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Jun 3, 2009

A time and place for everything...

Daniel of Getafilm has hopped on the meme train. He's called it The Favorite Movie Period/Place Meme, but you're actually supposed to write about your favorite Martin Scorsese films. Ok, that's a blatant lie - he just doesn't like the title.

1.) Think of a place (real or fictional) and time (past, present, future) portrayed in a movie (or a few) that you would love to visit.
2.) List the setting, period, applicable movie, and year of the applicable movie's release (for reference).
3.) Explain why, however you'd like (bullet points, list, essay form, screenshots, etc.). If this is a time and place that you have intimate knowledge of, feel free to describe what was done well and what wasn't done well in portraying it.
4.) If possible, list and provide links to any related movies, websites, books, and/or articles that relate to your choice (s).
5.) Modify Rules #1-4 to your liking. And come up with a better name for this meme.
6.) Link back to this Getafilm post in your post, please.
7.) Tag at least five others to participate!

For Daniel's own entry, he chose Back to the Future Part II's Hill Valley circa 2015, as portrayed in the 1989 Robert Zemekis film. Much as I hate to choose something so close to his, my choice is remarkably similar. Although not so strictly tied to one film, I love films that are set just barely in the future, and in a world that looks remarkably like ours, but with some very subtle differences.

The two most recent and best examples I can think of this are 2003's Code 46 and 2006's Children of Men.

Look, it's (relatively) easy to come up with the kind of world portrayed in films like The Matrix or The Fifth Element - these movies are set so far into the future (at least 200 years) that the writers and filmmakers have no rules. They can fit Earth, or any other setting of their choosing, to look however they need to so that it works with the story. I'm reminded of the great line in Thank You for Smoking where Aaron Eckhart's cigarette lobbyist is talking to a Hollywood superagent played by Rob Lowe. They're discussing a possible future movie set in space starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Brad Pitt, and Eckhart wonders aloud how they might fit smoking into the film, especially since the characters would be in a highly flammable, all-oxygen environment. Lowe's answer - sure, they would probably blow up, "But it's an easy fix. One line of dialogue. 'Thank God we invented the... you know, whatever device.'"

Films set in the very near future wouldn't get away with such easy fixes. They have to play by the laws of physics and cultural norms that we are already familiar with, and they'd have trouble convincing us that there might realistically be flying cars within the next five years. We're aware of the technology that's out there, and while we're willing to make small leaps in the service of believability, you and I both know that time travel to distant dimensions ain't happening anytime soon.

Films like Code 46 and Children of Men, meanwhile, are set in worlds that look stunningly like the one we inhabit, but are given tweaks so slight, so ingenious, that we can suspend any disbelief we might have and completely swallow the medicine we're given. They're set less than 25 years into the future, but smartly don't look it (at all) at first glance. Contrast this to the doomed world of Terminator Salvation; though it admittedly is playing with a timeline that was set in stone in the mid-80s, the idea that world would or even could look like the post-apocalyptic/robot-dominated portrayed as being 2018 is ludicrous. Instead, think of the odd handheld, finger-intense video game that was being played by Danny Huston's lover (friend?) in Children (he can be seen in the background of the picture below), or the beautiful way that languages from all over the world are blended into a singular universe-speak in Code. Or the instant foam airbag replacement system on display in Demolition Man. Back to the Future II, for all it's sci-fi nonsense (ground-up coffee beans powering a time-travelling Delorean?) still showed many inspired tidbits, many of which Daniel called out in his post, from self-tying shoes to personalized entertainment channels to even the hydratable pizzas.

All of these things might never happen, but they could, and soon. Sign me up.

Other films that sometimes (or more) fit my "Period/Place:"
V for Vendetta
A Scanner Darkly
Strange Days
I, Robot

And now, for some tagging! Like Daniel, the main ingredient for picking a taggee is choosing someone whom I think will take part. And not picking people that he already chose.

* Nick at Random Ramblings of a Demented Doorknob
* Tommy Salami at Pluck You, Too!
* Tony Dayoub at Cinema Viewfinder
* Jess at Insight Into Entertainment
* Alex from Film Forager

6 people have chosen wisely: on "A time and place for everything..."

Daniel said...

Wow, wow, outstanding piece, and thanks for giving it a go. (Also, know that the success of your Alphabet Meme gave me a little more confidence to try my own.)

I'm really with you on all points here, particularly about that Thank You For Smoking line that I had completely forgotten. As much as I appreciated, in the 90's, some of the vision those directors had to fashion some insane future with all kinds of gadgets, when those years came and went without such technology (Bicentennial Man = 2005?), it was a little depressing. Actually, kind of like Back to the Future II and Blade Runner will be seen in 5-10 years, or even Demolition Man in 2032 (I'm doubting that L.A. as a proper city will cease to exist).

That's why Children of Men really is an interesting example. Another would be Southland Tales (ignoring that I thought it was awful), which got away with its oddities because it was an alternate history, like a bizarro world. Gattaca is nice call, too, but I, Robot (I admittedly haven't seen the entire movie) seems a bit too futuristic, like AI (which, incredibly, I also never saw). The Philip K. Dick movies in general seem to lend themselves to very different futures - Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report.

Sounds like I need to still see Code 46, too, as you or someone else has already recommended it before.

Interesting that we both focused more on the period than the place - I'm curious as to what others will choose, and I encourage anyone who hasn't been tagged to take part!

Thomas Pluck said...

Ach, mein leiben! I've been tagged. Good post, I like your choice. Gimme a bit to get this one together... it really requires some thought.
My suggestion for the title?

Wish You Were There movie meme.

Daniel said...

Now THAT is a good title.

Fletch said...

Daniel - yes, I'm the one that's been harping on you to see Code 46. I'll be writing about it for Counting Down the Zeroes here in a couple weeks as well. Considering the area you work in and some of the issues you take to heart, you of all people really really should see it - if I was doing free association with movies (which is a really good post idea, if I do say so myself) and someone said "melting pot" or "international," Code 46 is probably the film I'd think of (unless I thought of The International when someone said the latter ;) ). Anyway, it deals with a not-too-distant future excellently; if I had to compare it to another film in terms of that, I'd probably say Gattaca. You knew it was in the future, but none of it seemed too far and and all of it seemed 100% possible and/or inevitable.

Wow, that was a long paragraph. :D

I pretty much love every Philip K. Dick movie, though I've not read a word of his writing. I'm awful, I know.

AI is an interesting movie, for sure, but ultimately, I think it's somewhat of a failure. Spielberg just couldn't help but make it a super-happy ending (as he did with Minority Report), killing Kubrick's (and Dick's, I'd imagine) vision. But it sure gives an interesting portrait of a distant future.

I looked up Minority Report; I didn't want to include it as it's supposed to take place in 2054 - seemed a bit too far off.

Ok, this comment is getting out of hand.

Tommy - thanks! Can't wait to see what you come up with, too. And yeah, that is a good title.

Nick said...

Whoo! Tagged! I'll be doing this in the *cough* near-future. (Sorry, couldn't help myself).

I love PKD movies, as well. The only one I really didn't care for was A Scanner Darkly.

Though I'm sure your favorite of all time, Fletch, is "Next."

Daniel said...

Alright, you've convinced me on Code 46 for sure...adding it to my girlfriend's Netflix queue now...