Piturro says the Sci-Fi Series is a forum to discuss the issues of our lives through the lens of another world.
Usually the summer Sci-Fi Film Series shows five movies. “This year we decided to go with six,” says Vincent Piturro. As a professor of cinema studies at Metro State University of Denver, Piturro plays an important role in the selection process and moderates at the presentation of each film.
Presented by the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and the Denver Film Society, the series leaves the museum’s scientists, film society experts, and Piturro to make the movie selections. This year the three parties chose Ex Machina, 2010: The Year we Make Contact, Dark City, Annihilation, The Shape of Water, and Blade Runner 2049, with Blade Runner 2049 added as the new sixth slot.
Piturro says the addition was made for two main reasons. The first was the growing popularity of the series. Even with the IMAX theater and its large capacity showings often filled.
The second reason was the sheer length of Blade Runner 2049. “A lot of people won’t go see a three and half hour long movie,” Piturro said. Because this movie is lengthy and therefore potentially less approachable, Blade Runner 2049 became what Piturro describes as a “value add-on.”
And the series is designed to have a lot of value for people.
It all begins with the scientific value. Piturro says the science fiction they chose, “has to be grounded in some sort of science.” The scientists are asked simply, “What do you want to talk about?” And that way the initial list has strong scientific topics to discuss right off the bat.
That largely discounts things like time travel. They tried a time traveling film once, but their astrophysicist didn’t have much more to say beyond its impossibility. Piturro said they try to avoid such “one trick” movies and “science babble.”
The list then gets kicked to the Denver Film Society and Piturro, who discuss the choices based on artistic merit and value. Coming from that perspective, Piturro says, “My job is to talk about the film itself. About the themes, the background and the cinematography.” Based on these criteria, “I say this film will be more interesting than that film, and we take it from there and come to an agreement,” Piturro said
All the films are accompanied by in-depth discussion. “A colleague of mine described it as writing a journal article a week for six weeks,” Piturro says, commenting on the preparation he puts in.
While some attendees might be less familiar with science fiction, Piturro points to some of the very topical themes the genre is able to tackle—like Dark City and its themes on finding place in a fictional society, just as the,“the millennial generation is trying to find their place in the world.”
Looking at Blade Runner 2049 and its length as the value add-on for those who can’t get enough science fiction, Piturro points to The Shape of the Water as the perfect choice for those looking to test the waters of the genre.
“The Shape of Water is about a sort of dark part of our history that was racist, sexist, xenophobic,” Piturro says, “but it also has elements that have crept into our society today, and that’s very much why I wanted to include that.”
The film, which takes place at the height of the Cold War, stands in contrast to what people might imagine science fiction is like. Piturro says, “It’s an interesting film because science fiction is usually set in the future and talking about today. This one is set in the past and talking about today. So it’s more than just a yearning for progressing, it’s also a warning for this regression that we may be in.”
The Sci-Fi Film Series at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science IMAX theater begins with Ex Machina on Wednesday, July 11 and continues each week until the final showing of Blade Runner 2049 on Wednesday, August 15. All the showings are to be hosted by Vincent Piturro and a guest speaker to discuss the film and the science behind it.
For more info, check out www.denverfilm.org/sci-fi-series/