So there I was, earlier today, looking for something to watch. I came across Jerome Bixby’s Man From Earth on Amazon Prime. I don’t know what it was about the film that had me start it, but start it I did.
I’m not going to offer any spoilers at all because I want you to see this film. It has the best part of good science fiction … namely, it makes you think, “Whoa, imagine that!” So much science fiction does not do that, and is less for it. This is the IMDb synopsis:
An impromptu goodbye party for Professor John Oldman becomes a mysterious interrogation after the retiring scholar reveals to his colleagues he has a longer and stranger past than they can imagine.
Jerome Bixby wrote for Star Trek and The Twilight Zone so you know he knows what’s what. Unfortunately though, this screenplay was his last work before he died.
It’s not a high budget production, but it’s riveting and a fine piece of writing.
The other day, I have a dim recollection of hearing the President of the United States delivering a line from Casablanca, and then having a talking head explain it all. Of course it was a dream right?
Later the same evening, I came across the source of what seemed like a dream, but wasn’t. Obama was giving a speech to the Democratic National Committee in which he offered his thoughts on Donald Trump.
How can you be shocked? This is the guy, remember, who was sure that I was born in Kenya — who just wouldn’t let it go. And all this same Republican establishment, they weren’t saying nothing. As long as it was directed at me, they were fine with it. They thought it was a hoot, wanted to get his endorsement. And then now, suddenly, we’re shocked that there’s gambling going on in this establishment.1
It’s the last sentence. It echoes the scene from the film in which Captain Renault is closing Rick’s Cafe on the orders of German Major Strasser. Since he has no reason to do this, he makes one up.
Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds?
Captain Renault: I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
[a croupier hands Renault a pile of money]
Croupier: Your winnings, sir.
Captain Renault: [sotto voce] Oh, thank you very much.
Captain Renault: [aloud] Everybody out at once!2
That is one of my favourite lines from the film and I have used it in conversation. It was especially timely as I just watched Casablanca again recently with Julie, because she had never seen it before. We certainly had to fix that! Then a couple of weeks later, this!
I find it curious that the television news report felt the need to explain it while the Washington Post article did not.
Disney has a few motion picture out called The Good Dinosaur. The picture posits the question,
What if the asteroid that forever changed life on Earth missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct? Pixar Animation Studios takes you on an epic journey into the world of dinosaurs where an Apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend. While traveling through a harsh and mysterious landscape, Arlo learns the power of confronting his fears and discovers what he is truly capable of.1
The problem is that the extinction of the dinosaurs opened up a plethora of environmental niches that other creatures then filled. While the dinosaurs were around, mammals eked out an existence in the background because the dinosaurs had a lock on those niches. It took the removal of the dinosaurs for our ancestors to have a chance to expand their physical/environmental ranges. Put simply, had the dinosaurs not gone extinct, the odds of our being here now alongside dinosaurs are not even worth considering. It never would have happened.
I shouldn’t be surprised as Disney has a great love of re-writing both history and myth in the most unnecessarily ridiculous ways.
There are always a dozen kerfuffles happening on the Internet at any time (rounding down to the nearest billion), but this one has to be one of the dullest ever. As you no doubt know, the second part of the last Hunger Games picture is coming out in November. Lionsgate released an ad to let us know we have only 100 days to wait:
Well, it didn’t take long for some to notice an unintended naughty word that came about because of the overlapping text, highlighted here in white:
Honestly? I never would have noticed. I also find it really difficult to get even mildly worked up about it because it was obviously unintended. I won’t be surprised if some people are unbelievably offended, angry, and upset, because no matter what happens, someone is always unbelievably offended, angry, and upset.
I went to see Sucker Punch with Rustin and Grant this weekend. A few people have asked me how it was and my answer was, “It was exactly what I thought it would be.” You could take this as a sort of “damning by faint praise” but that’s not how I mean it.
Let me tell you about the film.
We meet a young woman and her sister, and they’re crushed because their mother has died. Their step-father is not very nice. He clearly can’t wait to get his hands on them. Making matters worse is that his deceased wife left him nothing. She left all of her possessions to her daughters.
In trying to protect herself and her little sister, the young woman mistakenly kills her sister and finds herself in a Dickensian asylum for the mentally insane. Her step-father doesn’t want the truth of his indiscretions to come out so he pays off the asylum administrator to shut her up permanently. She learns she’s been scheduled for a lobotomy in just five days.
She’s determined to escape before she’s subjected to the procedure. Then things get weird.
The young woman, whom we now know as Baby Doll, undergoes some sort of psychotic break and through her eyes, we see the asylum has changed. The administrator is now also running the place as a brothel, and she has the ability to put men into a trance by simply dancing for them. While dancing, she’s taken another step away from reality through a series of fantasy ‘missions’ she must undergo to make her escape.
Back in the brothel, she shares her plans with four other inmates and they agree to a plan by which they can all escape. The plan involves collecting four items, each in a separate mission.
Frankly, I’m conflicted about the film. In general, as a film, it’s not very good. Let me break it down into three parts.
The story is merely a means to link the fantasy missions. Further, the more you think about the story, the less sense it makes.
The ads for the film make it pretty clear that you’re going to see plenty of short skirts and stockings. If you enjoy those things, the film certainly delivers…particularly Baby Doll’s combination of a short skirt and stockings.
The fantasy missions are an inventive mixture of genres. One involves the women crossing a WWI no-man’s land, entering the enemy’s trenches to find the command post, and stealing a map. In this world war gone mad, it seems that the war has gone on for decades and there’s nearly nothing left on the landscape. Even soldiers are in short supply so the bulk of the enemy forces are dead soldiers reanimated with clockwork mechanisms powered by steam. How’s that for a twist?
Another mission involves an air-drop from a B-25 into a castle where they must kill a baby dragon. Things go awry when the women wake the mother dragon and they have to deal with her and the force of armoured mediaeval warriors are attempting to breach the castle gate. Part of the battle involves the dragon attacking the B-25.
I found the missions a great deal of fun both with the action and the inventive mixing of genres. This alone made the film worth watching.
The downside is the story, as I mentioned, which is nothing but a thinly veiled excuse for the fun. But still, part of me wonders if there might be more hidden in the multiple layers of reality. Probably not, but it holds together just well enough to make you wonder of there’s more to it. That’s perhaps the most amazing accomplishment of the film.
I can’t recommend it without conditions, but if the women, the action, and the mind-bending settings appeal to you, it’s a fun two hours.