but it’s superior to 99% of film SF produced since it because it’s dealing with massive ideas in a way few films want to because the audience don’t have the patience to deal with it anymore.  This is after all, a film where not a word of dialogue is spoken for the first 30 minutes or so of the film.

I should also say that if you do get the chance to see this on a big cinema screen then do so. It’s a film that loses something on a TV screen, even a giant one so if you can get to see it where it was meant to be seen as there’s so much detail, not to mention impact lost. That said, it’s a film that if you’ve not seen then you really bloody well should as it really is one of the best films of any genre ever made.

2001: A Space Odyssey is a hopeful, positive film about the future of humanity that says we’re capable of more, and better things. Don’t get many films like that in today’s cynical times.

Next time, in space, nobody can hear anything actually because sound doesn’t travel in a vacuum…..

My Worst Five Horror Films Ever

I did a list of my top 20 horror films but some things were missing. This is going to plug at least one of those gaps as I run as painlessly as possible through the worst horror films I’ve had the misfortune to endure.

Let’s start at #5 with Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

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At this point I reckon most people are going ‘WHAT???!You can’t call The Shining a bad film?”. I’m not calling it a bad film, in fact in this short list of my worst horror films it’s by far the best made film by a country mile, but as a horror film that adapts a book by Stephen King it’s a sad failure.

Why? It’s just a very simple film that uses horror cliches to make you jump because Kubrick seems to be confused as to whether he’s making a horror film featuring characters you can believe in (which is the case with the book) rather than broad caricatures. It’s also the film that saw Jack Nicholson  play up the ‘Crazy Jack’ persona to such a nonsensical degree that you’re taken out of the film, and in fact, I’m constantly taken out of the film as there’s no sensible reasoning used by any of the characters in this film.

It’s a wasted shout at what should have been a great film but I can’t stand the film. It’s cold. It’s false and it doesn’t fill me with dread. I love Kubrick as a filmmaker but the sense of crushing disappointment I felt upon seeing this for the first time has never left me.

As we move on from #5, all sensible criticism gets blown away in the wind as we hit the shitefest of #4, it’s the craptastic Zoltan, Hound of Dracula.

Zoltan

 

It’s Dracula’s dog. Really. It bites people on the neck and everything. It’s fucking awful.

Moving on swiftly to #3 it’s the even more fucking awful I Know What You Did Last Summer.

i_know_what_you_did_last_summer

 

Why is it awful? Well, it’s the film that gave us the genre of horror films made for people who really don’t like horror films. It’s the date horror film which gives minor scares and features amazingly glamorous, nubile American teenagers being murdered in a variety of boring ways. Even the Friday the 13th films were more fun than this and I fucking hate those films, but they at least allowed the audience in on the gag. This is smug, offensive patronising cookie-cutter filmmaking by fucking wankers for fucking wankers.

It also introduced a look for modern American horror films with this palate of grey/green/black colours that make all films looking identical. It’s a terrible, terrible, terrible film.

At # 2 it’s not just one film, but a number of them. It’s crappy inferior remakes of better films, so for an example let’s kick the crap out of the remake of Nightmare on Elm Street.

The original is a classic little horror that ok, has dated badly, but stands up still. The remake is a dismal little thing that should have been never made. So also, Last House of the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and even remakes of naff films like The Amityville Horror show how incredibly desperate Hollywood is for ideas. Calling something A Nightmare on Elm Street and making it all ‘dark’, ‘broody’ and aimed at again, the sort of person who really doesn’t like horror films that much but recognises these names through the general drip of culture.

All you need to do is get a director who’ll churn out one of these remakes in what’s become a house style and hey presto! You’ve got a minor hit at the box office and a success on DVD as they market them to people who really do think a film can be made better by ‘up to date’ effects.

I hate these films so much I’m not even going to link to a trailer as they’re hateful crap.

And lastly, at #1 it’s The Purge/Insidious/Sinister. These films annoy me in a way few other films do, except of course the films of Michael Bay, the wanker!

Take Sinister as an example of how they annoy. It takes bits of the Slenderman meme with bits of the Found Footage genre, and should be a gripping horror film rather than something that constantly relies on the Lewton Bus for scares, that is, when the scares start to happen as the film is so amazingly dull thanks to cardboard characters you don’t care about from the start.

The Purge is the worst example of these current trend of film. It could have been a clever little exploitation film in the hands of say, Roger Corman back in the 60’s or 70’s rather than the deadly dull and serious piece of crap it actually is. It’s a decent enough idea but from the off it’s so badly executed with characters doing ridiculous things because the plot needs them to do ridiculous things that again, I couldn’t care less.

These films are contemptuous. They’re insulting and are made for people who really don’t care for horror films, or indeed, good filmmaking but want 90 minutes of mindless crap rather than search out something actually worthwhile.  Making a good horror film is tough, but there’s now a trick which is to hack out these films because they play to a dumbed down audience who think something like The Purge is ‘edgy’ when in fact, it’s badly executed, boring wank with a messed up set of politics.

Nihilism doesn’t make something edgy. It just makes you a moody teenager sitting on your bed playing too much Emo and wanking too much, which is in my mind, what these films are. They’re the cinematic version of moping around being moody because you once heard an Ayn Rand speech once.

So there you go. I feel better now that’s out. Next time let’s find out why there was no Hammer Films in my top 20 list…