Best Honorable Mentions for SF Film Tech


Honorable Mentions

Excellent movies with pseudo SF elements or related geeky-artsy stuff. Many of them concentrate on the complex human condition or psychological reactions to strange situations.

  • La Jettée (1962). A short mind bender about strange experiences during time travel experiments. The story is told through a succession of still images (except one moving shot). Marker's La Jettée is excellent when you get in the right state of mind; you have to pretend you found it as an alien artifact and are about to witness some mysterious records. Starring: Jean Négroni, Hélène Chatelain, Davos Hanich, Jacques Ledoux, Étienne Becker. Written and directed by Chris Marker. Sources: IMDB | RT | MRQE | Netflix | Wikipedia | Script | Paul Smith

  • Fail-Safe, Dir. Sidney Lumet, 1964. Numerous technical errors (and difficult to overcome safety precautions) initiate a nuclear strike on Moscow by six Vindicator supersonic bombers. The US decides to help Russia to destroy the bombers and makes other quite unusual decisions to avoid total nuclear war. Ref: IMDB, MRQE, Wikipedia, Google Directory.

  • A Clockwork Orange, Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1971. Based on the novel by Anthony Burgess. It challenges us with the idea that Alex gets mistreated when the state uses conditioning mechanisms to "reform" him and thwart his free will (i.e., when a person “lovely with color and juice” is controlled like a mechanical toy). Ref: IMDB, MRQE, Wikipedia, Script, Google Directory. Misc: Filmsite (article by Tim Dirks), Tabula Rasa.

  • The Man Who Fell to Earth, Dir. Nicolas Roeg, 1976. Comes with the novel by Walter Tevis. An alien lands on Earth, makes money in order to save his world, and becomes alienated for many possible reasons: life itself as psychologically alienating (the alien within), life in a paranoid culture, life in a commercial & capitalist society. It doesn't have much technology and I'm not entirely sure about its stance on modernism. Though, it shows how an alien could help speed up the advance of technology. That is, if you don't fall asleep first! Ref: IMDB, MRQE, Wikipedia.

  • The Lathe of Heaven, Dir. Barzyk & Loxton, 1980, Made for TV. Based on the novel by Ursula K. Le Guin. George Orr comes out of a nuclear blast zone with the power to create new realities by dreaming. It becomes a story of hubris when his dream doctor, Dr. Haber, attempts to use Orr to create a utopia. It gets very interesting as Orr interprets the doctor's hypnotic suggestions in novel ways. Aliens suddenly populate the Moon, Orr wins a lottery house near the ocean, Dr. Haber gets an institute, humans get the same color skin to help end racism, and more! Ref: IMDb, MRQE, Wikipedia.

  • Cube, Dir. Vincenzo Natali, 1996. It follows the horrific quest of 7 strangers to avoid lethal traps in a huge cube. The characters have witty lines at times and they use mathematics and practical caution to try to find a way out. But I'm not sure the clues in the cube are ultimately helpful to any definite end. The commentary notes the influence of Tarkovsky's Stalker (1979), where Cube seems to get its focus on mystery and the ultimate lack of explanation for the strange 'cube activities' (we never find out the cube's purpose, its designer, or its manager). We can't even really call it a horrific lab experiment because that would assume an intelligent experimenter. Ref: IMDB, MRQE, Wikipedia, Google Directory, Script.

  • Twelve Monkeys, Dir. Terry Gilliam, 1996. Bruce Willis’s character, Cole, becomes disoriented due to his several time traveling trips (as in Marker's classic short La Jetee), but he has difficulty trusting the truth or falsity of his memories. Portrays interesting psychological aspects of time travel and memory. Ref: IMDB, MRQE, Wikipedia, Google Directory, Script.

  • Open Your Eyes, Alejandro Amenábar, 1997. A flawed cryogenics program turns into a nightmare. Inspired the remake Vanilla Sky (2001). Ref: IMDB, MRQE, Wikipedia. Misc: Watch it free at IMDB.

  • Dark City, Dir. Alex Proyas, 1998. Strangers perform experiments on unknowing humans to find the basis of individuality. I think it would have been an excellent idea for an alien invader type episode in Star Trek (it wouldn't look so out of place anyways)! Ref: IMDB, MRQE, Wikipedia, Google Directory, Script.

  • Pi, Dir. Darren Aronofsky, 1998. Aronofsky uses nauseous camera work to emphasize the negative psychological consequences that a mathematician (Maximilian Cohen) experiences (due to the flux and chaos in nature all around him, says the back cover of the DVD) as he searches for law-like patterns in the stock market and in the bible. I think it's closer to mysticism than science, but so were many of the ideas of Kepler (even crazy ideas can accidentally lead to advances in science). Ref: IMDB, MRQE, Wikipedia, Google Directory. Misc: Official Site.

  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Dir Michel Gondry, 2004. Joel Barish decides he wants to erase some of his painful memories. A couple humorous hacker types leisurely conduct the targeted memory erasure (or procedure to cause intentional mild brain damage). It depicts our fuzzy minds as a network of links, and it captures the influence of subconscious desires and forms a complicated picture of our psyche. Ref: IMDB, MRQE, Wikipedia, Google Directory, Script. Misc: Official Site, Lacuna.

  • The Prestige, Dir. Christopher Nolan, 2006. See the novel by Christopher Priest. An insider look at the tactics of magicians, with an interesting magician-scientist and a quantum machine. Perhaps its message is that the power of science and technology are only 'magical' to those who fail to understand them, so the movie relentlessly lifts the curtains and shows that 'magic' disappears in the devilous technical details. Ref: IMDB, MRQE, Wikipedia, Google Directory.