Best Science Fiction You Didn't See In 2004
This year was a good one if you like science fiction. We got
the director’s cut of Donnie Darko, we’re
a year closer to the whole Star Wars thing being
over for a good while, and The Life Aquatic with Steve
Zissou. As far as Fantasy goes, you got great work like
Lemony Snicket, another Harry Potter and
a couple of strange little films in fests. As usual, the best
science fiction and fantasy being made happened to come in
either short form, on TV (Lost qualifies), or in
the form of strange little festival films. Here, my loyal
readers, is my personal top ten of little-seen science fiction
science fiction without Robin Williams.
Apartment 206 by Gregory Zymet. What happens
after a car crash kills two entirely different people? Apartment
206 posits that they both go to a small apartment with two
TVs that allow them to watch in on the lives of the living
while being trapped in a house with a constantly replenished
supply of food and an endless expanse of darkness outside
the door. This is a very good short that plays with some
of the oldest forms of science fiction in a brilliant way.
Check it out at http://www.apartment206.com/.
Metal Tears by Jerry Bradbury. Mike Resnick
wrote a Hugo-nominated story called Robots Don’t
Cry. This 40 minute adaptation of that story displays
solid storytelling here as we see a couple of salvage boys
come across a service robot. I really liked this one the
first time I saw and was more impressed when I watched it
again. You can find out more here.
Timed Call by Matthew Macknamara. Where will
failed dot-com-starters focus their attention on next? In
this Australian short, the idea of making phone calls into
the past is offered by a company, allowing a man to call
his wife right before she’s supposed to be murdered.
It’s emotional and very dark, but I really got into
it. Possibly the best treatment of the subject I’ve
ever seen outside of the pages of science fiction novels
by the likes of Robert J. Sawyer and Robert Silverberg.
Parallel Parallel by Sean Becker. San Jose’s
own Sean Becker may be a genius. I’m not sure, but
he’s managed to make a few great little films including
the brilliantly postmodern Dude, Where’s My Scooter.
Parallel Parallel was easily my favorite student short
at Cinequest this year and it’s well worth sniffing
The Big Empty by Steve Anderson. John Gries
is in it, so it’s gotta be good! One of the bigger
surprises at the Sonoma Valley Film festival, you can read
my review of it here.
Apotheosis by Janet Wondra. Another Cinequest
2004 film and one of the most haunting sound tracks of the
year. Entirely whistling and I believe an upside down wastebasket
for a drum, the short is a classic tale told in the old
silent method. Great short about unrequited love and spontaneous
human combustion. It’s a fun little film made in 1998.
You can read more here.
Madness and Genius by Ryan Eslinger. OK, not
every science fiction film has to be all lasers and neutrinos.
Madness and Genius is essentially a story about
a professor and his unethically leveled student and their
interactions about a theory of using sound to cure cancer
and other stuff. It’s incredibly subtle SF, and I’m
betting the director wouldn’t see it as Science Fiction
at all. It’s a cavernous film that has a haunting
sense of emptiness to it. Plus, it’s got Tom Noonan
as the Prof, which gives it ties to Last Action Hero and
Danny Bot by Frank Lesser- OK, I’ve
had others look at this and not enjoy it, but how could
you not love a mournful version of Danny Boy sung to a Robot
heading off to RoboWar? Probably the strangest short that
will be in Cinequest 2005 in March, Danny Bot is
hilarious and the Blog at www.dannybot.com
Broadcast 23 by Tom Putnam. Tom Putnam did
a great short called Tom Hits His Head which showed
at Cinequest 2003, and this follow up is even better. Having
grown up on Leonard Nimoy’s classic series In
Search Of…, any tale that features a Sasquatch-like
creature is holdin’ aces, but this one is even better.
Featuring great cinematography and even a moment of butt-Crisco-ing,
Broadcast 23 is great fun.
Untitled 003: Embryo by Mike Goedecke. There
should be a law saying that effects require a good story.
Films like The Matrix can ride on effects alone,
but when you combine a great story with amazing effects,
you have an even bigger win. Embryo is one of those
rare times when everything hits right. A great story of
an agoraphobic who gets a package delivered that allows
him to live his ultimate dream, but only for a price. Great
story, a fun short that I could watch all day, a great lead
actor, an appearance by Star Trek: Voyager’s
Ethan Phillips and the lovely Jennifer Barker all add up
to a brilliant short. Read more at www.belief.com.