Friday, October 10, 2014
By MICHAEL WALSH
As regular visitors to Reeling Back know, I spent the past weekend at VCON 39, the 2014 edition of Vancouver's annual science-fiction convention. I've been participating in this event for what seems like forever, and try to build some down time into the days that follow to pay down the sleep deficit that inevitably results from three days of panels, parties and sharing new ideas with old friends.
As Reeling Back eases into its second year live on the World Wide Web, there now are 300 items to choose among in its archive and past blog file. If I'm able to maintain the Stakhanovite pace demanded by at least one loyal reader, the total could reach 500 by Canada Day, 2015.
That, I think, would be a good start toward the goal of making this a useful (and entertaining) resource for anyone interested in how our current popular culture came to be. Tomorrow (October 11), Canadians begin the Thanksgiving Day long weekend. In most of the U.S., autumn's first long weekend is called Columbus Day, and that's the holiday we'll focus upon here.
In 1992, filmmakers celebrated the 500th anniversary of an off-course mariner's "discovery" of America with a pair of historical epics. Come back Sunday (October 12) to read all about Christopher Columbus: The Discovery, and return on Monday (October 13) for 1492: Conquest of Paradise.
In the meantime, site visitors are encouraged to explore what's already here, perhaps starting with my ten most recent postings:
METROPOLIS — Even before the movies learned to talk, they had things to say about social issues. In his epic 1927 meditation on our urban future, Germany's Fritz Lang looked ahead to the inevitable conflict resulting from a growing gulf between the super-rich and an impoverished working class. (Posted October 5)
SILENT RUNNING — The first day of Reeling Back's second year on the Web recalled one of the first feature films to sound the alarm about the great issue of our time, environmental collapse. Director Douglas Trumbull's 1972 special-effects show was a mytho-poetic take on unintended consequences. (Posted October 4)
QUIZ: STAR CAPTAINS — On the opening day of VCON 39, Reeling Back offered this quiz, inviting science-fiction film fans to test their knowledge of the many Canadian actors who have commanded starships on the big theatre screen. (Posted October 3)
THE FANTASTIC PLANET — Originally titled La planete sauvage, this imaginatively alien 1974 animated feature was among the European contributions to the flowering of "adult" animation that made cinema so interesting in the mid-1970s. (Posted October 3)
THE GROUNDSTAR CONSPIRACY — The Vancouver film and television industry's beginning as a significant centre for science-fiction and fantasy productions can be traced to this 1969 feature, shot on location in and around Burnaby's futuristic Simon Fraser University campus. (Posted October 3)
THE LAST MAN ON EARTH — The last day of Reeling Back's first year on the Web came almost exactly 50 years after my first published movie review appeared in the University of Toronto's Varsity newspaper. This 1964 science-fiction film starred Vincent Price in the title role. (Posted October 3)
S.O.B — There is something positively blasphemous about the idea of Julie Andrews topless on the big theatre screen. Fortunately, when her husband Blake Edwards directed her to play just such a scene in his angry 1981 comic attack on the American film industry, the filmgoing public averted its eyes. (Posted October 1)
OKLAHOMA CRUDE — For many years he was Hollywood's most effective militant moderate, but producer-director Stanley Kramer was much mellowed in his 1973 attack on the criminality of Big Oil, working harder at its gross-out comedy than at delivering a hard-hitting message. (Posted September 29)
THE MISSOURI BREAKS — Arthur Penn, one of the most influential directors of the 1960s, lost his way a decade later in the attempt to maintain control over both Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando in this 1976 revisionist Western. (Posted September 27)
FALLING DOWN — Michael Douglas plays a laid-off defence worker driven around the bend by the "freelance economy" that was the glory of the Reagan years. This 1993 serio-comic feature could have been called "The Real Revenge of the Nerds." (Posted September 25)