Tag Archive for 'alternate wednesday'

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alternate wednesday: an alternate groundhog day

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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…

1201PMBefore 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.

groundhogCould 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?

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alternate wednesday: “Impossible Dreams”

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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’s Science 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.

impossibledreamsWithout 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.)

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Conveniently enough, you can find it online for free at Wired, have someone else read it to you over at Escape Pod, or purchase it as a $0.99 eBook for Kindle or Nook. But I also think that if you enjoy stories about alternate universes, you have to pick up Other Worlds Than These, a reprint anthology edited by John Joseph Adams which features this and many other wonderful stories that I plan to mention in the future on this blog.

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?

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alternate wednesday: doppelgängers

My wife and I adopted a rescue dog a couple of months ago, so I’ve been taking two or three extra walks a day, which have turned out to be perfect for listening to podcasts of This American Life. I love the radio program, but I didn’t always have time for it because I tend to prefer reading during my commute, and there are books, movies, and video games competing for my free time at home. Still, the Android app for the show was my first paid download when I got a Droid phone, and now I’m actually getting a lot more use out of it.

Anyway, I was astonished the other day when I heard the January 11, 2013 episode, “Doppelgängers.” As you might be aware, a doppelgänger is an identical twin, what Wikipedia defines as “a paranormal double of a living person, typically representing evil or misfortune.” The German word literally translates as “double goer.” Doppelgängers are staples of parallel universe and time travel stories, but it seems they appear in pretty much every genre, whether in a purely symbolic representation in literary fiction or something more sinister in horror. As fascinating as it might be to encounter someone who looks just like you, who might have led a life different from your own, the possibility of being replaced by your duplicate–cloned or dimensional or whatever–is terrifying.

The episode of This American Life is much more grounded in reality, but some of the implications raised by its stories are no less horrific. The hour-long program is often startling, humorous, sobering and profound, presenting two pieces that celebrate the redemptive power of pork bung and compare and contrast life in Philadelphia with the war in Afghanistan. Check it out:

And for something completely different, here’s one of my favorite stories about doppelgängers, an eerie Twilight Zone episode titled “Mirror Image.”

What’s your favorite book, movie, comic, or TV show about doppelgängers?

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alternate wednesday: Sliders Re-Watch: “Summer of Love”

Sliders: “Summer of Love”
Written by Tracy Tormé
Directed by Mario Azzopardi

Season 1, Episode 2
Air date: 04:19:95
Same Earth, Different Dimension: It’s still the Sixties, man.

Recap

Back on Earth Prime, FBI agents ask Conrad Bennish about his friend Quinn Mallory, who has been missing since Tuesday along with Professor Arturo, Wade Wells, and Rembrandt Brown. The agents bring him to Quinn’s basement, where they are photographing his wormhole equipment and equations on the blackboard, and show him a video in which Quinn mentions discussing the Einstein-Rosen-Podalski Bridge with Bennish–and says he’s found a way to cross it. This blows Bennish’s mind. He tells them it’s possible that Quinn and the others have gone to another universe.

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alternate wednesday: wonderful lives

What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That’s a pretty good idea. I’ll give you the moon, Mary.
– George Bailey

Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?
– Clarence

I didn’t intend to focus so much on Christmas on my blog, but no discussion of alternate universes would be complete without mentioning the film It’s a Wonderful Life—which happens to be one of my favorite movies.

It’s a terrible cliché, but I do like to watch It’s a Wonderful Life every year, though I don’t always get to. I didn’t see it last year, and I haven’t yet this year, but with the artificial deadline of Christmas still a week away, I think I can probably fit it in. It’s a long movie, and I’ve seen it plenty of times, so it isn’t always a priority. I’m not so into Christmas that it’s about the holiday–in fact, the director, Frank Capra, didn’t really consider it a Christmas movie either, and it was originally scheduled to be released in January of 1947, but it was bumped up to December 1946 in New York for Oscar consideration.

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