Friday, August 5, 2011

Jason slips into a Vortex and has the infamous Double Bummer

Ah yeah! My friend Ira finally put together the double bill of bleak, dystopian classic sci-fi he has talked about for months--SOYLENT GREEN and SILENT RUNNING. And people actually showed up, which was awesome!

Weird confession for a film geek, but I hadn't seen either of these. Of course, I'd seen so many parodies/references that I knew the shocking ending of SOYLENT GREEN (spoiler alert: It's made of people!) But I was even more impressed with the totally dystopian, overpopulated future world they created (40 million people on Manhattan, people sleeping in piles in stairwells). At least, for parts of it. There were also empty streets in Manhattan, which was weird. There are rumors of a remake in development, maybe it will never happen, but here are my thoughts.
  1. Ramp up the crowding: Not only are the stairwells full, so are the elevators, so are the sidewalks, so is nearly everywhere (except the rich people's world). But...
  2. Make the dystopia less clear. Sure, it's crowded and miserable if you ever go outside, but for the 50% or so who have an apartment, life is pretty okay. Your apartment is a box just barely big enough to sleep, eat, and work in, but it's yours and there's never a reason to go outside. Most people work online from home. Food deliveries come straight to your apartment (through some network of tubes), so only homeless people have to riot at the food depots. Basically, on the surface everything works--for just enough people to keep the regime in power. See, my main issue with the movie is that everything is so bleak that I'd think learning Soylent Green was recycled dead people would be met mostly by indifference, perhaps even appreciation of the efficiency (it is, truly, a "green" solution). Create a world that works just well enough that the conscience can still be socked by cannibalism.
And then SILENT RUNNING, which was simply brilliant. In the distant future, all forests on earth are gone. The only forests (complete with adorable bunnies!) left are tended in space by Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern), who is thought of as sort of the pansy science nerd of the ship and is picked on by his fellow astronauts (even though he can kick their ass at poker). But when they get the orders to jettison and nuke the forests and return to commercial work, Lowell kinda snaps, murders the rest of the crew and sets out alone with just the drone robots as company (after he reprograms them to do what he needs). Things don't go well for long.

Total Running Time: 186 minutes
My Total Minutes: 246,400

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