I’m pretty excited about finally getting to see Star Trek Into Darkness tomorrow night. I’ve been dodging internet spoilers like it’s my job, and I’m one of the devout Star Trek fans who really digs J.J. Abrams’ take on the franchise. It doesn’t take a lot to please me: Give me time travel, alternate timelines, and Leonard Nimoy, and I’m a happy geek. (Props to Abrams and Fringe for also delivering on all three!)
I just re-watched the 2009 Abrams film, which (spoiler!) I did like a hell of a lot, and I’m happy to say I still enjoy it. In honor of the release of the new film, here’s my non-spoilery review of Star Trek from way back in 2009, which launched me on my Star Trek Re-Watches at Tor.com and The Viewscreen. In the comments, let me know what you think of the Abrams’ films, but no spoilers on Into Darkness until 10:00 p.m. EST tomorrow night, please.
April 18 also marks the 75th anniversary (observed) of Superman, my favorite superhero. He first appeared in Action Comics #1, which bears the date June 1938 on its iconic cover. All these years, I’d thought that was the month the magazine was published, but that’s actually the “sell by” date–when it was supposed to be taken off the newsstands. Find out more about the history of it at Bleeding Cool.
Superman was such an important, formative part of my childhood, it’s very likely that I wouldn’t be the person I am today if he didn’t exist. Growing up without a father, I think Superman sort of became a role model for me and helped provide some of the moral guidance that I needed to become a decent human being.
I wrote about what Superman means to me in a very personal letter that originally appeared in a collection called Talking Back: Epistolary Fantasies (ed. L. Timmel Duchamp, Aqueduct Press, 2006). Writer/Editor Cat Rambo was kind enough to reprint it in Fantasy Magazine three years later, and it’s still online, so if you have a couple of minutes, please feel free to check out “Dear Superman.”
And to bring it all together, I snuck a quote from one of my favorite films, Superman: The Movie (1978), into Quantum Coin. I didn’t expect anyone to notice, but if you’re a fan of the film, see if you can spot it on pages 265-66!
The U.S. celebrated Groundhog Day a couple of weeks ago (is there an international, or even fictional equivalent, I wonder?), and as usual, it was an opportunity for geeks everywhere to show our appreciation for one of the greatest time travel films ever made: Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andy MacDowell. Like I need an excuse to re-watch it! But this year the occasion reminded me of another film that is not nearly as well known…
Before the Syfy Channel (née Sci-Fi Channel) built its reputation on making so-bad-they’re-good genre films, Fox was the champion of low-budget SF movies-of-the-week. The nostalgic and sometimes faulty part of my brain fondly remembers the 90s as the heyday of TV movies, and Fox gave us instant classics such as Generation X, W.E.I.R.D. World, and Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (starring David Hasselhoff in the titular role). Many of them were obviously backdoor pilots for new TV shows or cheap knockoffs of Hollywood blockbusters, but my favorite of the era was 12:01.
Starring Jonathan Silverman (Weekend at Bernie’s), Helen Slater (Supergirl), Jeremy Piven, and Martin Landau, on the surface it looks like a rehash of Groundhog Day. Whereas the latter film doesn’t really try to explain the cause of the 24-hour time loop, 12:01 attributes it to a science experiment that threatens to trap the entire world in the same day. Silverman is not quite as talented or entertaining as Bill Murray, but he got the job done. I remember liking him and Slater and in general appreciating the film on its own merits. And it turns out it may not be a ripoff of Groundhog Day at all–in fact, the creators maintained that Groundhog Day stole from them.
Could be. 12:01 was based on a 1990 short film directed by Jonathan Heap called 12:01 PM, which was in turn adapted from a short story of the same title by Richard Lupoff, published in the December 1973 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. (Lupoff followed up with “12:02 PM” and “12:03 PM” in issues from 2012 and 2013–I’ve gotta track these down.) In the short film, which aired on Showtime’s 30-Minute Movie series, Myron Castleman (played by Kurtwood Smith) repeats the same hour over and over again, from 12:01 to 1:00 p.m. At least it’s his lunch break.
Director Jack Sholder expanded on this premise for 12:01, which aired on Fox on July 5, 1993. Groundhog Day was released on Feb. 12, 1993. Suspiciously close timing, but I can understand the skepticism–at least as far as the film versions go. Whichever came first, it’s a shame because there’s no avoiding the similarities, and 12:01 actually compares pretty favorably. Good enough that even though I haven’t seen it in a while, I may just grab it on DVD instead of digging out my old VHS tape from storage.
If you’re curious about this time loopy alternative to a beloved film, here’s the trailer for the Fox film, 12:01:
And here is the rarely seen short film version, which I hadn’t even heard of until researching this post.
So here’s my question of the week: If you could re-do anything from the last 24 hours, what would it be?
Somebody described the experience of reading great fiction as being caught up in a vivid continuous dream, and I think movies do that better than any other kind of story. Some people say the best movie isn’t as good as the best book, and I say they’re not watching the right movies, or else they’re not watching them the right way.
One of my favorite alternate universe stories–indeed, one of my favorite short stories in general–is “Impossible Dreams” by Tim Pratt. I first read it in the July 2006 issue of Asimov’sScience Fiction, and it instantly felt like one of those things that was made just for me. You know, like that Thundercats/Superman crossover comic, only way way better.
Without spoiling more than I have to (considering I’m featuring it in this blog series), the story is about a cinephile named Pete who happens across a video store from another reality… Which means it offers films from another reality. Think about that for a moment, and then think about all the movies that might have been if the whims of Hollywood had turned out a little differently. “Impossible Dreams” is a love letter to film geeks, calling out some of my own favorite movies and tantalizing me with versions of them I wish I could experience.
I love films–if I could, I’d watch at least one movie a day–and this story hits two other big loves of mine: The Twilight Zone (no surprise) and parallel universes. More than that, it accurately conveys some of the joys of watching films, and the particular pleasure in sharing them with others. I can’t recommend “Impossible Dreams” highly enough, and I hope you’ll take a moment to read it. (Don’t take just my word for it; it won the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Short Story.)
Finally, it seems only fitting that a short story about loving movies should be turned into a film of its own. As it happens, Israeli director Shir Comay has done just that with his 2011 short film, Impossible Dreams, starring Ori Yaniv and Ayala Zilberman. It took me a while to get around to watching it, but I saw it yesterday and it’s a terrific adaptation. I think it works especially well in its 22-minute run time, as it feels like a modern Twilight Zone episode–and even seems specifically designed to evoke that. Check out the full film below in Hebrew with English subtitles. (Here’s the trailer.)
What nonexistent films would you most like to see?