Top Ten Science Fiction Movies. Can’t Do It.

This is going to be a bit like stream of consciousness to the reader. My apologies in advance for this if you find it impossible to follow.


I clicked a Youtube video link not realizing I was going on a journey that would take all day.

Archangel Films Unbelievable!!!!! The Movie – Official Trailer 2016

This kind of slapstick comes across as too funny. Too funny as in 90 minutes of this would kill me with stupid. I might watch it. I might not. I can’t say. It is billed as featuring 40 previous iconic “Star Trek” actors so I might have to see it. But then that is what the filmmakers are counting on when they make these kinds of movies.

While I’m sitting there contemplating whether to hazard my diminishing quantities of brain cells watching so much stupid at one time (like a Marx Brothers film) the dreaded Youtube autoplay kicked in. First it was this short.

Looper, 6 Movies That Audiences Walked Out Of

Camera motion, blood effects. Chopping one’s own arm off. Yeah, I can see walking out of all of these (I haven’t watched any American Horror Story. It’s just not my style. I am surprised the wife hasn’t wanted to watch it) which is why I haven’t seen some of them. Infrasound would explain a lot of things about certain horror films and my reactions to them.

Crap. Autoplay kicked in again while contemplating Tree of Life (Should I, shouldn’t I? Have I already? Is this me thinking?) What the hell will be next is anybody’s guess.

WatchMojo, Top 10 Underrated Science Fiction Movies

I’ve seen all but three of these (those three are now in my Netflix queue)  Two or three of them are on my “must see” list when someone asks me what to watch next (hint; I have a soft spot for Bruce DernRoy Scheider and Sam Rockwell) For the inquiring minds, Heavy Metal was a movie about an adult comic book which apparently nobody ever admits to reading, not about the rock music which may or may not have been either inspired by or the inspiration for the magazine.  The artwork in the movie is drawn directly from the various illustration styles in the magazine. Yes, I will admit to reading a few copies in my youth. Regrettably I don’t own any of them anymore.

Had Pitch Black made it on their list, it would have been four movies. I am once again victimized by autoplay.

WatchMojo, Top 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies You’ve Probably Never Seen

Not sure all of these films are worth watching, much less being best films you should watch but haven’t. Foreign language films are not for everyone, so I don’t generally recommend them to people I know who won’t be up for reading subtitles, even if I might watch them myself.

I would personally recommend A Boy and His DogThis is where the list starts to go sideways for me. This and the list that follows this one. It starts with the still image that introduces the list.

Don’t get me wrong, I think 2001 is a fine film. I think you should watch that and 2010 back to back. But 2001 is a snooze-fest. It is glacially slow as a movie.  I don’t think a lot of people watch that movie over and over. They remember watching it as a child, but haven’t tried to watch it recently. I have, several times.  Like the 60’s it was created in, it takes the right kinds of drugs to appreciate this film properly.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Stanley Kubrick.  He has three films at least that I would put in the category of best science fiction films. Not just 2001 but also A Clockwork Orange and Doctor Strangelove.  Most film critics will speak highly of Stanley Kubrick and his films. He is an auteur, his films bear the indelible mark of his authorship.  But few of his films are light or fun to watch.  You don’t just pop in A Clockwork Orange for a bit of light afternoon entertainment.

If they can recommend Strange Days without a caution (and I wouldn’t do that. Be prepared for murder and rape scenes conducted in the first person) then A Clockwork Orange is a walk in the park to watch.

WatchMojo, Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies of All Time

No top ten list of science fiction (SF) is complete without Metropolis and Forbidden Planet.  You cannot be a SF film fanatic without having seen those two films and recommending those two films. They can’t be on a list of films you haven’t seen; and if they are, your fan credentials will be subject to revocation.

Metropolis is arguably the mother of all modern SF, a film that has been revisited and reimagined in nearly every tale of dystopia, every film that questions who we really are, any film that posits the difference between man and machine.  In the same vein Forbidden Planet is the forebear of Star Trek, Star Wars, etc.  Those two films have to be on the top ten list or the list is invalid, in my opinion.

Especially any list that credits The Empire Strikes Back as the best SF film of all time. I doubt very much that anyone who wasn’t raised on Star Wars will think that Empire Strikes Back (much less any other Star Wars film aside from the original) should be on the list, much less topping it.  Well, perhaps the original Star Wars; not the now-titled Episode 4, but the film which aired back in 1977, the film that may single-handedly require my maintenance of a functioning laserdisc player in my home.  You remember, the movie where Han is the only person to fire a blaster in the famous bar scene? That film goes on a top ten list, if I could ever settle for ten.

I’m lying by the way. I won’t maintain the laserdisc player just for Star Wars. I will do it for the making of disc for The Abyss, for Tron, for the pressing of Highlander 2 Renegade cut and the copy of 1776 with the bits Jack Warner personally cut out of the film spliced back in and the splice marks still visible. I can link the version of 1776 that says “director’s cut” but there isn’t any way to watch the version I like other than on laserdisc. Same for the making of the Abyss which goes into the ordeal of constructing a set inside of and then flooding an abandoned nuclear reactor vessel so that real underwater shots could be pulled off with that deep water feel. The Abyss (special edition only) is one of the many, many films I would have to include in any list of SF films worth compiling.

There are a lot of good films included in their list, but I disagree with most of the films in the top five. I like them but they are all modern films. Derivative works of derivative works, unless you are talking about the Matrix or the Terminator (Not Terminator II. It’s good and a decent rewatch, just not as good as the first movie which it is derived from) both of which should be way up the list, higher than the Matrix actually appears.

Ten through six are all good solid films. I need to rewatch the War of The Worlds. I haven’t seen it since the 70’s on broadcast TV.  I have the box set of all the original Planet of the Apes films. They all rewatch well aside from the last one.

Children of Men was a heart-wrenching film to watch, but I have little doubt it will survive as a cautionary tale of meddling with mother nature. The original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still was almost unique in its time period with the portrayal of aliens as not being hellbent on destroying us (a fact that the equally good but not as memorable remake decided to change) which lends it the credibility to withstand time. Children of Men is actually one among many films which portray humans as our own worst enemy.

Jurassic Park is showing signs of age, despite their insistence that it isn’t. Maybe it is the weight of the miserable sequels that colors my impression of it. Can’t tell yet. But Aliens? Really, Aliens but not Alien? I agree the sequels that follow are best forgotten, but how do you watch Aliens without first watching Alien? Can’t be done.

Which is the problem with derivative works and especially sequels.  Without context the film is divorced from most of its meaning and has to survive on its own merit alone.  This is why The Empire Strikes Back will not be remembered as the best SF film ever. Because without the first film (1977 Star Wars) you don’t know who the Empire is. Why the villain being Luke’s dad is a problem. Who the hell Luke is in the first place.

If we’re just going to recommend sequels, movies that you have to have watched the previous versions to be able to appreciate, I’d like to put in a shameless plug for Terminator Genisys (deja vu if you’ve read my last post carefully) As I’ve noted when recommending previously, the first 10 to 20 minutes of the film (after the first time jump) is a shot for shot tribute to the original film. It is the most beautifully made and scripted film that I’ve seen for awhile now, and it builds on established previous entries into the film canon, builds on them then knocks them all down, in ways that the viewer will not see coming. If you want to watch a good sequel, this is one for you to enjoy.

If I was going to make a list of ten films you probably haven’t seen recently (if ever) but speak highly of, 2001 is going to be top of that list. In fact, most of the Top 10 list that WatchMojo put together are films that I guarantee the compilers have not rewatched recently.

If you surf over to the WatchMojo website you will notice that they do an awful lot of top ten lists. Way, way more of them than is healthy, quite frankly. In fact, I can’t even find the films-by-decade lists that are mentioned in the Top Ten list just to see if the films I think are relevant are on those lists. I think that creating these endless list films that they produce keeps them from taking the time to enjoy the life that they rate in top ten increments several times a day.

I appear to have stumbled upon the kind of site that internet surfers loathe.  The dreaded clickbait. The site that sucks up all your life and time, without giving you much in return. This explains why their films list is mostly modern films, or films recently remade with modern versions, like War of the Worlds and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Not an in depth analysis of any real kind at all. And I’ve written how much on this subject now? Several pages, at least.

So what about a real Top Ten List? The ten best SF films ever made? I don’t think I can create a list of only 10 of them. I tried to create one of those kinds of lists ages ago on Flixster. I soon found out that limiting the list to ten films requires that I eliminate films that are essential to understanding the artform.  Films like Metropolis and Forbidden Planet.

The profile link for my list says I have 15 films on it. I can’t see them because their website enters an error when I go to click on my own created content.  The web 2.0, more broken than the web 1.0 and now featuring more advertising. Luckily I copied a version of it off and posted it to this blog. I have no idea if it is the last one or not, but here is at least one of my lists.

Avatar should be in the top five. We can start with that. A lot of people love to hate on Avatar, but it is the film that inspired the resurgence of 3D and it wasn’t the 3D in the film that was remarkable. It is the fact that you cannot tell the animation from the real images in the film that makes it so remarkable. That you can have such a realistically animated film and not cross the uncanny valley in the process.  It is an amazing film, soon to be a series of 4 films.

Top Ten worthy films produced since Avatar? I can offer a few.

Ex Machina. Highly rated and very watchable, it explores the boundaries of what is or isn’t human better than any film I’ve seen on the subject.  A film worth mentioning that is also in the vein of Ex Machina is Transcendence, one of those poorly received for no good reason films, consequently not a film that would make a top ten list.

Why won’t Transcendence be a top ten listed film? Because commercial success figures into the calculation of what is or isn’t good, what is or isn’t preserved, what is or isn’t watchable by people who pick up the material to watch later.  If the film was highly rated and it made a lot of money, then it is also still a valuable experience to have, even though I don’t know who Luke Skywalker is (spoken figuratively, from the future) if you want to make lists that don’t make you sound like an idiot, you have to take all of those metrics into account. And since future prediction is something we humans suck at, most of our lists will be utterly worthless.

Take, for instance, Gravity. This is a fine film. Highly rated. Made lots of money. Probably won’t be remembered (my apologies to Sandra Bullock) because it deals with current technology and doesn’t do that really well, even though the cinematography is excellent an the acting is nearly faultless.

In the same vein of discussion, the mainstays of current cinema, the sequel, the franchise, none of those films survive without the other films in the series, just like the Saturday morning serials of old.  Consequently no Star Wars, no Star Trek, no Mad Max, no Alien will go down in history as worthy of mention, unless the first in the series merits it, or there is established a place for serial media (like television) to be consumed in the order it was produced.  This gives the viewing experience context, gives it meaning it doesn’t contain within its own constrained run-time.

That is why Alien appears at number five in my old list, and Aliens at number 10, and those are the only sequelized films on the list. Because films that are part of another genre, that can’t hold their own alone, will not be remembered. This means most of the comic book movies will also not be on any lists, if we can call those SF and not Fantasy. And whether they would be considered SF is an open question, so don’t dismiss it.  If we’re talking fantasy films, we’ve opened an entirely different discussion. A discussion where the film Legend figures prominently.

Continuing the SF list. Blade Runner would also have to be on the list. It is iconic. Worth mentioning is Dark City a twisted little film with the same feel and a completely different storyline. Both of those border on fantasy, so I could see how they would be excluded from a hard SF list.  That is, if anyone actually knew what hard SF was, could meet others who thought they knew and that group could then agree on what the term meant.  I consider that presumption fantasy in and of itself.

As I go down that old list, I can discard several films as being temporarily relevant. Films like Serenity. I still love it, but I am reconciled with the show never returning now. I keep hoping the Firefly online game will release, but I’m beginning to suspect that is also not going to happen.

Vanilla Sky and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind really are hard to rewatch. The Truman Show is still watchable, but really not surprising in the current age of reality TV. You can easily see someone pretending not to be on camera, deluding themselves into thinking the illusion is real. Sadly, it is all too believable now. Truman not knowing he was on camera? That is hard to believe.

I think A.I. should still be on the list, but it may fall off soon. We are just now getting to the point where robots are real things, much less making them capable of passing for human. The singularity that futurists are still fascinated with is portrayed loosely in that film, making it still relevant. Once the robots are among us, there is no telling what will happen next.

The last film that I’ve seen that should probably be included in any top 10 list is The Martian. Worlds better than Red Planet or Mission to Mars (Hollywood is so incestuous) both of which I paid money to see (Red Planet is good fun, just not good SF) The Martian holds up to the most intense scrutiny of scientists (other than the storm at the beginning) making it the most solidly science based fiction film since 2001.

Worthy of mention is Interstellar. Almost a time travel story (almost!) it mixes science and fantasy and comes up with a decent little film exploring the near future and what we might be facing soon if we aren’t careful.

Which brings me to the last great film that Robin Williams was in before he died, the movie The Final Cut; the story of a man afraid to live his own life, so instead spends his time authoring the stories of other people’s lives.

What else would be on the current list? I’m still working on that.

Best Science Fiction Movie?

I answered this Yahoo Question today.

Best science fiction movie?

I’m watching the tv-movie “supernova” while typing this and I’m afraid it’s just a complete insult to my own intelligence … can anyone recommend a really good science fiction movie to make up for this friggin’ atrocity?

answers.yahoo.com

If I was subjected to torture (being strapped into a chair and forced to watch an endless loop of Barney reruns, for example) and forced to select One Film above All Others as The Best SF film ever made…

…I’d have to say Blade Runner. It has the timeless quality of a real classic film, and it is very nearly flawlessly SF. Since I’m not being subjected to torture, I’ll offer some further thoughts on the subject of “Great” SF films. The last great SF film was Wall-E, that I’ve seen anyway. Yes it’s a kid’s film, go see it anyway.

The Essential SF list runs like this

Metropolis
Forbidden Planet
A Clockwork Orange
Blade Runner
Alien
Serenity
Vanilla Sky
The Abyss
The Terminator
Aliens
Pitch Black
A.I. Artificial Intelligence
Children of Men
The Truman Show
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

Source(s):

My list at Flixster
http://www.flixster.com/movie-list/essen…
Rotten Tomatoes SF list
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/top/bestof…


Editor’s note. I removed some unnecessary quotation and accent marks. I end up having to do that a lot in early blog articles. I’m sure I’ve missed some along the way. Took unnecessary capitalization out of the article and added capitals to the title of the article. What the fuck was it with early me and weird capitalization practices? I also fixed the quote to look like a quote should. Corrected his phrasing and spelling. So sue me.

Flixster still exists, but the user-created content that made Flixster worth visiting is now gone. I’ve left the link to the old content in this article in the probably vain hope that Flixster will unbreak what it broke.

I find it amusing what I think of as further thoughts at this point in time. That guy would probably either cringe in horror or die of amazement at how long most of my articles run these days. At how deep inside my own head I’m willing to go these days when writing articles.

The best Science Fiction movie as of this editor’s note (August, 2020) is probably Avatar. Hopefully there will be movies and theaters where we can watch them at sometime in the future. So many things have changed since 2009. That guy would have had a stroke by now.

Day X

As the wife pointed out, the previous post is a little out of date. On the other hand, I never did blog on the fact that one of her first films is finally in stores, and you can rent or buy your own copy to watch repeatedly (if you are into zombie films, that is) Day X.

There’s more story in this film than in all of the Romero zombie films, combined. If you do watch the film, take the time to rate it at IMDB or Flixster. Like all straight to video films, viewership is driven by word of mouth. Also like most straight to video films, this one suffers from a landslide of incredibly negative ratings.

One would hardly be able to tell that it won Best Director at Rhode Island International Horror Film Festival 2005 based on the biased slams that can be found online. Good grief people, it’s a low-budget indy film about zombies. What did you expect, a 100 million dollar budget and Spielberg at the helm? How about some realistic expectations?

SciFi on the horizon: Avatar

I went looking for information on one of my favorite directors, James Cameron, recently; because a podcast I listen to mentioned some of his work. It’s a shame that the director whom I have a great respect for, the director of The Abyss, Terminator, and Aliens

[and no matter what anyone else says, there are only two films in the Alien saga. As far as I’m concerned Ripley, Newt and Hicks made it back home, where they set up shop in a small quiet corner of the planet and lived happily ever after. None of the sequel films after Aliens rates a viewing. I wish I’d never seen them]

…is now known for grandiose melodrama like Titanic (yes, it made tons of money. It’s not a good film; or more correctly, not his best) Documentaries like Ghosts of the Abyss (and the related plundering of the Titanic shipwreck site that has followed in it’s wake) or complete wastes of time like The Lost Tomb of Jesus, and a television series featuring an actress who was clearly discovered in a horizontal position (I say that because Jessica Alba can’t act. In any of the films I’ve watched her in. At all. Wooden describes her performance, and the related parts of the men who enjoy watching her) The guy worked for John Carpenter on Escape From New York, another one of my all-time favorite films, for crying out loud. Where did he go so wrong?

[Want some fun? Contrast Prince of Darkness (later Carpenter film) with The Lost Tomb of Jesus. Is your head spinning yet?]

So here we are in 2008, and James Cameron wants to get back into cutting edge SciFi with his latest film Avatar. Sigourney Weaver is in it, along with several other recognizable names. It looks like it could be quite promising. The technology is cutting edge, just like his underwater filming techniques were cutting edge in The Abyss.

Using a new digital 3D format, Avatar and the technology behind it could revolutionise the industry, making 2D films seem as outdated as silent films. (From SFF media)

If you go to some of the sites talking about the film, you can find the usual gushing of fans giving away way more information than you really want to know this early in the game (the film is not due for release until 2009) When all I want to know is, should we get our hopes up? Can the man who co-hosts a two-hour special about a religious figure be trusted to produce gritty, cutting edge movies any more?

Sigourney Weaver seems to think so.

“I’m playing very much a leader in this [film] Someone who gets the job done. Someone very very driven and smart and yet funny. The only person I could think of that was like this at all was Jim Cameron,” Weaver said, echoing statements she made to MTV in February. “Jim Cameron is an amazing person. First of all he knows everything in an unobnoxious way. He just wants to get on with it so he has a great deal of leadership.”

She’s come a long way from the actress who played Ripley back in the 70’s and 80’s. I’ve liked a lot of the work she’s done, even the recent (wait, I don’t think I’ve seen her in anything since Galaxy Quest. Can 8 years ago be recent?) work, but…

James Cameron is responsible for tripe like Piranha 2 as well as great cutting edge films like The Abyss. I’ve seen 99% of it, and I’ve watched a good part of it just because his name was on it. I’m not going to lose my head dreaming about how great this film just has to be. I’m approaching this film with the same cautious air that I’ve learned from experience yields the best outcome for me; whether it’s a new group with a new idea, or someone I know producing a sequel to something I love (J.J. Abrams and ST XI for example) It’s a SciFi film, so I’m going to see it at some point. Will it be good? Won’t know that until I’ve sat through it. See you in December of 2009.

Torture Porn. Count Me Out.

A friend of mine used the phrase Torture Porn to refer to a Funny Games ad a couple of weeks ago. I thought it so appropriate that I wrote the phrase down specifically to use in a blog entry on the subject of these types of films.

Recently I picked up a copy of Esquire and read the following piece:

Funny Games – The Most Brutal Film Ever Made. Made Again.

At regular intervals, the killers turn to the camera and address the audience, asking us who we’re rooting for and whether we want them to stop. Funny Games is a masterful torture-porn film that implicitly castigates the viewer for sitting through it. Its true and lasting violence is inflicted not upon its characters but upon us.

esquire

Great minds, I guess.

I understood the fact that the violence was inflicted upon the audience long before the latest round of slasher films became so focused on the suffering of the victims, rather than the mystique of the unstoppable force. I have turned several films into comedies over the years, gasping at the pain the on-screen characters must be feeling when impaled, dismembered, etc, graphically on screen.

For awhile several of my tech school friends found it quite amusing to drag me over to their apartments and turn on films like Friday the 13th. “Hey, watch Anthony dance in place.” Yes, I’m quite proud of my inability to watch pain inflicted on others, even imaginary pain.

I wrote this review of Halloween on Flixster awhile back:

Spanning the entire length of the slasher genre (it is mercifully dead now, IMHO) John Carpenter initiated us into this new type of horror with the oft imitated, never duplicated Halloween. And as far as I’m concerned there are only three other films worth watching in the entire field. Those would be Halloween II and H20, which ends the series with nice finality. Now if the slasher would only stay dead…

Halloween remains the one film worth watching in the entire genre; and it, strictly speaking, isn’t torture porn.

The depths that these latest films descend to, reveling in the pain and suffering of the on-screen victim, makes me question what types of people can actually sit through a film so completely devoid of anything truly meaningful.

If you are into torture porn, then I highly recommend you see Funny Games. While the victims suffer mercilessly in front of your eyes, ask yourself “do I want this to stop?” if your answer is no, I suggest you find a shrink as soon as you exit the theater.


Editor’s note, 2019. I wasted so much time inputting data on Flixster’s website, hours spent rating and reviewing movies and playing silly games, believing that that data would be available to me later when I wanted it. Nearly all of it is gone now. The reviews are inaccessible as far as I can determine. The personal pages were sporadically archived in the Wayback Machine, but those just provide glimpses into the massive numbers of individuals who contributed to the site before the drive to capitalize on web traffic pushed sites like Flixster to alter their approach. They don’t even have personalized accounts anymore. Does anyone blame me for hording all my writing here now? I know who’s responsible for retaining this archive and making it available in the future.

Today’s Beef: So, What is a bad movie, Flixster?

I’ve been kicking around on Flixster for a several months now, and I’ve noticed something that probably rates up there as today’s beef (and a few other todays as well…)

I’m running through a few quick rates, just trying to see how many films I have seen and still haven’t rated, how many films I want to see (but probably won’t have time for) and what kind of schlock might be listed that I should avoid seeing; and up comes this gem.

Now, I don’t want to pick too much on any one film, but I just gotta ask, what qualifies as a bad movie, Flixster? (after all, the slogan “Stop watching bad movies” appears after the Flixster logo on virtually every page) A routine search reveals that Rottentomatoes, IMDB and Metacritic all agree that Serving Sara is most likely a bad film. But the rating on Flixster is 3 stars, which equates to a generally positive watchable film. Even the (highly biased, negative) review on Flixster’s page paints a pretty grim picture of the film, and yet the people who have rated it seem loathe to give it the panning it seems to deserve.

The generic unwillingness to truly pan bad films is only one beef I have with Flixster. Duplication, like this one (Editor’s note: they did finally delete that duplicate. Possibly before they deleted most of the site) is another annoyance. I’m not interested in rating collections which are nothing more than boxed sets of movies I’ve already rated elsewhere. They should be roundfiled as duplicates.

The problem that I’m running into is that films that I can state unequivocally were garbage, based on a reasonably objective standard of measurement, do not get a low rating from others. Films that I hated, like Sin City or Four Brothers, for example. I guess they just aren’t bad enough.

However, with a little bit of perusing of the bottom 100 over at IMDB I stumbled across this little nugget of hell; Lawnmowerman 2, which I crowned the “king of the unnecessary sequels”. IMDB gives it 2 of 10 stars; rottentomatoes.com gives it 11% on the tomato meter. Flixster’s rating? 2 1/2 out of 5 stars. 50%!? Seriously Flixster, what’s the deal here?

Perhaps they should establish a bottom 100 list similar to the list at IMDB. Maybe that will encourage people to pan films that deserve to be ridiculed. Or perhaps the ratio of Interested to Not Interested should weight the overall star rating of a film (as an example that ratio on Lawnmower Man 2 is 297/3744; Serving Sarah ‘s ratio is 1083/5962) and reduce (or increase) a films rating based on who actually wants to see any particular film. Whatever the solution is, this problem needs to be addressed. Please guys, I’m begging you.

Seen a good film lately?

Well, I have. And I’ve been hanging out at Flixster rating those films. Now, the wife and I seem to be engaged in a ratings competition. She’ll eventually beat me because she has actually seen more films than I have. In the meantime, I have more free time than she has, so the total number of ratings seems to be going to me.

At just under 1300 films rated that I can reasonably state “I’ve seen that”, I can’t think of a single film that’s missing (and yet I just changed the number from 1100 to 1300. Two hundred films that I went, “Oh yeah, that one!” Either the senior moments are increasing, or the films just aren’t that memorable, I guess) On the other hand, She’s rated a few hundred films less than I have, has a list of films shes seen that tops out at over 1500, and is complaining that a large section of films that she remembers seeing aren’t listed on the site.

…and here I thought I’d spent way too much time in front of a movie screen, myself. My hats off to you babe.


When I first started building a list of films that I’d seen over at IMDB, one of my co-workers was incredulous that I could have wasted that much money on watching movies. At the time the list was around 600 films, and I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it was composed of just those films I remembered seeing well enough that I went looking for them. It didn’t even begin to address the even larger number of films that I watched while half asleep in front of the boob tube at home; or had seen in a theater but didn’t remember because I was more interested in my date than the movie.

Part of the reason that the Wife has seen more films than I have can be credited to the fact that she had a movie theater in her hometown, while I had to travel at least a half hour to the next town in Kansas (that would have been the thriving metropolis of Tribune, Kansas; for any of you who care) in order to watch a film that wasn’t “edited for television” .

Edited for Television. Even today those words are enough to make me turn the TV off and go find the real version of a film. I will never understand the need to take a film that really isn’t made for children, and then attempt to make it safe for children by removing all the sex, some of the violence (and most ludicrously) a specific set of “bad words” from a film.

George Carlin said it best, there aren’t any bad words. And the unintended consequences of removing the “objectionable material” from the film is generally to make the antagonist in the film appear less objectionable. The Terminator doesn’t empty entire clips into already dead bodies, or mow down entire bars full of people in order to take out his target, thereby making his ruthless pursuit of a specific goal, the death of Sarah Connor, almost acceptable, in the edited for TV version of the film. And 48 Hours becomes a spoof of itself as the dialog becomes not just juvenile, but truly lame, and the violence in the film becomes totally inconsequential.

Why more directors don’t put their feet down and insist on not allowing chances to their product by middlemen is beyond me. I’m sure it’s a contractual thing, but I think I’d insist on modifying those contracts. I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to see the modified versions of my films for the first time, and falsely believe that was the way I intended it to be seen.

Don’t even get me started on Pan and Scan versus Widescreen. Just don’t go there.

There were only two channels on the TV anyway, both fuzzy, and neither of them was PBS. What about cable, I here you say? Cable was unheard of until the year we moved away, and even then we couldn’t afford to pay for it. The cable guy would occasionally be invited over for dinner, and we would mysteriously have more channels to watch on the TV that night, but they would just as mysteriously be gone the next day.

There had been theaters in Leoti (my hometown till the age of 14) at some point in the past. My Grandfather, who had one of the longest running businesses in town, would point out the buildings that had been constructed as theaters originally, but had been converted to some other use after the newness of theater going wore off. One of them was a block away from my house, but it had been turned into an IGA grocery by the time I rolled around town on my bike (did my only bit of shoplifting, ever, there. Mom made me take the gum back and apologize) and it had burned down by the time I left there (one in a series of mysterious fires in businesses owned by the same businessman. He was cordially invited to leave town, if I remember correctly) It would have been cool to be able to walk down the street and see a movie. But it didn’t happen. Instead, it was 30 minutes to Tribune, or we could have driven to Garden City (an hour away) and watched a movie there. They even had a zoo. So film watching wasn’t something I got to do a lot of until we moved away from rural Kansas.

Because I saw so few films, most of them were memorable though. I couldn’t sit through the Poseidon Adventure the first time I saw it (I was 9) and spent a good portion of the film sitting out on the curb waiting for my older brother to come back out with his date and take us all back home (we ran out of gas that time, I think. I remember sitting in the back of the car waiting for them to get back with the gasoline) One of my most vivid memories. I missed the first Star Wars film, but watched the first Star Trek film, with a date (so much for trekkies being unable to get dates, by the way) in the same theater that I watched several films from my childhood, the State Theater in downtown Garden City. I managed to catch the first and Second Star Wars films (Empire Strikes Back remains my favorite to this day. I made the mistake of reading Lucas’ own novelization of the first Star Wars script. The movie was a bit of a let down after that) back to back at the brand new Twin Theater (two screens? who has heard of such a thing?) also in Garden.

I wonder if the owners of such grand old movie houses as the State would have imagined that they would soon be put out of business by the smaller screen multiplexes that appeared over the next decade or so. The only theater listed for Garden City these days is a 9 screen multiplex on the outskirts of town.

Drive-in theaters. There was one just down the street from our house in Garden City. I used to drive my dates there while I was in High School. I don’t recall a single film I saw there specifically, and don’t ask me why that was. I actually passed a drive-in a months back, while on a road trip from Oklahoma. I had thought them as dead as the downtown single screen movie houses. Or at least they were dead until Alamo Drafthouse came into existence.

I have saved most of the ticket stubs from the movies (and concerts) I’ve seen. I don’t even remember when or why I started doing it, but it has turned into a rather large collection of torn paper. The thing I like least about Alamo Drafthouse is their heat sensitive paper ticket stubs that fade inside of a week. Pointless to save any of those.

The point of this long and rambling post? I love movies, I guess. But it’s a bit more than that, too. I love going to the movies. Finding just the right seat. Getting the right supplements for the film (will I need alcohol, or not?) bringing the right group of people along to enjoy the film with me. When everything clicks, it’s just a joyful experience. Watching movies at home, even with pay-per-view and DVD movies, doesn’t even compare with the real movie house experience.

1408 – The Exception to the Rule

1408 (2007)

Most of the horror films that I haven’t seen are marked “not interested” on Flixster; that’s because I have a tendency, when scared, to scream and run in place. Ask me if I want to endure this in advance, and you’ll get a not interested from me, pretty much every time.

1408 (2007) – Mar 3, 2009

This film was a notable exception. I like both the leads in 1408, and the story of the writer driven to seek out haunted places as part of dealing with his personal demons struck a chord with me.

I was not disappointed. While not long on plot, the pacing of the film was fast enough to keep me interested, and the twists, in general, kept me guessing. Yes, I did scream, duck and run in place at least 4 or 5 times during the film. Still, it was worth it.