July brings the 13th installment of the annual Science Fiction Film Series. Held in conjunction with the Denver Film Society, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (DMNS), and MSU Denver, we once again screen and discuss six films over six weeks with an overarching mission of blending art and science. I host the entire series and analyze the films along with a scientist from the museum who discusses the actual science—or lack thereof—in each of the films. We have an interesting, diverse, and eclectic slate of films/discussions/scientists on tap this summer at the Sie Film Center and the all-new Infinity Theater at DMNS. Tickets and information can be found at www.denverfilm.org or at the DMNS website. This column previews the series (along with a book that is an astounding must-read). All shows begin at 6:30pm, and if possible, please bring non-perishable food donations for Rowdy’s Food Pantry at MSU Denver. See you at the movies this summer!
July 12 with Zoologist Jeff Stephenson, Ph.D. at the Sie Film Center
This 1954 classic sci-fi film is a fun and thought-provoking allegory for the nuclear age and the basket of unknowns surrounding the atom bomb testing in the New Mexico desert circa late 1940s. It begins with a young girl found wandering alone in the desert and ends with giant, killer ants roaming the sewers of Los Angeles. With the much-anticipated, Christopher Nolan-directed Oppenheimer set to premiere on July 21, Them! will give you more context to the aftermath of the bomb/testings. Dr. Stephenson is a longtime veteran of the series and always adds fun, quirk, and education to the proceedings.
All at Once
July 19 with Astrophysicist Naomi Pequette at DMNS.
If you have yet to see this Oscar-winning gem, this is your chance. If you have already seen it, then you get to experience it on the giant screen with a dynamite sound system. A win-win-win for all! See my short review from the March column for specifics on the film, but our discussion will go well beyond that short synopsis. The film is a masterpiece of cinema in all areas, and Dr. Pequette is a brilliant and dynamic scientist who is sure to delight. A rare treat.
July 26 with Zoologist Paula Cushing, Ph.D. at DMNS.
Prepare to be excited, scared, awed, and ultimately, educated by this sci-fi/horror/mystery film from writer/director Jordan Peele. Starring the astounding Academy Award-winning actor Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and The Black Messiah) and an all-star cast, you will sit on the edge of your seat, close your eyes at points, and then perhaps have a nightmare or two. This fascinating film by one of the more innovative storytellers of our time is sure to thrill. DMNS veteran Dr. Cushing is always educational and fascinating in the discussions as well.
Aug. 2 at DMNS.
Recent Oscar-winner Brendan Fraser stars in this entertaining blockbuster from 1999 that calls back to some of the classic monster movies of Hollywood cinema. When a mummy is accidentally brought back to life in 1923 Cairo, death and mayhem ensue. Enough said! Join us for fun, adventure, history, and all things mummies.
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes
Aug. 9 with Astrophysicist Ka Chun Yu, PhD at the Sie Film Center.
This gem from Japanese director Junta Yamaguchi has a simple premise that propels a fascinating story and asks a scintillating question: What would you do if you could see into the future, but only two minutes into the future? We are presented with that question when a café owner finds that his computer monitor allows him to do just that. Comedy, hijinks, but also vexing existential issues arise in this simple yet very complex film. Dr. Ka Chun Yu and I have collaborated at dozens of presentations over the years, and he always brings a brilliant scientific approach along with a wonderful cinematic eye to every show. Don’t miss this one!
Little Shop of Horrors
Aug. 16 at the Sie Film Center.
You know this one. The 1986 musical/comedy/horror film includes an all-star cast in unforgettable performances: Rick Moranis, Steve Martin, Ellen Greene, Vincent Gardenia, Levi Stubbs, James Belushi, John Candy, Christopher Guest, and Bill Murray (among others). Need we say more? This will be a fun and informative cherry on top to this year’s wonderful series.
Please join us, bring food to donate, and find wonder in the marriage of art and science.
The Ministry for the Future
by Kim Stanley Robinson
Without a doubt, this is the most impactful book I’ve read in a long, long time. Sticking with the science fiction theme of this column, the book is ostensibly a sci-fi story with a plethora of other topics embedded into its hefty 576 pages: history, economics, politics, psychology, sociology, race study, gender study, cultural study. (I use the rhetorical flourish of asyndeton purposefully here, to show how the book moves along from topic to topic without pause and without end.)
The story is built around a near-future ministry that is tasked with defending those who have yet to be born. In a world that is disintegrating before our eyes, what do we do about current offenders who are harming (and some believe, murdering) future generations? What do we do about institutions, corporations, and/or governments who refuse to keep the Earth alive for our progeny? This is the frame story, but the brilliant Robinson intersperses current theory and fact to show us how this is happening right now. There is nothing futuristic about climate science, and the book engages that discourse.
I wish I could write a much longer review on this brilliant, thought-provoking, and dense novel that will certainly change the way you see the world. If I had to boil down the review into a simple phrase, it would be “read it now.”
Vincent Piturro, PhD, is a Professor of Film and Media Studies at MSU Denver. Contact him directly at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter. For more reviews, search The Indie Prof at FrontPorchNE.com.