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SF/44 Wrap-Up Thread (Read 922 times)
Feb 20th, 2019 at 12:10am

L.A. Connection   Offline
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Well, folks, another one in the books.

Whaddya all think? Spoiler alert: I think it was the strongest lineups in years!

You?
« Last Edit: Feb 21st, 2019 at 12:43am by L.A. Connection »  
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Reply #1 - Feb 20th, 2019 at 9:01pm

da_Bunnyman   Offline
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L.A. Connection wrote on Feb 20th, 2019 at 12:10am:
Well, folks, another one in the books.

Whaddya all think? Spoiler altert: I think it was the strongest lineups in years!

You?


I'll agree on that, a very strong lineup.

In Memoriam- Good but way too many film clips from obscure actors while names like Harlan Ellison only get a scrolled mention.

I really miss the goodie bags.

Too many people coming up on stage to get awards for films we did not see.

Innerspace- somehow I'd never seen this one before. A lot of fun and a great cast. Interesting that there's not much of a setup for the whole thing. You meet some people and the experiment starts. No real why's or who's behind it all. Then it does not quite end either.
Dr. Cyclops- an enjoyable ancient classic. Some of the most polite victims and tormentor ever.
Rollerball- good but overly talky and tries too hard to be a film that "says" something. The game was great though. Also a good example of 70's sci-fi where they thought the future buildings had all ready been built.
Woman In The Moon- musical accompaniment was superb as always. The film though, takes forever to start the voyage but still seems like we came in late on the story. Glad I saw it but doubt I could ever watch it again.
Star Trek VI- Forgot how enjoyable this film was. Also realized how much I miss the original crew.
Annihilation- Wow, great film with some real nightmare inducing visuals and sound.
Andromeda Strain- skipped for an attempt at some sleep.
Destination Moon- corny but classic. Set up the perils every 50's space crew would encounter on their trips.
Source Code- intriguing premise and deserves to be remembered more. Plus the music after it had a fun singalong to Charlie On The MTA.
Sunshine- really good straight sci-fi that seems to be a film everyone has missed. The final line about the especially nice day just stays with me.
Skipped out on Escape From New York, was in pain from back and knee problems.

A fun, fast paced and very varied marathon schedule.


 

I can't complain but sometimes I still do. Life's been good to me so far.
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Reply #2 - Feb 21st, 2019 at 4:51pm

L.A. Connection   Offline
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First of all, a big thank you to everybody involved in putting together this year's Boston Sci-Fi Festival Marathon. A true team effort (more thanks below) resulting in the best 'thon in many a moon!

In Memorium: Dan Leblanc is getting better and better with more slickness and better pacing. I liked the inter-cut pieces of trailers and commercials. One thing I'd cut are the references to actors & filmmakers who only did one episode of a TV show.

Sing-A-Long. A brave solo effort. Hey, it was cool with the David Bowie 'Space Oddity' shortly after his passing, but, this does NOT have to be yearly fixture.

Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century! When the WB logo hits the screen, I'm "home again"!

INNERSPACE (1987) - Hadn't seen this one since it first came out. Very little was retained from that first viewing - mostly because I didn't care for it then. I'm a little more mellow towards it now. It has some nice bits, the cameos are fun with Kenneth Tobey's being particularly amusing (and Kevin McCarthy has a solid supporting role), but, it's still a pretty soggy screenplay. Dennis Quaid comes off as a 2nd rate Tom Cruise and is a particularly unappealing 'hero'. Never warmed to Martin Short, but, he gives it his all here. Meg Ryan is her usual pert self. It was a nice lite opening, and the 35mm film print was superb.

DR. CYCLOPS (1940) - Pleasant Saturday matinee thriller still holds up well all these decades later. The effects are charmingly old school and Albert Dekker is well-suited for the title role. Even though this was a more recent print, the original Technicolor photography seeps through enough to appreciate how special that process was.

ROLLERBALL (1975) -  The only time I had seen this before was on VHS on a 19" Zenith*. It looked great in 35mm on the big Somerville screen. I was struck by how violent it remains (the slo mo pummeling of Moonpie (John Beck) is sickening). The movie certainly has ideas, but Director Norman Jewison (In The Heat Of The Night, Moonstruck) shows no feel for the genre. The pacing is poor even if the contrast between the Rollerball sequences and the non-stadium scenes was intentional. It certainly fits in the dystopian 70s view of the world (could the roller-rink have been any more dingy? If this was supposed to be the modern gladiator entertainment for the masses, shouldn't it have been bright and glitzy?), and would make a good double bill with NETWORK.

Short film, "Live". More Festival shorts & trailers should be part of the Marathon, but, for the second year in a row, the one short shown wasn't all that great. At least last year's 'Haley' was sci-fi. What makes Internet Cam Websites "science fiction"??

WOMAN IN THE MOON (1929) - Fritz Lang's follow-up to METROPOLIS isn't as convoluted, but, it's also not nearly as good, either. It's quite long-winded, but, when they finally get to the Moon it's decent enough in its own cockeyed way. The production design is impressive and the lovely ending is still touching 90 years on. But...........that's all secondary. What was important was Jeff Rapsis' live scoring! A fantastic feat at 169 minutes of continuous playing. Clearly, Jeff was touched by not only the standing O he received, but by knowing that he got his dream fulfilled of getting to play THIS movie at THIS venue. All praise.

STAR TREK VI: UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY (1991).  The symbolism of the collapsing Soviet Union at the time were duly noted upon release (particularly by myself, as I had just returned from working for 6 months in Moscow - it was the USSR when I arrived, Russia when I departed). After a strong opening, VI stumbles a bit in the middle with some creaky plotting and tired gags (there's a reason this was the last film with the original cast). And, really? A ship-wide search for gravity boots as the all consuming clue? Christopher Plummer gets the juiciest role (following in the footsteps of Ricardo Montalban in II). The ending pulls it together nicely and the cast gets a nice send-off. The 70mm blow-up print (it was shot in 35mm) looked solid and bright, and the sound shows off the best of 90s cinema audio. No overly aggressive highs, and lots of punch.

ANNIHILATION (2018) - Second time on the big screen with this for me. Not much more to add from my original impression (review below***). A few of the nuances are a bit clearer on 2nd sight, but, the disappointing aspects are also still present. It's certainly a step up from the usual action cliches in much current cinema sci-fi, but, the ending still poses more questions than answers - and, not in a good way. The digital DCP looked like crap compared to all the celluloid shown on the schedule.

THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN (1971) - This is the acid test for die hard fans of the genre. It separates the space opera/fantasy lite-weights from the hard SCIENCE Fiction ones. Certainly, the film's very deliberate pace and 'ordinary' looking actors (no Raquel Welch in a skin-tight suit) as scientists isn't for every taste. The cast is excellent. Nelson Gidding's screenplay based on Michael Crichton's novel is detail heavy and lacking in traditional 'excitement', but, if you can get on its wavelength, it's an engrossing and suspenseful ride (maybe a little 'squeeze' might help you out!  Wink). Hard to believe it took 42 years to bring this back to the 'thon, but it was worth the wait, especially with the fine 35mm film print.

Outer Limits: "Soldier" (1964) - Shown in honor of writer Harlan Ellison's passing, this TERMINATOR prototype (yes, there was a threatened lawsuit) has some intriguing ideas. But, even considering the limitations of 60s TV, it's a pretty talky episode, and I never bought the idea of Michael Ansara's warrior being allowed to be released to a Leave It To Beaver household. Director Gerd Oswald adds some nice touches. For some reason the DVD transfer had some audio glitches (I don't think it was DVD itself)

DESTINATION MOON (1950) - This still remains one of the archetypal 50s sci-fi films. Nice color, effects and Chesley Bonestell inspired moonscapes. Sure, some of it plays as 'corny' to some, but, it's a solid adventure. What's most interesting after not having seen it in decades is that the notion of a private space program (also seen in WOMAN IN THE MOON) was considered far-fetched for years, but now has new salience (re: Elon Musk). The DVD looked ok.

SOURCE CODE (2011) - Enjoyable time travel riff that combines GROUNDHOG DAY, MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE and EDGE OF TOMORROW (film was made afterwards, but the Novel was written 7 years earlier...hmm). Second time through on the big screen and I appreciated some of the details more, even if I still don't buy the central premise of the 'science' behind it. Gyllenhaal, Monagan and Farmiga are all fine, as is Jeffrey Wright even if he has a fairly thankless role. The final grace notes are quite effective. The 35mm film print was nice, but, it was quite noticeable that the negative had passed through a D.I. (Digital Intermediate; thanks for the reminder DDK) giving it a more chalky look than the other FILMS on the schedule.

SUNSHINE (2007) - Set in 2057** - All I can say is that the Astronaut selection committees have gone to sh!t in the future! I can buy one unstable space voyager, but, this crew is already at each other's throats before anything heavy has even gone down. And, that's BEFORE we find out about the misfit crew from the previous mission! Second viewing doesn't allay my doubts about the necessity of a Manned mission (and, even if it were manned, why isn't there a companion unmanned communications satellite trailing to keep communication with the earth?). And, for a film which portrays itself as scientifically authentic, it gets awfully silly as it goes along. All that said, the production design is excellent, the cinematography is beautiful and John Murphy's score is effective. Certainly, one of those movies that is better with the dialogue turned off.

ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981) - Perhaps THE most overdue film to finally reach the Marathon screen. Carpenter's action genre mash-up still has a pulpy kick. The central gimmick about how critical the President presence at a summit is a weak MacGuffin. Snake Plissken leads a motley crew of characters with some decent modest budgeted production design and excellently photographed by Dean Cundey. Carpenter's score (with Alan Howarth) is still cool, but, I forgot how relatively sparse it is. It's also interesting to see how a film that was once considered a high octane action flick could be so deliberately paced (of course, Carpenter has always been old school in that regard). Seeing the Twin Towers play such a central role does give one pause to reflect. A 35mm print was sought, but, the only ones available were faded. The DCP was adequate. The crowd enjoyed it, and there was a higher retention rate of attendees for the finale than in recent 'thons.

Overall, this was a classic Marathon. I again want to thank everyone involved from Garen Daly, to Ian Judge, to Frank & Fran Urbano (recipients of a justly due award), David K. our Projectionist extraordinaire, Harry Lohr, and the staffs of the Somerville Theater and the Boston Sci-Fi Festival. My own group was missing a core member this year (John Aliberti, sunning in Florida) but Steve DiSalvo, Lou A. and I have now attended an astounding 34 CONSECUTIVE years together! To all my Marathon friends and to those who I got to meet and greet - Thank You all.

* I missed SF/9, so ROLLERBALL was one of a stack of videotapes I watched that day and night for my 'replacement' Marathon!

** The first mission to the Sun was in 2050. I worked on a 1990 sci-fi film called SOLAR CRISIS (Directed by the esteemed Alan Smithee, no less!). It was set in 2050. It concerned a voyage to bomb the sun to 'save the earth'. And, it ends with a kamikaze mission into the sun. Hmmmmmmmmm

*** Writer Alex Garland has become one the most accomplished in the sci-fi/horror field over the past several years with 28 DAYS LATER, NEVER LET ME GO, SUNSHINE etc., culminating with his highly successful Writer-Director debut, EX MACHINA. Here, Garland adapts Jeff VanderMeer's first book in a trilogy. Publicly, Garland has admitted that he read the book (and only the first) once and then set it aside. His adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's novel for NEVER LET ME GO was beautifully done, so there was a similar hope here.

Unfortunately, ANNIHILATION comes off as a distinct disappointment. Garland has acknowledged a debt to Russian Director Andrei Tarkovsky's STALKER (which was re-released last year to major acclaim). It also bears major resemblances to Tarkovsky's SOLARIS. But, whereas Tarkovsky took an exclusively intellectual approach to the material, Garland attempts to synthesize that method with a more visceral one (and there are a couple of very graphic examples).


The outline of the story is intriguing - a force of some kind has created a zone where humans enter - but, seemingly, never return. No one that is, until a soldier named Kane (Oscar Isaac) who mysteriously appears at the home of his wife Lena (Natalie Portman) who has presumed him dead. Circumstances lead Kane and Lena back to the force's front, called The Shimmer (for it's translucent waterfall-like appearance). Lena joins a party with four other women into the newest expedition into The Shimmer: Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Anya (Gina Rodriguez), Cass (Tuva Novotny) and Josie (Tess Thompson). All have particular talents to bring to the mission, but, all are also considered emotionally 'damaged' in some way going in.


Without getting into spoilers, suffice it to say that within The Shimmer they find an assortment of mutations - both plant and animal - and that these mutants pose great physical and psychological danger to the quintet of women. Some of the science is fascinating. Unfortunately, the characterizations of the women are dreary and uninteresting. Whenever a new turn in the mystery is encountered, it is almost invariably met with dull interactions among the women, not to mention their often foolish behavior. More than once, they encounter evidence of previous expeditions, only to turn away before exploring all of it - so much for all that scientific and military training!

As noted, Garland's adaptation not only owes a debt to Tarkovsky, but, sci-fi fans will also see parallels to the Alien series, THE THING, 2001, PHASE IV, ARRIVAL and others. But, here, the mix between the purely intellectual aspects and the more physical ones never mesh. It's also curiously over-written in a manner that most experienced screenwriters don't fall in to. The result is that ANNIHILATION ends up being a compromise on both ends. No wonder test audiences and the movie's Producers themselves wanted changes (the studio was so hesitant to give it a major theatrical release that it was sold to Netflix overseas, and barely escaped that fate stateside).


ANNIHILATION is well-produced and solidly acted. The SFX are rendered well. The musical score (Geoff Barrow, Ben Salisbury) is a curious, but largely effect contrast between traditional orchestral and acoustic instrumentation. As opposed to most sci-fi movies today, it is a movie about ideas - and, it has some good ones. Too bad the execution doesn't quite match the ambition.



 
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Reply #3 - Feb 24th, 2019 at 11:45am

BrianInNH   Offline
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I generally agree with the above.  A great lineup.  The memorium keeps getting better each year, but could cut back on some of the more obscure sci fi connections.  We missed the old movie trailers that were sometimes shown.  We loved the humorous songs between the movies.  Very nice touch.  We missed the swag bags and the nice printed tickets. 

A big thank you to everyone involved in making this years thon a success!

Innerspace.  We had not seen this before and it was very enjoyable.  It was a good comedy without being slapstick.  The main characters had some complexity to them that made you sometimes like them and sometimes not, but I think that is a good thing here.  Given the description, I was expecting a parody of fantastic voyage, but it was not and held up well as it’s own movie.

Dr. Cyclops.  I was very impressed by the acting, the quality of the special effects and the overall plot.  This movie should probably be considered more of a classic than it is.  Another very enjoyable film that holds up well.

Rollerball.  We were expecting to be disappointed with this one, given the concept behind it.  However, we were very impressed with the plot, the complex characters and the thought behind it.  Actually a good movie.

Live.  Very well done, but agree that it is only barely sci fi.

Unfortunately, at this point we had to cut our thon short.  We had originally planned to stay all night and leave in the morning as we usually do, but last minute circumstances required us to drive to New York on Monday, so we needed to get a good nights sleep.  As we had seen woman in the moon recently and it is very long, we decided not to stay for it.

Star Trek vi.  We got home early enough that we decided to stream this one.  We missed the big screen, theater audio and crowd, but this is also a really good movie that has held up well.  Yes, we miss the original cast too.  For us, it was a good ending to our mini thon.

Thanks again to everyone and we will see you next year!
 
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Reply #4 - Feb 24th, 2019 at 6:26pm

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i also concur that this was a stellar line up of movies. i'd also like to thank the audience for the upper resperatory infection that put me in bed for three days. i coughed so hard that ny abdominal muscles were fatigued. that is probably how people die from respiratory infections. fortunately i pulled through. more later on movie reactions.
 
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Reply #5 - Feb 25th, 2019 at 1:53am

Lile   Offline
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A week out from the ‘thon and I  also think it wa a great lineup. Looking forward to SF 45.
 
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Reply #6 - Feb 26th, 2019 at 10:04pm

L.A. Connection   Offline
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Sorry, you had to leave early.

Still, you get an attendence stamp!


BrianInNH wrote on Feb 24th, 2019 at 11:45am:
I generally agree with the above.  A great lineup.  The memorium keeps getting better each year, but could cut back on some of the more obscure sci fi connections.  We missed the old movie trailers that were sometimes shown.  We loved the humorous songs between the movies.  Very nice touch.  We missed the swag bags and the nice printed tickets. 

A big thank you to everyone involved in making this years thon a success!

Innerspace.  We had not seen this before and it was very enjoyable.  It was a good comedy without being slapstick.  The main characters had some complexity to them that made you sometimes like them and sometimes not, but I think that is a good thing here.  Given the description, I was expecting a parody of fantastic voyage, but it was not and held up well as it’s own movie.

Dr. Cyclops.  I was very impressed by the acting, the quality of the special effects and the overall plot.  This movie should probably be considered more of a classic than it is.  Another very enjoyable film that holds up well.

Rollerball.  We were expecting to be disappointed with this one, given the concept behind it.  However, we were very impressed with the plot, the complex characters and the thought behind it.  Actually a good movie.

Live.  Very well done, but agree that it is only barely sci fi.

Unfortunately, at this point we had to cut our thon short.  We had originally planned to stay all night and leave in the morning as we usually do, but last minute circumstances required us to drive to New York on Monday, so we needed to get a good nights sleep.  As we had seen woman in the moon recently and it is very long, we decided not to stay for it.

Star Trek vi.  We got home early enough that we decided to stream this one.  We missed the big screen, theater audio and crowd, but this is also a really good movie that has held up well.  Yes, we miss the original cast too.  For us, it was a good ending to our mini thon.

Thanks again to everyone and we will see you next year!


I missed SF/9 and had to do my entire 'Marathon' via home viewing. Among the tapes I watched? ROLLERBALL!
 
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Reply #7 - Feb 27th, 2019 at 1:49pm

da_Bunnyman   Offline
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One of the things I'd like to see next year when we hit SF45 is just seeing how many folks we have that attended at least one marathon at The Welles.
 

I can't complain but sometimes I still do. Life's been good to me so far.
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Reply #8 - Feb 28th, 2019 at 2:13am

L.A. Connection   Offline
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da_Bunnyman wrote on Feb 27th, 2019 at 1:49pm:
One of the things I'd like to see next year when we hit SF45 is just seeing how many folks we have that attended at least one marathon at The Welles.


I did ask how many had been to 40 or more thons when I was onstage. Maybe a dozen or so raised their hands.

Still, might not be a bad idea next year.
 
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Reply #9 - Mar 3rd, 2019 at 12:16am

Lile   Offline
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This would have been my 40th, but I missed sf 9 and 36.
 
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Reply #10 - Mar 19th, 2019 at 8:48pm

UncleTim   Offline
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Hey all,

My wife and I couldn't make it to the theater for this year's marathon but we decided to play along at home and recorded our often exhausted and nonsensical reactions for an episode of our movie discussion podcast, CinemaSpection.

Check it out here:

CinemaSpection Episode 84: SF44
 
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