Episode 2: Space Invaders
As a listener to both Killer POV and Shock Waves, and a reader of the blog Rupert Pupkin Speaks, I was thrilled to hear that Elric Kane and Brian Saur were teaming up for a new podcast named after Elric’s catchphrase. The beauty of podcasts such as these is that they feel as if you are in the room with the hosts, engaged in an intimate conversation among friends. Of course, the downside is that you’re not engaged in the conversation, and if you speak, you’re speaking to yourself. Well, that’s true no more. With this series of Pod-Commentaries, I’m pitching in my two cents, starting at the very first episode and playing catch-up from there. I hope you’ll lend these fellows your ear, and then lend me your eye.
In the second episode, our hosts discuss the 2016 science fiction film ARRIVAL, and suggest an older film to pair it with. They then move on to their “Five Films Because…” lists on the subject of alien contact.
Elric: MARS ATTACKS! (1996)
Brian: QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (1968)
Personally, I haven’t yet seen ARRIVAL, so I can’t in good conscience suggest a pairing; but as soon as I rectify that, I will add my suggestion here.
Brian: THE EARTH DIES SCREAMING (1964), EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956), CRITTERS (1986), FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR (1986), BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET (1984)
Elric: BAD TASTE (1987), THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1976), REPO MAN (1984), XTRO (1982), UNDER THE SKIN (2013)
CRITTERS was a childhood favorite of mine and certainly would have made the list had Brian not already selected it, and likewise for FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND is an obvious candidate, but I think it’s a little too obvious.
1) EXPLORERS (1985)
This family-friendly fantasy from the great Joe Dante stars young Ethan Hawke, River Phoenix, and Jason Presson as a trio of friends who develop a flying craft based on technology that had come to them in dreams. As it turns out, the inspiration for their invention was sent by extraterrestrials who were looking for some intergalactic playmates. Despite a troubled production and studio interference which prevented Dante from crafting the film that he had intended, EXPLORERS still manages to be a quirky and charming experience that will appeal to a young person’s sense of wonderment.
2) SUPER 8 (2011)
This nostalgic sci-fi feature from J.J. Abrams may get a lot of flack for being, well, a J.J. Abrams film, but to me it is undeserved. He successfully captures the fantastical element often found in the earlier work of Stephen Spielberg (who produced this movie), and by casting great young leads who are filming their own homemade movie, he also introduces a fanboy quality that many of us can relate to. If perennial favorite E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982) had been an antagonist in his own film, this very likely would have been the result. In the wake of the success of Netflix’s STRANGER THINGS, which captures a similar vibe in a serialized format, SUPER 8 is due to be revisited.
3) SIGNS (2002)
Hostile alien life forms invade a small rural town in this thriller from M. Night Shyamalan, with our focus being on the damaged Hess family, struggling with the loss of their matriarch and their loss of spiritual faith. Many people like to question why an alien race whose weakness is water would visit a planet that is so overrun with it, but they may as well ask H.G. Wells why his aliens would come to a planet whose very germs could kill them. Those elements likely didn’t exist on their planet, and thus they weren’t aware of their vulnerability. Regardless, all questionable logic aside, SIGNS is filled with chilling moments, from the chatter on the baby monitor to the Sasquatch-like sighting at the birthday party.
4) ALIEN NATION (1988)
In the wake of an extraterrestrial slave ship crashing on Earth, the humanoid passengers are freed and allowed to assimilate into American life. Sam Francisco, the first Newcomer detective for the LAPD, is assigned to work with the wary Matthew Sykes, and the pair investigate a homicide that may have ties to the death of Sykes’s former partner. Science fiction has long had allegorical uses, and ALIEN NATION makes for an excellent representation of those who are oppressed and disenfranchised. The film was also spun off into a solid, but unfortunately short-lived, television series the following year.
5) DISTRICT 9 (2009)
In much the same way that ALIEN NATION symbolized the American minority, DISTRICT 9 from Neill Blomkamp is analogous to events of Apartheid-era South Africa. The alien “prawns”, which landed on Earth in 1982, have been confined to government controlled ghettos. It’s enlightening and entertaining in a way that most films of this size fail to be.
And that’s my contribution to the conversation for episode 2 of the Pure Cinema Podcast. Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back soon with some thoughts for episode 3.