Tuesday, August 9, 2016

And the award goes to...

"I've had it with them, I've had it with you, I've had it with ALL THIS - I want ROOM SERVICE! I want the club sandwich, I want the cold Mexican beer, I want a $10,000-a-night hooker! I want my shirts laundered... like they do... at the Imperial Hotel... in Tokyo."
Johnny, Johnny Mnemonic
We recently had dinner with Karli's friend Tara and her new boyfriend Gary.  As sometimes happens in the ebb and flow of first meetings and the associated who-when-where-what-why process, it came out that I was a science fiction fan. Gary, who works in the film industry, immediately asked, "Ah - what's your favourite science fiction movie?"

I realize that this is a standard conversational gambit, but whenever someone asks me about my favourite anything, I always feels a bit challenged, as if I'm going to be judged on my response* - it's not always a comfortable experience.

I was thinking about it afterwards, and I have an alternative that I'd like to propose to the general population.  Going forward, let's no longer ask people about their favourite book, movie, TV show or YouTube™ channel - science fiction or not. Let's ask people about their least favourite.

It's a thought provoking question, if perhaps a bit negative, and I think that in some odd way people are more likely to commiserate than disagree (as can be the case with favourites). There may well be a story as well, because generally people don't go out of their way to watch or read something that they won't enjoy.

I've done this a couple of times on a trial basis, and it's been quite interesting, perhaps more so than the question of favourites. For example, Karli cited Cool World, a movie I haven't thought about for literally decades.  Her sister Stefanie said, "The Wicker Man!" without a moment's hesitation. (Which she instantly followed with Mad Max - apparently Stefanie has already given this question some thought.)

My least favourite science fiction film?  Hmmmm...a little part of me wants to list classically bad SF movies that I haven't seen, like Battlefield Earth or the Sharknado series** (or any one of a legion of terrible low-budget SF movies from the 70s and 80s), but that's not the purpose of the exercise.

A slightly larger part wonders if Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back*** would count as SF - there's certainly a fanboy element to the film, and that movie represents two incredibly tedious hours of my life that are gone, gone forever.

In terms of bad SF that I have seen, Johnny Mnemonic is the first thing that comes to mind, mostly due to its wasted potential.  The source material was an excellent short story by William Gibson that contained the DNA for his breakout 1984 cyberpunk novel Neuromancer, but the brevity and style that made it so good was completely lost in translation.

There are a few others that required a little more thought.  Prometheus disappointed me: I felt that it was an ambitious failure, but a failure none the less.  Ridley Scott did all the things he's good at, lighting, composition and set design, but the script lets him down.  The Planet of the Apes reboot with Mark Wahlberg - the original was an extraordinary concept for the 1960s, and the re-reboots have cast a whole new light on the concept, but the 2001 version never made sense right from the very start.  I suspect I could come up with more, but as with Karli's sister, I feel that the initial instinctive responses are the ones that really count.

Oh, my favourite SF movie?  As previously discussed and explained, Star Wars, the original one.  Gary's choice was 2001: A Space Odyssey, which I found a bit surprising - sadly, it appears that this judgement thing is a two-way street.

- Sid

* And let's face it, I probably will be.

** Sorry, Laurie.

***  For the trivia fans in the audience, as far as I know this is the only movie other than the Star Wars series that features both Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher - albeit not in shared screen time.

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