Tuesday, June 05, 2007

"They're not lost in space... They're loose."

As Joe is learning that there is more to sci-fi than Star Wars, I decided to show him (and my mother) one of my favorite science fiction movies ever made, Dark Star (John Carpenter & Dan O'Bannon's film-school project.) My mother, for some inexplicable reason, wasn't impressed. Joe, however, loved the extremely expensive special effects (the alien is basically a beach-ball with puppet hands,) but two parts disturbed him: one, that the astronauts could communicate with the dead & frozen commander of the ship via radio (An homage to Philip K. Dick. The other major homages are to Ray Bradbury's classic short story, "Kaleidescope," & of course, 2001: A Space Odyssey.) And two, he didn't quite understand the ending, which concerns teaching phenomenology (did I mention this was a college film?) to a bomb with artificial intelligence.

"OK," I explained, tucking him in for the night, "prove to me that you are not the only thing in the world, and that everything you see and hear isn't just part of your imagination."

He thought about it for a moment. "Because you're real," he said.

"Prove it!" I said.

He thought about it some more. "You are!" he said.

"Prove it!" I continued with a grin on my face.

"Stop it, Daddy," he said, and I could tell the problem was starting to bug him. A little too much for a nine-year-old before bed, I guess. Instead, we both agreed that "Time for sleepy-by, you worthless piece of garbage!" is the coolest thing possible you can say to an alien before you shoot him- especially in a G-rated film.



String said...

No wonder I dreamed about UFO's last night, and a park, a little boy with a huge guitar...who was a bit too curious!

Caroline said...

Oh oh now how am I going to prove that you are real and not just some warped part of me that I'm unaware of that watches such films and thinks I'm also showing them to other people...

Anonymous said...

Joe will do what I did - make a mental note to remember for when he is grown up and understands 'everything', then go, "OH YEAH DAD!" :)

steve said...

Ha ha!If I ever make a sci-fi film I be sure to incorporate those very words you quoted--powerful. :)

I've never seen it but the first thing I thought of was the "Christmas on Mars" project--a seemingly neverending, low-budget sci-fi production and the brainchild of Wayne Coyne, who sings for a great band called "The Flaming Lips". In the recently documentary about the band "The Fearless Freaks", Wayne's pretty much turned his and his wife's Oklahoma backyard into a big ol' junk pile--looks like a spaceship crashed there--pretty funny stuff. Every year they say it's going to be released by such and such date, then it keeps getting pushed back.

merlinprincesse said...

Dark Star..mmmm. I think I've seen it... And love it. But can't remember the story... Was it real..mmmm. I wonder.... Am I real? Are YOU real...Maybe just a figment of my crazy brain..mmm... I wonder...mmmm...:D

Craig J. said...

Ahh, love Dark Star. It's one of the few early Carpenter films that I don't own on DVD -- and it's cheap, too. Which version do you prefer? Carpenter's original cut or the expanded version that the producer made him shoot extra footage for?

Tony LaRocca said...

I prefer the longer version- which is weird, because if you asked me what the film's weakest point was, I'd have to say the uneven pacing- which the extra scenes make worse. However, they do add to the characters and plot, such as Pinback's loneliness.

One thing I never understood about the extra footage is that to get a G rating, they had to blur out the Playboy centerfolds on the wall during the locker room scene. If they were going to add footage, why not just re-shoot that scene with swim-wear models?

An interesting point I read on Wikipedia- the underlying theme of the movie is communication: The bomb has to be made to understand, no one wants to talk with Pinback, the only ones Doolittle & Talby can communicate with is each other, even the dead are talked to! An obvious theme, but I never thought about it before.

Craig J. said...

That's the thing about themes, though. If a film is entertaining enough, you don't really have time to notice anything like that. They just sink in subconsciously.