Authors’ books differ on top SF films

The question of what are the best science fiction films is frequently the subject of heated debates between academics, SF fans and people who just like movies.

Last May, Turner Classic Movies entered the fray with “Must-See Sci-Fi: 50 Movies That Are Out of This World,” a beautiful 280-page book by Sloan De Forest with an introduction by the legendary Roger Corman. There are plenty of outstanding illustrations in this helpful volume.

I have several differences with some films that are included and some that are excluded. The book “Top l00 Sci-Fi Moves” by Gary Gerani and Steven Jay Schneider’s “101 Sci-Movies You Must See Before You Die” agree with much of what’s in the TCM book, but also have some major differences.

Before getting into that and other debates, here are the films selected in the TCM book by eras:

1902-1936: A Trip to the Moon, Metropolis, Frankenstein, Island of Lost Souls, The Invisible Man, Things to Come.

1937-1950: no films selected.

1951-1959: The Thing from Another World, The Day The Earth Stood Still, It Came from Outer Space, War of the Worlds, Them!, Gojira (Godzilla), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Forbidden Planet, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Fly, The Blob.

1960-1968: The Time Machine, La jetee, These Are the Damned, Alphaville, Fantastic Voyage, Planet of the Apes, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Barbarella.

The human stars of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Photo by Ronald Hawkins.

1969-1970: none.

1971-1979: THX 1138, A Clockwork Orange, Silent Running, Solaris (original Russian version), Sleeper, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Logan’s Run, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Alien.

1980-1981: none listed.

1982-1987: E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, Blade Runner (2011 final cut), The Brother from Another Planet, The Terminator, Back to the Future, Brazil, Robocop.

1989-1992: none listed.

1993-2000: Jurassic Park, The Matrix.

2001-2016: A.I. (Artificial Intelligence), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Wall-E, District 9, Arrival.

A close read of the list will show that the films reflect the times in which they were made. The first group of films reflects fears of the future and the hope that humans will grow wiser.

The dark period of 1939-1950 is indicative of a serious time when the world was engaged in a terrible world war and then the rebuilding of the devastated parts of the planet. These serious times were real, not SF.

The cold war that dominated the 1950s (and would continue for decades) and the fears of nuclear war and xenophobia became fodder for SF films during that decade.

Nearly all of the 50 films are notable in a variety of ways, but while we like the humor in some of the TCM picks, we see better examples of it in movies such as Galaxy Quest, a near perfect spoof of Star Trek. And, by the way, not a single Star Trek movie is listed, not Wrath of Khan, not First Contact nor Star Trek XI, J.J. Abrams first crack at Trek, in the TCM book.

In their books published several years before the TCM book, authors
Gary Gerani (GG), author of “Top 100 Sci-Fi Movies,” and Steven Jay Schneider (SS), editor of “101 Sci-Fi Movies You Must See Before You Die,” agree with many of the picks in the newer book. However, they disagree with some picks and list others not in the TCM book.

With that said, I have several differences with some films that are included and others that are excluded from Gerani’s and Schneider’s book.

I am not going to list all of the films they don’t include in their lists, but in the list that follows we’ll list the titles they included that aren’t in the TCM book. We’ll designate each authors picks with their initials and if both pick the same movies we will state that it is a choice of “both.” One distinction that should be noted here is the Gerani is a British writer and Schneider is an American scholar.

The list:

A Trip to Mars, SS; Aelita, SS; Paris Asleep, SS; When Worlds Collide, both; Invaders from Mars, both; It Came from Outer Space, both; Journey to the Center of the Earth, both; The Amphibian Man, SS; Robinson Crusoe on Mars, both; The 10th Victim, SS; Fahrenheit 451, both; Seconds, both; Who Killed Jessie, SS; Quartermass and the Pit or Five Million Miles to Earth, both; Slaughterhouse Five; both; Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan, both; Fantastic Planet, SS; Soylent Green, SS; Westworld, SS; Dark Star, both; Stalker, SS; Time After Time, SS; Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, both; Flash Gordon, SS; Scanners, SS; Escape from New York, SS; The Road Warrior, both; The Thing (1982), both; Tron, SS; Videodrome, SS; The Final Combat, SS; Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, SS; Repo Man, SS; 1984, SS; Dune, both; Starman, SS; The Quiet Earth, SS; Aliens, both; Star Trek IV: the Voyage Home, SS; Robocop, both, Akira, SS; The Navigator, SS; Tetsuo — The Iron Man, SS; The Abyss, SS; Total Recall, SS; Terminator 2: Judgment Day, both; Ghost in the Shell (Japan-UK), SS; 12 Monkeys, SS; Independence Day, both; The Fifth Element, SS; Men in Black, SS; Gattaca, both; Starship Trooper, SS; Open Your Eyes, SS; Pi, SS; Galaxy Quest, SS; Signs, SS; Code 46, SS; Primer, SS; I Robot, SS; The Host, SS; Children of Men, SS.

Quartermass

Also, Crack in the World, Doctor Cyclops, Conquest of Space, The Giant Behemoth, The Man from Planet X, The Crawling Eye, The Day of the Triffids, The Man with X-ray Eyes, Unearthly Stranger, It! Terror from Beyond Space, The Humanoids, Red Planet Mars, 2010, Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, X–The Unknown, Rocketship XM, Mysterious Island, Rodan, World Without End, Creature from the Black Lagoon, First Men on the Moon, This Island Earth, I Married a Monster from Outer Space, Predator, The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Minority Report, The Day the Earth Caught Fire, The Power, Gorgo, Rollerball, I Am Legend, Quartermass II — Enemy from Space,War of the Worlds (2005), On the Beach, The Creeping Unknown — The Quartermass Experiment, Altered States, Destination Moon, The Andromeda Strain, The Man in the White Suit, The Fly (1986), Voyage to the End of the Universe or Ikarie XB1, Colossus — The Forbin Project, Star Trek XI (J.J. Abrams’ first Trek movie), and Village of the Damned, all GG.

Ikarie XB1

Do I agree with everything in the two alternative books? No way. Some belong, some don’t and there are a few in Schneider’s book that I haven’t seen yet.

Some of the differences I have are a result of this story being written some time after the three books.

2017 Oscar Best Picture winner

Among others I would consider worthy of consideration are The Martian, Avatar, The Shape of Water, Gravity, Inception, Interstellar, Ex Machina, Blade Runner 2049, Inception, King Kong (both the original classic and the 2005 version), Contact, Sunshine (2007), Cocoon, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), The Man from Earth, The Hunger Games, The Adjustment Bureau, and others too numerous to name.

I credit the authors for the extremely hard work it took to put together their books. Science fiction is a nearly impossible large subject. Yet, I can’t hardly wait to see what the folks on other worlds are writing about us.

William Shatner, aka Capt. James T. Kirk. Photo by Ronald Hawkins.

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Finding the ‘golden fleece’

Since RDH Great Stories moved to Lawrence County, Indiana, we have been trying to track down the site of the abandoned pyramid and Great Wall of China models project.

The project began in the late 1970s and was abandoned in the early 1980s, left incomplete. It was the beneficiary of federal funding, but became the subject of considerable criticism.

It was awarded U.S. Sen. William Proxmire’s Golden Fleece Award. The Wisconsin senator issued the awards from 1975 until 1988, when he retired. He presented 168 of the awards.

The Taxpayers for Common Sense in 2000 listed the Bedford project funded by the Commerce Department as the second most classic example of “wasteful, ridiculous or ironic use of the taxpayers’ money.″

How much federal and other government funds were invested in the project is unclear. However, when the plug was pulled, there were insufficient funds to complete, according to published accounts

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Over the past 35 years, the site has gradually deteriorated and is marked with no trespassing signs. The remains are located at the end of a state road near Judah, Ind., surrounded by a quarry, farm land, a cemetery, and homes.

On our third visit, we determined we had found the site. We observed the “no trespassing signs,” but took pictures from the road.

If you know who owns the property, please have them contact us. We’d like to take a closer look and ask a few questions.

All photos by Ronald Hawkins.

What are the best Christmas movies?

This Turner Classic Movies and movie fan was delighted when Jeremy Arnold, author of “Christmas in the Movies: 30 classics to celebrate the season,” appeared as a guest to introduce a “Christmas movie.”

And what better way is there to enjoy a chilly, holiday evening?

The movie was “Beyond Tomorrow, a 1940 movie, this writer knew nothing about. After watching on TCM, however, we began looking at our collection of holiday movies and found the movie in a three-disc collection.

We also went looking to buy the book, but found it was on back order. So we ordered the ebook version.

It is an interesting book with several movies we didn’t think belonged on the list and others we didn’t know much about.

The movies that clearly belonged on the book include Holiday Inn (1942), Scrooge (1951), A Christmas Story (1983), Christmas in Connecticut (1945), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), The Bishop’s Wife (1947), Love Actually (2003), Home Alone (1990), and The Shop Around the Corner (1940).

On the other hand, Die Hard doesn’t belong in the book even though it takes place during the holidays and has many Christmas elements in it. The movie, however, is far too violent to be a favorite Christmas movie.

Also, how could National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation be one of the 30 and the delightful Santa Clause movies be excluded?

Those weren’t the only movies we think shouldn’t be included. While Elf is a holiday related movie, it isn’t very good. And we’ve also found The Nightmare Before Christmas rather distasteful.

Even though we don’t agree on everything that’s in the book and what’s excluded, books that list what the writers think is best in a particular field almost always are at least entertaining and an inspiration for discussions about what’s in the book. This book is delightfully fun and well worth reading.

You just might find a movie that will make your holidays a fun, festive time.

Here’s the complete list of the 30 movies in no particular order:

  1. Miracle on Main Street
  2. The Holly and the Ivy
  3. White Christmas
  4. We’re No Angels
  5. The Shop Around the Corner
  6. Remember the Night
  7. The Man Who Came to Dinner
  8. Holiday Inn
  9. Christmas in Connecticut
  10. Miracle on 34th Street
  11. It’s a Wonderful Life
  12. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  13. Home Alone
  14. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  15. Remember the Night
  16. Love Actually
  17. A Christmas Story
  18. Die Hard
  19. Gremlins
  20. The Lion in Winter
  21. Meet Me in St. Louis
  22. Beyond Tomorrow
  23. I’ll Be Seeing You
  24. The Apartment
  25. The Bishop’s Wife
  26. 3 Godfathers
  27. Holiday Affair
  28. Trail of Robin Hood
  29. Elf
  30. Little Women

So get a hot beverage, get the movie you pick ready to watch and settle in your favorite seat.

Happy holidays!

LOC 2018 film registry selections listed

The winter holidays season is a time of many delights, despite what one’s spiritual and/or religious beliefs are.

One of our favorite events, however, is the annual announcement each December by the Library of Congress of 25 films that are being named to the National Film Registry.

Some of these films are well-known award-winning titles, some are highly respected rarely seen titles and others are landmark productions reflecting the times they were made and changes in American culture.

The 25 films just named to the registry include one dealing with alcoholism (Days of Wine and Roses), sexual norms (Brokeback Mountain), the Vietnam War (Hearts and Minds), and the emergence of African-American filmmakers.

There are musicals on the list two including Academy Award-winning best picture My Fair Lady and the Gene Kelly-Frank Sinatra film On the Town.

“Monterey Pop,” 0ne of the best rock music movies ever made, is added to the list. It took place before Woodstock and some of the concert performances filmed are vastly superior to those of the festival that happened later.

For those with a hankering for science fiction and horror films, there are two added this year: Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” and Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.”

Lots of film making giants are reflected in this list including Spencer Tracy (Bad Day at Black Rock), Walt Disney (Cinderella), Paul Newman (Hud), Orson Welles (The Lady from Shanghai), and Alfred Hitchcock (Rebecca).

This is the sort of list that makes one want to learn more about film, particularly about titles that aren’t widely know.

So, take a look at the list and then, if you so choose, watch some of those you don’t know much about it. We recommend it.

Films Selected for the 2018 National Film Registry 
(alphabetical order)

  1. Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
  2. Broadcast News (1987)
  3. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
  4. Cinderella (1950)
  5. Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
  6. Dixon-Wanamaker Expedition to Crow Agency (1908)
  7. Eve’s Bayou (1997)
  8. The Girl Without a Soul (1917)
  9. Hair Piece: A Film for Nappy-Headed People (1984)
  10. Hearts and Minds (1974)
  11. Hud (1963)
  12. The Informer (1935)
  13. Jurassic Park (1993)
  14. The Lady From Shanghai (1947)
  15. Leave Her to Heaven (1945)
  16. Monterey Pop (1968)
  17. My Fair Lady (1964)
  18. The Navigator (1924)
  19. On the Town (1949)
  20. One-Eyed Jacks (1961)
  21. Pickup on South Street (1953)
  22. Rebecca (1940)
  23. The Shining (1980)
  24. Smoke Signals (1998)
  25. Something Good – Negro Kiss (1898)

A Bedford Winter Holiday opening

BEDFORD, IND.

One thing many small towns do just right is celebrate holidays. Bedford kicked off its winter holiday celebration Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, with a variety of activities including a nighttime Christmas parade.

One of the great Bedford holiday attractions across from the Lawrence County Courthouse is the dazzling, multi-story 12 Months of Christmas store, which beginning next spring will be open year round. All photos by Ronald Hawkins.

Great stories from Bedford Indiana have arrived

 

 

BEDFORD, Indiana

In case you have wondered what happened to RDH Great Stories, we have been in the lengthy process of moving to Bedford, Indiana, in Lawrence County.

This is a beautiful city, far different from the Indianapolis suburban town of Mooresville, which has its own strengths. Bedford is rich in scenic beauty, history and tradition.

Bedford is the self-proclaimed limestone capital of the world. And if you drive down Ind. 37, south of Bloomington, you will quickly see why it has made that claim.

There’s even one mystery we are trying to unravel regarding the abandoned project to build small models in limestone of the Great Pyramid and the Great Wall of China. We’ve been told, since it involved federal  funds, that it was abandoned after being declared the worst example of Congressional pork barrel spending. That’s understandable to some extent, but we would still like to see what remains of the abandoned project.

Still, there are lot more things to see and learn about. For example, Mitchell was the hometown of three astronauts including Virgil Gus Grissom, the second U.S. astronaut in space who died years later during the testing of an Apollo craft.

Grissom’s Mitchell connection is duly noted with signs and an impressive monument at Mitchell Town Hall.

If you drive north to Oolitic, you will find a statue of a nearly forgotten comic character. The statue is a part of a salute veterans.

The character is Joe Palooka, who was featured in an American comic strip about a heavyweight boxing champion, created by cartoonist Ham Fisher in 1921, according to Wikipedia. The strip debuted in 1930 and it was carried at its peak by 900 newspapers.

The strip was eventually adapted for a short-lived, 15-minute CBS radio series, 12 feature-length films, nine Vitaphone film shorts, a 1954 syndicated television series, comic books and merchandise, including a 1940s board game, a 1947 New Haven Clock & Watch Company wristwatch, a 1948 metal lunchbox, and a 1946 Wheaties cereal box cut-out mask. In 1980, a mountain in Pennsylvania was named for the character, according to Wikipedia.

After a 63-year run, it ended Nov. 24, 1984. The impressive statue, however, remains.

Least we forget, Bedford North Lawrence High School, led by star Damon Bailey, won the Indiana High School men’s basketball championship in 1990, when Indiana had only class in the state champship.

There’s lots more that we’ll be covering from our new base, but it seemed to be time to tell you a little bit about Bedford and Lawrence County.

 

All photos by Ronald Hawkins.

All You Need is Love rocks again at Abbey Road on the River

The great All You Need is Love from Belleville, Canada, performs a Beatles song May 28, 2018, at Abbey Road on the River in Jeffersonville, Ind. The audio isn’t the best, but the video shows what dynamic performs these guys are. Video by Ronald Hawkins.