John Evans' Blog

Marathon Debriefing

by on Feb.04, 2007, under Uncategorized

So, last Saturday (Jan. 27th) I took the Long Island Railroad into NYC and then took Fung Wah Bus to Boston. $15 for a four-hour trip, which is about as fast as it can be done. Upon arriving at South Station in Boston, I learned that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has been phasing out tokens in favor of magnetic cards, much like NYC’s MetroCard. (And of course Washington DC has had a system like that for years.) Interesting. So after riding up to Cambridge, I spent some time seeing the sights…Tokyo Kid, Harvest Co-op Market, Pandemonium Books in its new location…and then it was time for the Marathon!

First was a short film entitled Les Escargots. This was a French animated film from 1965. I can’t really describe it except to say that it was bizarre, and I didn’t quite understand it. The reason it was shown soon became apparent, though, because all the people who worked on it also worked on the first full-length feature of the Marathon…

La Planète sauvage. This was a French animated film from 1973, based on a sci-fi novel. The translation was adequate, but with my (admittedly rusty) knowledge of French I could pick up a few inconsistencies. For example, the title is usually given as “Fantastic Planet”, but it could also be “The Strange Planet”, which in the film refers to the moon of the main ‘planet’. This moon figures into the ending of the film. Anyway, my impression of the film is that it was an excuse to draw and animate surreal vistas so alien as to appear incomprehensible. And they did a good job of it, too! On the down side, the film was very slow-paced…until the ending, which was abrupt. All in all, though, I enjoyed it, if only for the novelty of the experience.

Now, around this time they started showing more short films – a hallmark of the Sci-Fi Marathon. I can’t remember the exact order, so I’ll just talk about a few as I think about it.

Gravity is another classic short film. It’s a spoof on an educational/public service film from the 50s, purporting to educate young viewers about a serious gravity shortage, with random cunnilingus. “There’s a gravity sho-o-o-ortage! We have to do whatever we can! Like always carry a helium balloon, so when you walk down the road you can lighten that load! There’s a gravity shortage, and the ending’s depending on you! *whistling* Go take everything down off of the shelves, and never sit on chairs! Let’s lose weight to lighten ourselves, and always stay downstairs!” Anyway, it’s a classic.

Another short film often shown at the Marathon is the Oscar-winning (!) The Chubbchubbs. Computer animation pokes fun at classic sci-fi characters. Light-hearted, great voice acting, just all-around fun.

Next feature – The Fifth Element! I love this movie. I saw it in the theater when it was first released. It just has such joy and earnestness; everyone in the film is really talented and really giving their all. And you get the feeling that they didn’t throw out any ideas for being “too bizarre”, they just went with it. Good stuff. (I actually think they should have ended the Marathon with this one, to send people home happy.)

From Jim Henson – The Dark Crystal. Interesting thing about this movie…I saw it years ago and I enjoyed it. However, seeing it again I could see the flaws. The story was a bit flimsy; in the end not *that* much happened. The dialogue could have used work sometimes, too. But the puppetry was still top-notch. I mean, you don’t get better creatures than this. And none of it was CG! The Chamberlain in particular is a great performance, both puppetry and voice. (His character’s a bit like Starscream, now that I think of it.) And the Garthim are still frighteningly sinister.

More short films! Gopher Broke – Eh, I wasn’t too impressed. A CG version of like an old Warner Bros. short, but not even as good as that. You can read about it. Bambi vs. Godzilla – Two jokes stretched over a minute’s time. In other words – Short and sweet. Another Marathon classic. I was possibly the only one who knew to yell “Marv” at first. Grinning Evil Death – One of the first CG films ever produced, or at least that’s what I vaguely remember hearing. Produced by the Media Lab itself! Notable for its use of “MITey-Os” serial and the superhero (?) “Captain Sarcastic”. No Hardware Wars this year, oddly enough. Well, I’ll just have to watch my DVD copy. However, they did have…

Both Animato AND The Wizard of Speed and Time! Genius-level stop-motion animation, combined with awesome music and subliminal messages that make you feel upbeat and happy. Absolutely not to be missed.

Back to the full-length films…Delicatessen! This film is so strange, but it’s so internally consistent at the same time. And it’s chock full of really dark humor. Funny that it was the second French-language film to be shown. Anyway, I enjoyed it.

Around this time an LSC guy came out and said they were running behind. “We WERE going to show an original Star Trek episode, but we’re late…what do you guys think?” The resounding verdict – Full speed ahead! So we watched The City on the Edge of Forever, consistently named best original-series Star Trek episode ever. The film was old and worn out at times, but it was still watchable. I’ve seen it before, of course, but I enjoyed it.

And finally – Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan. Still holds up as good Trek fun. This time around I picked up on how tightly plotted the story was, how they used suspense. It’s actually very well done as a film. One quirk: The signature “KHAAAAAN!” couldn’t actually be heard…because all the college students were screaming it! And that’s what really makes the Marathon fun.

Following that, I visited with my uncle until Monday morning, at which time I came back to NYC…did some shopping there before finally returning home.

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4 comments for this entry:
  1. vincentursus

    How is the new location of Pandemonium Books?

    They kept delaying their re-opening so I never got to see it before I headed back to Cananada.

  2. johnevans

    It’s nice! They actually have two floors now. The top floor is mostly books, the bottom is mostly games…with a large area holding tables, chairs and couches. It’s not quite fully furnished yet, or that’s what it seems…like they haven’t quite figured out what to do with all that space yet. But it’s still cool.

  3. vincentursus

    There was some discussion of using it for gaming events.

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