Walt Disney Studios/Marvel
As the most anticipated blockbuster of the year, Guardians of the Galaxy has a ton of marks to hit. Almost immediately, it reveals its lackluster aim in a few of these departments. Director James Gunn, working with a budget that amounts to 10 times the cash allowed for his previous two features combined, shows that he has a lot to learn in bringing action scenes to life. The large-scale aerial battles neglect coherent geography; the hand-to-hand combat takes place in a virtual fog machine. When he aims to jump from one piece of his temperately constructed world to the next, the seams are bold and abject. The film’s narrative is jagged, its exposition is clunky, and its sense of rhythm seems to vanish altogether from time to time. And that score… oh, my, that score.
So with technical flaws coming out the wazoo, you’ll really have to touch the personal to figure out why and how Guardians of the Galaxy manages to be one of the most wonderful blockbuster movies in ages.
Walt Disney Studios/Marvel
You’ll have to think back to your earliest experiences with superheroes, science fiction, and adventure. Perhaps back to your first big screen encounter with Star Wars — for me, a trip to Flushing, Queens’ multiplex with my uninterested father (if it’s not The Sting, he’s not into it) and ecstatic pal Timothy in 1997 — the film to which Guardians owes just as much as Godzilla does to Jurassic Park, though with an attitude less pious than devilishly affectionate.
That distinction in reverence is where you’ll find your connection to Guardians of the Galaxy, a movie that is just as much a tribute to the experience of watching the past half-century’s slate of great fantastical epics as it is to the features themselves. Guardians, a movie that treats itself with the same degree of cheek as it does its predecessors, celebrates everything that happens in the theater during a spectacle of its ilk. It celebrates the wisecracks we can’t help but whisper to our neighbors after a dramatic set piece, the often glossed-over character beats that showcase a scar beneath the heroism of every Skywalker and Solo (rejoice: this film is heavy on the Hans, light on the Lukes). It celebrates our curiosity about every odd shot, creature, and plot contrivance scrapped from focus in the interest of the Hero’s Journey. Guardians celebrates just how much we always hate to say how much more we’d love these movies if they went all the way bananas.
Walt Disney Studios/Marvel
Which, for sure, this one does. The movie bands together the strangest assortment of characters — a jackass space punk (Chris Pratt), a reformed intergalactic assassin (Zoe Saldana), a humorless (and yet the funniest of the bunch) alien menace (Dave Bautista), and a misanthropic raccoon thief (Bradley Cooper) and his kindhearted tree bodyguard (Vin Diesel) — on what amounts to a convoluted brazen rejection of Marvel’s usual A-to-B storyline: there’s a powerful orb, and about a half dozen villains, varying in villainy, who want to get their hands on it for disparate villainous reasons… any attempt to further access the mythology will render you a huddled, nauseated mess.
Throughout this technical haze, Guardians carries forth with more spirit than anything Marvel has put out to date. Its characters aren’t limited by the sincerity of their sacrosanct brethren; Pratt is encouraged to make his Peter Quill the most engaging hero a film of this scale has seen to date. Quill and his literal partners in crime are used toward the perfect end of playing expansively with every trope that we’ve seen in blockbuster past, of tackling every question and quip that has found fertile soil in the brains of three generations of captivated genre fans. And all this, quite remarkably, without expensing the movie’s earnest construction. That’s because Guardians builds its world from the ground up with the heart inherent in that fandom. The kind of heart that loves these movies, but also the exciting, active, imaginative game that is watching them.
Walt Disney Studios/Marvel
That’s the kind of heart you find in Guardians’ story and, better yet, its characters. They’re our people (or aliens, or trees, or raccoons). Ours for the knowing and empathizing with; the very sort of heroes we knew we would be in our own all-the-way-bananas story, were it ever possible… or allowed to happen on the big screen. Piety of the picturesque be damned, we get those kinds of heroes, that kind of story, and — most palpably — this kind of spirit in Guardians of the Galaxy. At the expense of technical perfection and narrative flow? Maybe. Is this not a flaw but a ploy to further personalize this adventure for the ultimate connection one might forge between superhero and superfan? Hard to say. But the connection is made nonetheless, and we have in James Gunn’s wonderful movie a special experience for anyone who has spent years loving this genre from afar: Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t sit us down to show us a spectacle, it invites us into one.
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Universal via Everett Collection
Every movie I saw in 2013, ranked from worst to best:
112. IDENTITY THIEFThe first comedy movie to not make me laugh once.
111. SAVING MR. BANKSInsulting, manipulative, dishonest, and unkind, with occasional song breaks.
110. SCARY MOVIE 5These movies have gotten much worse since we were 13.
109. GETAWAYINT. RACECAR. NIGHT. Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez crash into stuff.
108. GROWN UPS 2So much vomiting, so many homophobic jokes, so little plot.
107. I GIVE IT A YEARAn ugly, loveless rom-com that isn't clever enough to be satire.
106. DEAD MAN DOWNAll I remember is a whole lot of dark alleyways.
105. A GLIMPSE INSIDE THE MIND OF CHARLES SWAN IIIThe best part is the closing credits (I'm not being flip, they're actually kind of fun).
104. MOVIE 43Bad offensive joke after bad offensive joke after bad offensive joke...
103. WINNIE MANDELADesperately important story turned into a desperately dull movie.
102. TWICE BORNNo summary available due to lack of anything interesting happening in this movie.
101. R.I.P.D.Somebody forgot to give Ryan Reynolds any jokes.
New Line Cinema via Everett Collection
100. THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONEThis movie could have been funny if Wonderstone wasn't such a d**k.
99. ONLY GOD FORGIVESInteresting in the moments when it's not shoving its unpleasantness down your throat.
98. MAN OF STEELSetup: cerebral reinvention of Superman. Payoff: mass property damage.
97. CARRIEBeat-by-beat remake without any of the original's spirit.
96. THE TO DO LISTUncomfortably raunchy and mean. Thank God for Bill Hader.
95. KICK-ASS 2More Mean Girls shtick would have benefited this weak sequel.
94. PHANTOMI'm not sure this was actually a finished movie.
93. WRONGObnoxiously nonsensical, but not without its share of laughs.
92. THE SMURFS 2Mostly cloying, but Neil Patrick Harris is incurably watchable.
91. HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS Dumb.
89. NOW YOU SEE MEPossibly the worst ending in a 2013 movie, but a few bits of fun along the way.
88. WE'RE THE MILLERS[Pop culture reference]
87. RED 2John Malkovich's facial contortions save this from total failure.
86. STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS It hsa a few pros, but is mostly one giant... well, you know.
85. RIDDICKSurprisingly intriguing, when it isn't being deplorably sexist.
84. FREE BIRDSEh, turkeys are kinda funny.
83. PRISONERS Thankfully, scenes of Hugh Jackman yelling are intercut with the far superior scenes of Jake Gyllenhaal yelling.
82. WHITE REINDEER Any minute now, this movie is going to reveal its inner glory! Any minute now!
81. EVIL DEAD A better horror flick than the original! But still mostly forgettable.
80. GBFMostly charming, undone by its "safe" and "classy" ending.
79. THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALISTIt's kind of hard to get past how boring the title is.
78. DESPICABLE ME 2 Lots of minions. People like minions, right?
77. JOHN DIES AT THE END Not nearly as weird as it thinks it is or wants to be.
76. 2 GUNSHey, wait a minute, this movie is kinda funny! ... Not that funny, but kinda.
75. SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES MEI like to call this movie Click Offerman.
74. WHITE HOUSE DOWNWould be more fun if we were ready to laugh about terrorism.
73. AT ANY PRICEBoooriii— HOLY S**T WHERE THE F**K DID THAT COME FROM?!
72. BAD MILONot quite up to par with your expectations for the "Ken Marino has a demon in his butt" synopsis.
71. MONSTERS UNIVERSITYLackluster prequel, nice to look at, big band music.
70. THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES In its audacity, this silly amalgam of YA tropes can actually be a lot of fun.
69. THE CONJURING Fascinating subplots about the exorcism industry would be better served at the head of the film.
68. PEEPLESThere's a joke about wristwatches that I still think about.
67. SIDE EFFECTSSoderbergh's farewell caper doesn't have as much fun as its loony plot would demand.
66. ELYSIUMBroad and clumsy, but how wrong can you go with Bald Matt Damon?
65. OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFULIt works with Dark Side of the Moon.
64. THE COUNSELORThe book was better. Wait, this wasn't a book? Well it should have been.
63. IN A WORLD...A fun, biting look at an unappreciated industry! ... until it dissolves into mild genericism.
62. THE LONE RANGER Oh come on, you didn't love the William Tell climax?
61. THE WOLVERINENot always engaging, but at least it's about something.
Summit Entertainment via Everett Collection
60. WARM BODIESNot really about anything, but at least it's engaging.
59. THE BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWNUndeniably powerful, but feels like it could use a few more revisions.
58. ENDER'S GAMESpace Camp: The Movie! (Slightly less expensive than actual space camp.)
57. PACIFIC RIMMonsters vs. robots aside, there's a riveting world constructed in the backdrop of this sci-fi epic.
56. ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUESThe battle royale does not disappoint.
55. YOU'RE NEXTThe fun, swift hook isn't nearly as interesting as the great character work that it replaces.
54. THE WAY WAY BACKI, too, long to get life advice from a waterpark-dwelling Sam Rockwell.
53. SOME VELVET MORNINGEven if you see the twist coming, the chemistry here is impeccable.
52. THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIREShut up, Peeta, I'm trying to watch all the good parts of this movie.
51. 20 FEET FROM STARDOMA story that deserves a little more spirit and energy than it is given in this documentary.
50. DON JONNo. 50 on "Best Movies" list, No. 1 on "Best Trailers."
49. THE ROCKETA feel-good kids' adventure substantiated by the gravities of war. Wins in both areas.
48. CRYSTAL FAIRY & THE MAGICAL CACTUS AND 2012Beautifully shot, interestingly written, impressively acted.
47. MUD Yes, we all loved The Goonies, and we all loved David Wooderson, so...
46. CUTIE AND THE BOXER A vivid struggle that is equal parts artistically, martially, and internally based. Engrossing all the way.
45. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS Tom Hanks' best performance in ages in a dramatic thriller that feels real (for obvious reasons).
44. THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG As a Legend of Zelda fan, this movie's world awakened something in me.
43. FRUITVALE STATIONThis character story is at odds with its out-universe goal, but Michael B. Jordan is unforgettable.
42. BEFORE MIDNIGHTI'm still not sure how I feel about that ending, but it was good to catch up wit Jesse and Celine.
41. DARK TOUCHEverything that Carrie could have been. A shocking fantasy about human pains.
Walt Disney Co via Everett Collection
40. THOR: THE DARK WORLDMore Chris O'Dowd.
39. BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLORIntellectually stimulating, but doesn't hit all its emotional marks.
38. THE WORLD'S ENDI've been saying "Gooey Wooey Egg Man" for months.
37. THE GREAT GATSBYLights! Music! Pizzazz! Moxy! The bee's knees! The cat's pajamas!
36. ENOUGH SAIDBest TV drama's male lead + best TV comedy's female lead = quite a charming romantic dramedy.
35. SIGHTSEERSWell, this is rather amusi— HOLY S**T WHERE THE F**K DID THAT COME FROM?!
34. THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINESNot sure if the "three stories" approach makes for the most powerful character work, but it's an enchanting ride.
33. THE WE AND THE I A bus full of inner-city high school kids turns into a magical kingdom thanks to Gondry's dreamy edge.
32. NEWLYWEEDSA love triangle with marijuana as the third party. Weighty, but never overly so, and funny throughout.
31. GRAVITY. . .
30. PRINCE AVALANCHE Heh heh, look at Paul Rudd's mustache.
29. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET Yes, we all loved the 'ludes scene. Very, very much.
28. ALL IS LOSTRobert Redford, you still got that same oomph. You too, ocean.
27. SAVING LINCOLN The weirdest, goofiest, funniest biopic about Abraham Lincoln ever.
26. THE KINGS OF SUMMER Kids run away, live in the woods, grow up, make jokes. Always a charming endeavor.
25. AMERICAN HUSTLE Little more than a cartoon, but an emotionally explosive and riotous one at that.
24. THE HEAT Melissa McCarthy insisting on stepping out of a moving car earns a full five minutes of laughter alone.
23. DRINKING BUDDIESNever dips too low on the emotional spectrum, but stays real and fresh in the face of the rom-com genre.
22. UPSTREAM COLORA difficult, confusing, harrowing thinker.
21. STOKER Somehow both effectively haunting and deliciously fun.
Room 237: the movie/Facebook
20. ROOM 237 Less a doting tribute to The Shining or Kubrick than it is to movie-lovers and their bottomless well of theories.
19. BLUE JASMINE Each party fires on all cylinders in Woody Allen's Streetcar gem, Sally Hawkins especially.
18. S#X ACTSThe sadness of this story of our youth's desperate obsession with and reliance on sex is its authenticity.
17. IRON MAN 3 The first true action comedy in Marvel's line of films shows how much fun superhero movies can really be.
16. ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW Take notes, John Dies at the End. THIS is one weird f**king movie.
15. NEBRASKA Father vs. son, past vs. present, dreams vs. reality. Everything here is touching, funny, and inviting.
14. PAIN & GAIN Michael Bay talks a long, hard look in the mirror with this biting send-up of everything his other movies represent.
13. THIS IS THE ENDFar more interesting and insightful than it will get credit for being, This Is the End uses a literal apocalypse and no dearth of d**k jokes to deconstruct tenets of friendship and social politics.
12. THE ACT OF KILLING While this documentary would benefit from restructuring, the power of its message (especially its final few monents, not to mention the "anonymous"-heavy credits) is painfully resonant.
11. FROZENOffering the magic and whimsy you'll remember from time-honored Disney classics, but so much more in the way of its message, Frozen might very well be the most magnificent and meaningful animated feature yet to spring from Walt's legacy.
10. COMPUTER CHESSIt doesn't have much to say about the human condition (beyond maybe highlighting our propensity for arrogance and self-directed delusion). It doesn't tell a story that'll stick with you for very long. But Computer Chess reigns supreme as, far and away, the funniest movie of 2013.
9. SPRING BREAKERS A dark, wicked, wholly upsetting reflection of the toxic direction in which we might be headed. And James Franco gives a tour-de-force of a performance with his demonic scoutmaster Alien.
8. IT'S A DISASTER An intelligent, meticulously directed farce about group politics and conflicting personal philosophies, executed to near perfection thanks to the rhythmic participation of a more than capable cast.
7. 12 YEARS A SLAVEAn unprecedented masterpiece that sings the traumas not only of Solomon Northrup, a free man captured and sold into slavery, but in his fellow sufferers as well. For my money, the true anchor of the story is in Lupita Nyong'o's Patsey, whose suffering is unlike anything we've seen managed on the big screen in years.
6. HER With so much to say about such tremendous topics, Her manages to still dive so deep into the heart of its story: the pangs of love in the wake of the inevitable fallibilities of romantic relationships. Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson alike give dynamic performances, and Spike Jonze mystifies us with his strange, cold, all-too-familiar world.
A24 via Everett Collection
5. THE SPECTACULAR NOWThis is one of those movies you try to convince yourself to inch out of your top 10, or five, for fear of being seen as juvenile. ButThe Spectacular Now hits such genuine notes with Miles Teller's Sutter, climaxing at a moment where you'll recognize an angst so true to life and so criminally absent from most movies about the journey toward self-love.
4. FRANCES HA Months and months after my first encounter with it, this deceptively simple film sticks in my head, reminding me that its every artful beat is riddled with emotional weight and ironic humor alike. Greta Gerwig and director Noah Baumbach give us the a New York movie to rival Annie Hall, zooming in and out of the perspective of the young women and men who occupy, and drown within, today's version of the biggest, most stupefying city in the world.
3. INSIDE LLEWYN DAVISSadness, coldness, loneliness, failure... such wonderful things when handled by filmmakers like the Coen Brothers. Padding this antithesis of triumph with some of the most beautiful, somber music you'll hear all year, Inside Llewyn Davis makes us fall in love all over again with the very idea of the artistic struggle.
Touchstone Pictures via Everett Collection
2. THE WIND RISESHayao Miyazaki's final movie doesn't pass judgment on its hero, a man so devoted to his work (building weapons) that he neglects his wife, sister, and friends. It doesn't endorse these choices either. Instead, it hones in on the passions of its hero/antihero, challenging us to sympathize with a fellow whose only desire is to do his job while we lament his sacrifices. More even than Gravity does the frequently airborne animated picture induce dizzy spells as we connect with the conglomerate of colorful, intriguing characters in this grim but dainty biography.
Cinedigm via Everett Collection
1. SHORT TERM 12 There are so few flaws to highlight in The Wind Rises, Inside Llewyn Davis, Frances Ha, and the other entries on this top 10 list. What separates Short Term 12 is not a complete lack of error, but in an umatched spirit for the telling of its story. The movie wants us to feel the pains of counselor Grace (Brie Larson) and the disavantaged children for whom she cares, highlighting abused Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) and orphan Marcus (Keith Stanfield). It also wants us to feel the hope that it brings to these characters in their plight to overcome the hands they have been dealt. Every emotion in this movie carries through with such force. For those of us who know any of these trials personally, they ring tremendously true. For others, they work to invite you into this sad but hopeful world. We've been gifted with a ton of exemplary cinematic works this year, but nothing sticks with me more than this tearful, heartrending masterpiece.
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The 2014 Sundance Film Festival lineup for the U.S. and World Cinema Dramatic and Documentary competition and the out-of-competition NEXT section is officially here, and damn are we excited.
As the festival has evolved and grown, so has the long list of actors and directors who have eagerly jumped on board to be a part of the indie film scene, which means that the lineup of actors for the upcoming event is looking pretty solid. In 2014 we can look forward to seeing the works of those like Glenn Close, Susan Sarandon, John Slattery, Aaron Paul, Kristen Stewart, and Mark Ruffalo, and comedians such as Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Lena Dunham, Jenny Slate, Aubrey Plaza, Amy Sedaris, and more.
The festival will run from Jan. 16 to 26 in Park City, Utah and will include 118 features. Still to come are the lineups for Slates for Spotlight, Park City at Midnight, New Frontier, Premieres and Documentary Premieres, and the new Sundance Kids category.
Check out the lineup so far (via Vulture):
Camp X-Ray / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Peter Sattler) — A young woman is stationed as a guard in Guantanamo Bay, where she forms an unlikely friendship with one of the detainees. Cast: Kristen Stewart, Payman Maadi, Lane Garrison, J.J. Soria, John Carroll Lynch.Cold in July / U.S.A. (Director: Jim Mickle, Screenwriters: Jim Mickle, Nick Damici) — After killing a home intruder, a small town Texas man's life unravels into a dark underworld of corruption and violence. Cast: Michael C. Hall, Don Johnson, Sam Shepard, Vinessa Shaw, Nick Damici, Wyatt Russell.Dear White People / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Justin Simien) — Four black students attend an Ivy League college where a riot breaks out over an “African American” themed party thrown by white students. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, the film explores racial identity in postracial America while weaving a story about forging one's unique path in the world. Cast: Tyler Williams, Tessa Thompson, Teyonah Parris, Brandon Bell.Fishing Without Nets / U.S.A., Somalia, Kenya (Director: Cutter Hodierne, Screenwriters: Cutter Hodierne, John Hibey, David Burkman) — A story of pirates in Somalia told from the perspective of a struggling, young Somali fisherman. Cast: Abdikani Muktar, Abdi Siad, Abduwhali Faarah, Abdikhadir Hassan, Reda Kateb, Idil Ibrahim.God's Pocket / U.S.A. (Director: John Slattery, Screenwriters: John Slattery, Alex Metcalf) — When Mickey's stepson Leon is killed in a construction "accident," Mickey tries to bury the bad news with the body. But when the boy's mother demands the truth, Mickey finds himself stuck between a body he can’t bury, a wife he can’t please, and a debt he can’t pay. Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Jenkins, Christina Hendricks, John Turturro.Happy Christmas / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Joe Swanberg) — After a breakup with her boyfriend, a young woman moves in with her older brother, his wife, and their 2-year-old son. Cast: Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Mark Webber, Lena Dunham, Joe Swanberg.Hellion / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Kat Candler) — When motocross and heavy metal obsessed, 13-year-old Jacob's delinquent behavior forces CPS to place his little brother Wes with his aunt, Jacob and his emotionally absent father must finally take responsibility for their actions and each other in order to bring Wes home. Cast: Aaron Paul, Juliette Lewis, Josh Wiggins, Deke Garner, Jonny Mars, Walt Roberts.Infinitely Polar Bear / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Maya Forbes) — A manic-depressive mess of a father tries to win back his wife by attempting to take full responsibility of their two young, spirited daughters, who don't make the overwhelming task any easier. Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Imogene Wolodarsky, Ashley Aufderheide.Jamie Marks is Dead / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Carter Smith) — No one seemed to care about Jamie Marks until after his death. Hoping to find the love and friendship he never had in life, Jamie’s ghost visits former classmate Adam McCormick, drawing him into the bleak world between the living and the dead. Cast: Cameron Monaghan, Noah Silver, Morgan Saylor, Judy Greer, Madisen Beaty, Liv Tyler.Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter / U.S.A. (Director: David Zellner, Screenwriters: David Zellner, Nathan Zellner) — A lonely Japanese woman becomes convinced that a satchel of money buried in a fictional film is, in fact, real. Abandoning her structured life in Tokyo for the frozen Minnesota wilderness, she embarks on an impulsive quest to search for her lost mythical fortune. Cast: Rinko Kikuchi.Life After Beth / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jeff Baena) — Zach is devastated by the unexpected death of his girlfriend, Beth. When she mysteriously returns, he gets a second chance at love. Soon his whole world turns upside down... Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Cheryl Hines, Paul Reiser.Low Down / U.S.A. (Director: Jeff Preiss, Screenwriters: Amy Albany, Topper Lilien) — Based on Amy Jo Albany's memoir, Low Down explores her heart-wrenching journey to adulthood while being raised by her father, bebop pianist Joe Albany, as he teeters between incarceration and addiction in the urban decay and waning bohemia of Hollywood in the 1970s. Cast: John Hawkes, Elle Fanning, Glenn Close, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, Flea.The Skeleton Twins / U.S.A. (Director: Craig Johnson, Screenwriters: Craig Johnson, Mark Heyman) — Estranged twins Maggie and Milo coincidentally cheat death on the same day, prompting them to reunite and confront the reasons their lives went so wrong. As the twins' reunion reinvigorates them, they realize the key to fixing their lives may just lie in repairing their relationship. Cast: Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Luke Wilson, Ty Burrell, Boyd Holbrook, Joanna Gleason.The Sleepwalker / U.S.A., Norway (Director: Mona Fastvold, Screenwriters: Mona Fastvold, Brady Corbet) — A young couple, Kaia and Andrew, are renovating Kaia´s secluded family estate. Their lives are violently interrupted when unexpected guests arrive. The Sleepwalker chronicles the unraveling of the lives of four disparate characters as it transcends genre conventions and narrative contrivance to reveal something much more disturbing. Cast: Gitte Witt, Christopher Abbott, Brady Corbet, Stephanie Ellis.Song One / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Kate Barker-Froyland) — Estranged from her family, Franny returns home when an accident leaves her brother comatose. Retracing his life as an aspiring musician, she tracks down his favorite musician, James Forester. Against the backdrop of Brooklyn’s music scene, Franny and James develop an unexpected relationship and face the realities of their lives. Cast: Anne Hathaway, Johnny Flynn, Mary Steenburgen, Ben Rosenfield.Whiplash / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Damien Chazelle) — Under the direction of a ruthless instructor, a talented young drummer begins to pursue perfection at any cost, even his humanity. Cast: Miles Teller, JK Simmons.
Appropriate Behavior / U.S.A., United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Desiree Akhavan) — Shirin is struggling to become an ideal Persian daughter, a politically correct bisexual, and a hip, young Brooklynite, but fails miserably in her attempt at all identities. Being without a cliché to hold on to can be a lonely experience. Cast: Desiree Akhavan, Rebecca Henderson, Halley Feiffer, Scott Adsit, Anh Duong, Arian Moayed. World Premiere.Drunktown's Finest / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Sydney Freeland) — Three young Native Americans—a rebellious father-to-be, a devout Christian woman, and a promiscuous transsexual—come of age on an Indian reservation. Cast: Jeremiah Bitsui, Carmen Moore, Morningstar Angeline, Kiowa Gordon, Shauna Baker, Elizabeth Francis. World Premiere.The Foxy Merkins / U.S.A. (Director: Madeleine Olnek, Screenwriters: Lisa Haas, Jackie Monahan, Madeleine Olnek) — Two lesbian hookers work the streets of New York. One is a down-on-her-luck newbie; the other is a beautiful—and straight—grifter who's an expert on picking up women. Together they face bargain-hunting housewives, double-dealing conservative women, and each other in this prostitute buddy comedy. Cast: Lisa Haas, Jackie Monahan, Alex Karpovsky, Susan Ziegler, Sally Sockwell, Deb Margolin.A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Ana Lily Amirpour) — In the Iranian ghost town Bad City, a place that reeks of death and loneliness, depraved denizens are unaware they are being stalked by a lonesome vampire. Cast: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Dominic Rains, Marshall Manesh, Mozhan Marnó, Milad Eghbali. World Premiere.Imperial Dreams / U.S.A. (Director: Malik Vitthal, Screenwriters: Malik Vitthal, Ismet Prcic) — A 21-year-old, reformed gangster's devotion to his family and his future are put to the test when he is released from prison and returns to his old stomping grounds in Watts, Los Angeles. Cast: John Boyega, Rotimi Akinosho, Glenn Plummer, Keke Palmer, De'aundre Bonds. World Premiere.Land Ho! / U.S.A., Iceland (Directors and screenwriters: Martha Stephens, Aaron Katz) — A pair of ex-brothers-in-law set off to Iceland in an attempt to reclaim their youth through Reykjavik nightclubs, trendy spas, and rugged campsites. This bawdy adventure is a throwback to 1980s road comedies, as well as a candid exploration of aging, loneliness, and friendship. Cast: Paul Eenhoorn, Earl Nelson, Alice Olivia Clarke, Karrie Krouse, Elizabeth McKee, Emmsjé Gauti. World Premiere.Listen Up Philip / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Alex Ross Perry) — A story about changing seasons and changing attitudes, a newly accomplished writer faces mistakes and miseries affecting those around him, including his girlfriend, her sister, his idol, his idol's daughter, and all the ex-girlfriends and enemies that lie in wait on the open streets of New York. Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Elisabeth Moss, Jonathan Pryce, Krysten Ritter, Josephine de La Baume. World Premiere.Memphis / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Tim Sutton) — A strange singer drifts through the mythic city of Memphis, surrounded by beautiful women, legendary musicians, a stone-cold hustler, a righteous preacher, and a wolf pack of kids. Under a canopy of ancient oak trees and burning spirituality, his doomed journey breaks from conformity and reaches out for glory. Cast: Willis Earl Beal, Lopaka Thomas, Constance Brantley, Devonte Hull, John Gary Williams, Larry Dodson. World Premiere.Obvious Child / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Gillian Robespierre) — An honest comedy about what happens when Brooklyn comedian Donna Stern gets dumped, fired, and pregnant, just in time for the worst/best Valentine's Day of her life. Cast: Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffmann, David Cross, Gabe Liedman, Richard Kind. World Premiere.Ping Pong Summer / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Michael Tully) — 1985. Ocean City, Maryland. Summer vacation. Rap music. Parachute pants. Ping pong. First crushes. Best friends. Mean bullies. Weird mentors. That awkward, momentous time in your life when you're treated like an alien by everyone around you, even though you know deep down you're as funky fresh as it gets. Cast: Susan Sarandon, John Hannah, Lea Thompson, Amy Sedaris, Robert Longstreet, Marcello Conte. World Premiere.War Story / U.S.A. (Director: Mark Jackson, Screenwriters: Kristin Gore, Mark Jackson) — A war photographer retreats to a small town in Sicily after being held captive during the conflict in Libya. Cast: Catherine Keener, Hafsia Herzi, Vincenzo Amato, Donatella Finocchiaro, Ben Kingsley. World Premiere.
U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITIONAlive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory / U.S.A. (Director: Michael Rossato-Bennett) — Five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's disease and dementia—many of them alone in nursing homes. A man with a simple idea discovers that songs embedded deep in memory can ease pain and awaken these fading minds. Joy and life are resuscitated, and our cultural fears over aging are confronted. All the Beautiful Things / U.S.A. (Director: John Harkrider) — John and Barron are lifelong friends whose friendship is tested when Barron's girlfriend says Barron put a knife to her throat and raped her. Not knowing she has lied, John tells her to go to the police. Years later, John and Barron meet in a bar to resolve the betrayal.CAPTIVATED The Trials of Pamela Smart / U.S.A., United Kingdom (Director: Jeremiah Zagar) — In an extraordinary and tragic American story, a small town murder becomes one of the highest profile cases of all time. From its historic role as the first televised trial to the many books and movies made about it, the film looks at the media’s enduring impact on the case. The Case Against 8 / U.S.A. (Directors: Ben Cotner, Ryan White) — A behind-the-scenes look inside the case to overturn California's ban on same-sex marriage. Shot over five years, the film follows the unlikely team that took the first federal marriage equality lawsuit to the U.S. Supreme Court.Cesar's Last Fast / U.S.A. (Directors: Richard Ray Perez, Lorena Parlee) — Inspired by Catholic social teaching, Cesar Chavez risked his life fighting for America’s poorest workers. The film illuminates the intensity of one man’s devotion and personal sacrifice, the birth of an economic justice movement, and tells an untold chapter in the story of civil rights in America. Dinosaur 13 / U.S.A. (Director: Todd Miller) — The true tale behind one of the greatest discoveries in history. Day One film.E-TEAM / U.S.A. (Directors: Katy Chevigny, Ross Kauffman) — E-TEAM is driven by the high-stakes investigative work of four intrepid human rights workers, offering a rare look at their lives at home and their dramatic work in the field. Fed Up / U.S.A. (Director: Stephanie Soechtig) — Fed Up blows the lid off everything we thought we knew about food and weight loss, revealing a 30-year campaign by the food industry, aided by the U.S. government, to mislead and confuse the American public, resulting in one of the largest health epidemics in history. The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz / U.S.A. (Director: Brian Knappenberger) — Programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz achieved groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing. His passion for open access ensnared him in a legal nightmare that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26. Ivory Tower / U.S.A. (Director: Andrew Rossi) — As tuition spirals upward and student debt passes a trillion dollars, students and parents ask, "Is college worth it?" From the halls of Harvard to public and private colleges in financial crisis to education startups in Silicon Valley, an urgent portrait emerges of a great American institution at the breaking point. Marmato / U.S.A. (Director: Mark Grieco) — Colombia is the center of a new global gold rush, and Marmato, a historic mining town, is the new frontier. Filmed over the course of nearly six years, Marmato chronicles how townspeople confront a Canadian mining company that wants the $20 billion in gold beneath their homes. No No: A Dockumentary / U.S.A. (Director: Jeffrey Radice) — Dock Ellis pitched a no-hitter on LSD, then worked for decades counseling drug abusers. Dock's soulful style defined 1970s baseball as he kept hitters honest and embarrassed the establishment. An ensemble cast of teammates, friends, and family investigate his life on the field, in the media, and out of the spotlight. The Overnighters / U.S.A. (Director: Jesse Moss) — Desperate, broken men chase their dreams and run from their demons in the North Dakota oil fields. A local Pastor's decision to help them has extraordinary and unexpected consequences.Private Violence / U.S.A. (Director: Cynthia Hill) — One in four women experience violence in their homes. Have you ever asked, “Why doesn't she just leave?” Private Violence shatters the brutality of our logic and intimately reveals the stories of two women: Deanna Walters, who transforms from victim to survivor, and Kit Gruelle, who advocates for justice. Rich Hill / U.S.A. (Directors: Andrew Droz Palermo, Tracy Droz Tragos) — In a rural, American town, kids face heartbreaking choices, find comfort in the most fragile of family bonds, and dream of a future of possibility. Watchers of the Sky / U.S.A. (Director: Edet Belzberg) — Five interwoven stories of remarkable courage from Nuremberg to Rwanda, from Darfur to Syria, and from apathy to action. WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION
52 Tuesdays / Australia (Director: Sophie Hyde, Screenplay and story by: Matthew Cormack, Story by: Sophie Hyde) — Sixteen-year-old Billie’s reluctant path to independence is accelerated when her mother reveals plans for gender transition, and their time together becomes limited to Tuesdays. This emotionally charged story of desire, responsibility, and transformation was filmed over the course of a year—once a week, every week, only on Tuesdays. Cast: Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Del Herbert-Jane, Imogen Archer, Mario Späte, Beau Williams, Sam Althuizen. International Premiere.Blind / Norway, Netherlands (Director and screenwriter: Eskil Vogt) — Having recently lost her sight, Ingrid retreats to the safety of her home—a place she can feel in control, alone with her husband and her thoughts. But Ingrid's real problems lie within, not beyond the walls of her apartment, and her deepest fears and repressed fantasies soon take over. Cast: Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Henrik Rafaelsen, Vera Vitali, Marius Kolbenstvedt. World Premiere.Difret / Ethiopia (Director and screenwriter: Zeresenay Berhane Mehari) — Meaza Ashenafi is a young lawyer who operates under the government's radar helping women and children until one young girl's legal case exposes everything, threatening not only her career but her survival. Cast: Meron Getnet, Tizita Hagere. World Premiere.The Disobedient / Serbia (Director and screenwriter: Mina Djukic) — Leni anxiously waits for her childhood friend Lazar, who is coming back to their hometown after years of studying abroad. After they reunite, they embark on a random bicycle trip around their childhood haunts, which will either exhaust or reinvent their relationship. Cast: Hana Selimovic, Mladen Sovilj, Minja Subota, Danijel Sike, Ivan Djordjevic. World Premiere.God Help the Girl / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Stuart Murdoch) — This musical from Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian is about some messed up boys and girls and the music they made. Cast: Emily Browning, Olly Alexander, Hannah Murray, Cora Bissett, Pierre Boulanger. World Premiere.Liar's Dice / India (Director and screenwriter: Geetu Mohandas) — Kamala, a young woman from the village of Chitkul, leaves her native land with her daughter to search for her missing husband. Along the journey, they encounter Nawazudin, a free-spirited army deserter with his own selfish motives who helps them reach their destination. Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Geetanjali Thapa, Manya Gupta. International Premiere.Lilting / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Hong Khaou) — The world of a Chinese mother mourning the untimely death of her son is suddenly disrupted by the presence of a stranger who doesn't speak her language. Lilting is a touching and intimate film about finding the things that bring us together. Cast: Ben Whishaw, Pei-Pei Cheng, Andrew Leung, Peter Bowles, Naomi Christie, Morven Christie. World Premiere.
Lock Charmer (El cerrajero) / Argentina (Director and screenwriter: Natalia Smirnoff) — Upon learning that his girlfriend is pregnant, 33-year-old locksmith Sebastian begins to have strange visions about his clients. With the help of an unlikely assistant, he sets out to use his newfound talent for his own good. Cast: Esteban Lamothe, Erica Rivas, Yosiria Huaripata. World Premiere.To Kill a Man / Chile, France (Director and screenwriter: Alejandro Fernandez Almendras) — When Jorge, a hardworking family man who's barely making ends meet, gets mugged by Kalule, a neighborhood delinquent, Jorge's son decides to confront the attacker, only to get himself shot. Even though Jorge's son nearly dies, Kalule's sentence is minimal, heightening the friction. Cast: Daniel Candia, Daniel Antivilo, Alejandra Yañez, Ariel Mateluna. World Premiere.Viktoria / Bulgaria, Romania (Director and screenwriter: Maya Vitkova) — Although determined not to have a child in Communist Bulgaria, Boryana gives birth to Viktoria, who despite being born with no umbilical cord, is proclaimed to be the baby of the decade. But political collapse and the hardships of the new time bind mother and daughter together. Cast: Irmena Chichikova, Daria Vitkova, Kalina Vitkova, Mariana Krumova, Dimo Dimov, Georgi Spassov. World Premiere.Wetlands / Germany (Director: David Wnendt, Screenwriters: Claus Falkenberg, David Wnendt, based on the novel by Charlotte Roche) — Meet Helen Memel. She likes to experiment with vegetables while masturbating and thinks that bodily hygiene is greatly overrated. She shocks those around her by speaking her mind in a most unladylike manner on topics that many people would not even dare consider. Cast: Carla Juri, Christoph Letkowski, Meret Becker, Axel Milberg, Marlen Kruse, Edgar Selge. North American Premiere.White Shadow / Italy, Germany, Tanzania (Director: Noaz Deshe, Screenwriters: Noaz Deshe, James Masson) — Alias is a young albino boy on the run. His mother has sent him away to find refuge in the city after witnessing his father's murder. Over time, the city becomes no different than the bush: wherever Alias travels, the same rules of survival apply. Cast: Hamisi Bazili, James Gayo, Glory Mbayuwayu, Salum Abdallah. International Premiere.
WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
20,000 Days On Earth / United Kingdom (Directors: Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard) — Drama and reality combine in a fictitious 24 hours in the life of musician and international culture icon Nick Cave. With startlingly frank insights and an intimate portrayal of the artistic process, this film examines what makes us who we are and celebrates the transformative power of the creative spirit. World Premiere.Concerning Violence / Sweden, U.S.A., Denmark, Finland (Director: Göran Hugo Olsson) — Concerning Violence is based on newly discovered, powerful archival material documenting the most daring moments in the struggle for liberation in the Third World, accompanied by classic text from The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon. World Premiere.The Green Prince / Germany, Israel, United Kingdom (Director: Nadav Schirman ) — This real-life thriller tells the story of one of Israel’s prized intelligence sources, recruited to spy on his own people for more than a decade. Focusing on the complex relationship with his handler, The Green Prince is a gripping account of terror, betrayal, and unthinkable choices, along with a friendship that defies all boundaries. World Premiere.
Happiness / France, Finland (Director: Thomas Balmès) — Peyangki is a dreamy and solitary eight-year-old monk living in Laya, a Bhutanese village perched high in the Himalayas. Soon the world will come to him: the village is about to be connected to electricity, and the first television will flicker on before Peyangki's eyes. North American Premiere.Love Child / South Korea, U.S.A. (Director: Valerie Veatch) — In Seoul in the Republic of Korea, a young couple stands accused of neglect when "Internet addiction" in an online fantasy game costs the life of their infant daughter. Love Child documents the 2010 trial and subsequent ruling that set a global precedent in a world where virtual is the new reality. World Premiere.Mr leos caraX / France (Director: Tessa Louise-Salomé) — Mr leos caraX plunges us into the poetic and visionary world of a mysterious, solitary filmmaker who was already a cult figure from his very first film. Punctuated by interviews and previously unseen footage, this documentary is most of all a fine-tuned exploration of the poetic and visionary world of Leos Carax, alias Mr. X. World Premiere.My Prairie Home / Canada (Director: Chelsea McMullan) — A poetic journey through landscapes both real and emotional, Chelsea McMullan’s documentary/musical offers an intimate portrait of transgender singer Rae Spoon, framed by stunning images of the Canadian prairies. McMullan’s imaginative visual interpretations of Spoon’s songs make this an unforgettable look at a unique Canadian artist. International Premiere.The Notorious Mr. Bout / U.S.A., Russia (Directors: Tony Gerber, Maxim Pozdorovkin) — Viktor Bout was a war profiteer, an entrepreneur, an aviation tycoon, an arms dealer, and—strangest of all—a documentary filmmaker. The Notorious Mr. Bout is the ultimate rags-to-riches-to-prison memoir, documented by the last man you'd expect to be holding the camera. World Premiere.Return to Homs / Syria, Germany (Director: Talal Derki) — Basset Sarout, the 19-year-old national football team goalkeeper, becomes a demonstration leader and singer, and then a fighter. Ossama, a 24-year-old renowned citizen cameraman, is critical, a pacifist, and ironic until he is detained by the regime's security forces. North American Premiere.SEPIDEH – Reaching for the Stars / Denmark (Director: Berit Madsen) — Sepideh wants to become an astronaut. As a young Iranian woman, she knows it’s dangerous to challenge traditions and expectations. Still, Sepideh holds on to her dream. She knows a tough battle is ahead, a battle that only seems possible to win once she seeks help from an unexpected someone. North American Premiere.We Come as Friends / France, Austria (Director: Hubert Sauper) — We Come as Friends views colonization as a human phenomenon through both explicit and metaphoric lenses without oversimplified accusations or political theorizing. Alarmingly, It is not a historical film since colonization and the slave trade still exist. World Premiere.Web Junkie / Israel (Directors: Shosh Shlam, Hilla Medalia) — China is the first country to label “Internet addiction” a clinical disorder. Web Junkie investigates a Beijing rehab center where Chinese teenagers are deprogrammed. World Premiere.
Happy Mondays star Shaun Ryder has opened up about a UFO encounter he experienced when he was 15, insisting he's still convinced he wasn't seeing things. The Step On singer, who was a big part of Britain's 'Madchester' rave scene in the early 1990s, is an alien enthusiast and he'll front a new TV show about UFO sightings around the world.
Ryder insists he's the perfect person to host the series - because he knows exactly what it's like to come face to face with alien spaceships.
He has previously told how he encountered UFOs at least twice in his teens, and he has now opened up about one of the sightings, telling Britain's The Sun newspaper, "I was 15 years old and I was on my first job. I'd left school and I had a job as a messenger boy at the post office. It was about 6.30 in the morning - still dark but just coming light. I was coming to the bus stop and I saw this light in the sky.
"It looked like a ball of light that was just zooming about. It sort of hovered there, then it zoomed off. I was a pretty straight kid when I was 15 - there was no drink or drugs. So that's what really set me off thinking, knowing that there's definitely something out there."
He had a similar experience months later when he saw "hundreds of lights going across the sky", while waiting for a bus in Salford, England.
It's hard to think of any other 1960s TV series with as much staying-power as Star Trek. 47 years after its launch it's spun-off four live-action series, one animated series, dozens of videogames, and 12 movies. The latest, Star Trek Into Darkness, is on track to make $100 million its opening weekend. So why do we still care? Because The Original Series was just that compelling. Even when it was bad — and it could be a bad a lot — it was always interesting. It was always brimming with ideas about the universe and our place within it. Gene Roddenberry had one of the strongest visions ever brought to bear on the small screen. So in honor of the continuing voyages of the Starship Enterprise, we've ranked all 79 episodes of The Original Series from worst to best. We hate to be negative all upfront, but if we get the bad episodes out of the way first, we can spend more time relishing our faves. Guess what tops our list!
79. “Turnabout Intruder” — The very last episode of the original Star Trek series is also its worst, a dispiritingly sexist commentary on gender roles that sees Capt. Kirk switch bodies with a female scientist that makes incredibly bizarre claims: like that women are barred from being starship captains in Starfleet, something that has been disproven by almost everything else we know about Star Trek. Luckily, there’d be 25 seasons of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise to remove the awful taste in our mouths left by the end of The Original Series.
78. “Spock’s Brain” — The third season of The Original Series was a bit like the fourth season of Community. Its original creator, Gene Roddenberry, was marginalized so NBC could make Star Trek almost a parody of itself. That’s clear from the season opener, in which aliens remove Spock’s brain…because they can! Now, there are some good episodes in Season 3. But you’ll find that much of the bottom of this lost also comes from Star Trek’s wildly uneven last year.
77. “The Alternative Factor” — An early foray into the idea of exploring “parallel universes,” the Enterprise crew encounters a man named Lazarus who’s hellbent on tracking down his antimatter double from another dimension. When matter and antimatter collide it’s supposed to explosive, but the drama here certainly isn’t.
76. “Wolf in the Fold” — Scotty is accused of murder on an alien world! The kind of episode where you no he didn’t do it and you know he’ll inevitably be cleared so what’s the point? Stick around, though, for a supporting turn by the great John Fiedler.
75. “The Way to Eden” — Hippies in space! It could be a Muppet Show parody, but yes the Enterprise crew encounters 23rd century versions of the flower power set and have an incredibly reactionary response.
74. “The Paradise Syndrome” — Kirk is brainwashed into thinking he’s a Native American. Seriously.
73. “The Man Trap” — To his credit Roddenberry like to present non-humanoid alien threats as much as he did humanoid ones. But these parasites that leach off of the salt in human bodies (in the very first episode of The Original Series that aired!) are incredibly pointless.
72. “Elaan of Troyius” — Just from the title alone, you know this is going to be a bad episode. Kirk has to escort a spoiled princess through hostile terrain. A spoiled princess who loves to wear barely-there tinfoil jumpsuits.
71. “Mudd’s Women” — Jovial con man Harry Mudd is the kind of nemesis who only could’ve worked in the ‘60s. His introduction in Season 1 has him swindle dilithium miners out of their crystals in exchange for three beautiful women — three women who only appear beautiful when the miners are taking hallucinogens.
NEXT: Numbers 70-61 on our list.
70. “Miri” — Children are the only survivors of a planet-wide calamity. Roddenberry really loved the kiddies (see also: Wesley Crusher on The Next Generation) but he never seemed to know how to integrate them compellingly into the drama.
69. “The Mark of Gideon” — Kirk is abducted by a race of aliens to help them solve their overpopulation problem. Uh, considering his interstellar bedhopping, Kirk is the last person qualified to deal with overpopulation issues. Which is why this episode makes no sense.
68. “Bread and Circuses” — The Enterprise crew encounter a planet that’s patterned itself on ancient Rome. Not the first time they’d discover a planet modeled on a violent period of Earth history, nor the first time they’d be forced to fight in gladiatorial games, “Bread and Circuses” reveals the tremendous capacity of the creators of The Original Series to repeat themselves.
67. “Return to Tomorrow” — Ditto for this Season 3 episode about telepathic aliens taking over Kirk and Spock’s bodies to build stronger, mechanical versions for themselves. Another thing Roddenberry loved over and over again? Non-corporeal aliens that can take over your mind!
66. “The Lights of Zetar” — Probably most notable for introducing the Memory Alpha station that lends its name to the Star Trek wiki. Again, “energy-based” life-forms are the threat.
65. “The Omega Glory” — Kirk faces down both an insane starship captain and a deadly plague while trying to stop an intertribal war. The umpteenth episode about protecting a less-advanced civilization that appears to reside in the rolling hills of Southern California.
64. “Friday’s Child” — Again, the Enterprise crew intervene in a tribal dispute that’s gotten out of hand, this time because of Klingon meddling. Most notable for McCoy’s immortal “I’m a doctor, not an elevator!”
63. “Is There In Truth No Beauty?” — An alien being the Enterprise is transporting must remain inside a black box because its physical form is so hideous. A Twilight Zone-style concept that could’ve been great in the hands of Rod Serling but just didn’t make a thought-provoking jump to the 23rd century.
62. “Plato’s Stepchildren” — So you already know one alien society patterned itself on ancient Rome. Here’s one that patterned itself on ancient Greece! But wait, wait, there’s more…
61. “Patterns of Force” — …Like this episode in which an alien civilization based its culture on Nazi Germany. At least here there’s some interesting commentary on how some ideologies are truly irredeemable, not just an opportunity to see Kirk wearing a swastika.
NEXT: Numbers 60-51 on our list.
60. “Whom Gods Destroy” — There are two frequent career paths for starship captains that you’d do really well to avoid: One is to be endowed with god-like powers and try to take over control of the universe; the other is go insane and think you have god-like powers with which you try to take over control of the universe. The latter is featured here.
59. “The Cage” — The first pilot Gene Roddenberry shot starred Jeffrey Hunter as Capt. Christopher Pike. He commanded the Enterprise before Kirk (much like Bruce Greenwood’s Pike in J.J. Abrams’ movies) but his first officer wasn’t Spock — who then was just relegated solely to science officer — but a woman, Majel Barrett’s “Number One.” By the time it went to series, Roddenberry rewrote the concept to fit more comfortably into the prevailing chauvinism of the era, with Barrett playing Nurse Chapel instead. But “The Cage” is a fascinating experiment in projecting a profoundly progressive view of the future, even if it’s ultimately a bit of an inert non-starter.
58. “Requiem for Methuselah” — Kirk discovers an immortal human living as a hermit. We liked this concept better in “Metamorphosis,” appearing higher on this list.
57. “The Squire of Gothos” — The god-like being Trelane, who patterns himself on an English gentleman from the 1800s, has complete control over the minds and matter of Kirk’s crew. We’d say it’s a whimsical concept, but it’s been done so often in Trek. All of these petty gods are building toward The Next Generation’s Q.
56. “And the Children Shall Lead” — There was an “evil imaginary friend” episode on Next Generation as well, but not nearly as crazy as this one, where a kids’ game of make-believe summons forces greater than Kirk could ever have imagined.
55. “That Which Survives” — A supercomputer is the only survivor of an alien race that succumbed to a deadly plague. It now chooses to represent itself solely as holographic projections of scantily clad women. Because it can!
54. “Obsession” — Kirk gets his Ahab on trying to track down the mysterious entity that killed much of the crew of his previous ship. A rare opportunity to go inside the good captain’s pre-Enterprise history.
53. “The Empath” — The Enterprise landing party are subjected to unfathomable torments to test an alien race’s empathic ability. The whole concept of “empaths” was another thing Roddenberry seemed curiously fixated on — see also the empathic Lt. Ilia in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Deanna Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
52. “The Gamesters of Triskelion” — The first and best of the episodes in which the Enterprise crew are forced to participate in gladiatorial games. The stuff Simpsons parodies are made of.
51. “A Private Little War” — Kirk tries to protect primitive aliens from Klingon interference. Not as exciting as “Errand of Mercy” or as unforgettably bizarre as “Friday’s Child” earlier on this list, it’s still really fun to see the Captain tangle with “those Klingon bastards.”
NEXT: Numbers 50-41 on our list.
50. “Catspaw” — Two aliens with “magical powers” wreak havoc with the crew. This sounds like many others we’ve already mentioned, right? Wrong! “Catspaw” was Star Trek’s attempt at a Gothic horror episode to be released near Halloween. Stylish and silly.
49. “For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky” — An asteroid hurtles toward a Federation world and our heroes rush to prevent the collision…only to discover that the interior of the asteroid is inhabited by aliens who are totally oblivious of the universe around them. An engaging Russian nesting doll concept. Also, how could you not love any episode with this title?
48. “The Ultimate Computer” — Federation computer genius Richard Daystrom (he gets a shout-out in Star Trek Into Darkness) tests out a new artificial intelligence onboard the Enterprise. Catastrophe ensues. But it shows just how much Roddenberry was ahead of the curve when it came to operating systems and computer networking — just as he was with cell phones and tablets.
47. “Day of the Dove” — In case you were wondering, this the point in our list where we start getting into the good episodes. An energy-based alien life form that feeds off anger amplifies the tensions between the Klingons and Kirk’s crew, until the two adversaries finally realize what’s happening and turn against their common enemy. An early glimpse of the détente that the Klingons and Federation will one day achieve.
46. “This Side of Paradise” — A Federation colony that should have been wiped out by lethal radiation is actually thriving, its members living in a state of euphoria because of mysterious spores. However, those spores rob those affected of ambition and self-discipline, basically making them an early version of the dream-fulfilling Nexus cloud that’s central to the plot of Star Trek: Generations.
45. “Shore Leave” — One of Trek’s more hallucinatory episodes, “Shore Leave” presents the crew getting a few days of R&R only to find a white rabbit, a sword-wielding samurai, and Don Juan menacing them. Also, we learn Dr. McCoy really loves showgirls who wear rabbit-fur bikinis.
44. “The Savage Curtain” — The third to last episode of The Original Series is actually really thought-provoking as aliens force Kirk and Spock to join forces with figures of good throughout history (Abraham Lincoln, Surak) vs. historical figures of evil (Hitler, Genghis Khan, Col. Green).
43. “Spectre of the Gun” — Aliens force Kirk & Co. to play the losing side in a reenactment of the Gunfight at the OK Corral! Like “The Savage Curtain” it’s a challenging examination of the nature of monstrosity and whether it’s something that’s fated or learned.
42. “The Cloud Minders” — Star Trek created the original Cloud City, 11 years before The Empire Strikes Back. A vicious class disparity plunges a floating mining colony into full-blown civil uprising, all while the Enterprise crew race against the clock to recover resources they need to fight a plague.
41. “Where No Man Has Gone Before” — Roddenberry’s second pilot introduced Shatner’s Kirk and established the idealistic tone of the series: exploration of the universe as discovery of the self. Do you use the accumulation of knowledge for wisdom and self-improvement? Or for vulgar power like Gary Mitchell? Writ large, that choice could determine humanity’s destiny.
NEXT: Numbers 40-31 on our list.
40. “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” — Nurse Chapel sure knows how to pick ‘em! Her fiancé, exobiologist Roger Korby, discovered an alien machine that creates android replicas of living people and uses that machine to replace Kirk with an identical robot and try to take over the Enterprise. Nice going, Christine.
39. “I, Mudd” — What does Harry Mudd do when he has unlimited power? We find out in his second appearance on Star Trek, in which he has now become the king of a planet of androids.
38. “By Any Other Name” — More god-like beings! This time from the Andromeda Galaxy! They’ve taken over the Enterprise and modified it for the long, long journey out of the Milky Way. Shows how, even on The Original Series, Roddenberry and his writers understood the vastness of the universe.
37. “Who Mourns for Adonais?” — So guess what about all those Greek gods from mythology? They were real! Except they weren’t gods, but omnipotent aliens who passed through our solar system during the days of Priam and Achilles and meddled a little too closely in Earth affairs. Kirk & Crew encounter the last survivor of those wanderers, Apollo, who had been worshipped as the sun god. And trust us, it really went to his head.
36. “Operation: Annihilate!” — This is another time we actually delve into Kirk’s personal history. Unlike J.J. Abrams’ reboot, he grew up with his father, George, and brother, Sam. Only in this episode Sam gets killed by flying amoebas at his space colony. Remember what I said about things that like to leach off human bodies for their salt! Always a worry in the 23rd century.
35. “The Immunity Syndrome” — Speaking of space amoebas, the Enterprise almost runs smack into a giant, asteroid-sized paramecium floating in the void. It’s also draining power from the ship and threatening to suck it in, and the only solution is for Spock to try to meld with it. Okay, writing this right now, it sounds like the worst thing ever. But trust me, it’s unquestionably awesome!
34. “The Deadly Years” — Kirk & Crew are afflicted with a disease that causes rapid aging. For my money, if the producers of the current Trek franchise ever want to bring back William Shatner for a movie without a time-travel twist they’d infect Chris Pine’s Kirk with this disease and suddenly it’d be $#*! My Captain Says.
33. “The Changeling” — The Enterprise runs into a 20th century NASA space probe that may have already wiped out a couple worlds deep in the interstellar void. It overcame its crude 20th century programming and developed sophisticated, if psychopathic, artificial intelligence. I know, I know, it’s the plot of The Motion Picture, right?
32. “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” — A powerful allegory for racial discrimination about a race of white-and-black aliens that shun certain members of their species depending on which sad is black and which is white. It may be a little heavy-handed for today’s sensibilities, but it was groundbreaking in 1969.
31. “Dagger of the Mind” — The ninth episode of the series is notable for being the first time Spock ever performs a mind meld. But it’s also a tightly-wound psychological thriller about a madman running an insane asylum.
NEXT: Numbers 30-21 on our list.
30. “Court Martial” — It’s a shame that it aired just a few weeks after an even better courtroom procedural, two-part ep “The Menagerie,” but when Kirk is court martialed for negligence after a crewman was killed during an ion storm it’s still slow-burn pressure cooker.
29. “The Conscience of the King” — Unlike Pine’s Kirk, Shatner’s grew up on the Earth colony at Tarsus IV. A colony that, in his youth, was ruled by a murderous governor who became known as Kodos the Executioner. Decades later in “The Conscience of the King,” Kirk suspects that a Shakespearean actor is actually Kodos in disguise. Also, yes, the name Kodos inspired one-half of the cannibalistic alien duo, Kodos & Kang, on The Simpsons. And just so you know, Kang was also a Kliingon on The Original Series.
28. “The Return of the Archons” — The Enterprise reaches the planet where the USS Archon was reported lost a century earlier and discovers that a society modeled on 19th century Earth civilization has sprung up. Unlike 19th century Earthlings, however, they live in fear of a telepathic being named Landru who wants to absorb them and the Enterprise crew into its collective.
27. “Wink of an Eye” — Invisible aliens that exist on a faster plane of time than we do — you could only glimpse them in the blink of an eye — take over the ship. Even with the limits on their makeup and special effects budget, “Wink of an Eye” shows how Roddenberry’s writers and directors could innovate, such as with the radical slow-motion technique they used once Kirk is on the same temporal wavelength as the aliens. Even a phaser beam is slowed down to the point of being dodge-able.
26. “Metamorphosis” — Kirk discovers the final hideout of Zefram Cochrane, the legendary pioneer who invented warp drive and made first contact with the Vulcans on April 5, 2063. But how could Cochrane (played here by Glenn Corbett and in Star Trek: First Contact by James Cromwell) still be alive 200 years later? Thanks to a glowing energy-based alien, of course, who’s keeping him prisoner while keeping him alive.
25. “Errand of Mercy” — The Klingons made their Star Trek debut with a warlike bang when they invade the peaceful planet Organia, inhabited by peasants who aren’t exactly what they seem. Kor, the leader of the Klingon invasion force, was played by John Colicos who came full-circle by playing the character once again on Deep Space Nine in 1998.
24. “Assignment: Earth” — For the first time, the Enterprise time-travels by slingshot-ing around the sun, something that would enable the events of the film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. This time they travel to 1968 Earth, where a time-traveler named Gary Seven (Robert Lansing) has been perceived to be altering history. Roddenberry had hoped “Assignment: Earth” would be the pilot for a Trek spin-off starring Lansing. That didn’t happen. It is notable for featuring one of the earliest appearances of a young Teri Garr.
23. “The Tholian Web” — The USS Defiant goes missing in hostile Tholian territory and the Enterprise is tasked with investigating. Turns out the Defiant is phasing out of our universe and into another dimension, and Kirk is trapped aboard. To make matters worse, the Tholians, screechy, insectoid aliens that fly crystal ships, have caught up with them and are building an impenetrable web around both Starfleet ships to prevent their escape. The best kind of race-against-the-clock thriller on Star Trek.
22. “The Enemy Within” — A transporter accident causes Kirk to be split into his good and evil selves. The former is mild-mannered but lacking initiative and resolve. The latter is undisciplined, aggressive, maybe even murderous. But neither can function on their own and both are necessary for Kirk to be a complete individual. The supposedly “evil” Kirk is strong, commanding, and decisive, qualities needed in a starship captain, along with the compassion and gentleness found in his “good self.” A provocative, value-neutral consideration of the qualities that make greatness.
21. “The Menagerie, Parts 1 & 2” — NBC recycled that old footage from Roddenberry’s first Trek pilot, “The Cage,” and made a much better episode. All the clips from “The Cage” became flashback video footage as Spock tries to explain before a Starfleet court martial why he acted in defiance of orders to help his old friend, and the Enterprise’s former captain, Christopher Pike.
NEXT: Numbers 20-11 on our list.
20. “The Apple” — Is the Federation a benevolent government that seeks to unite like-minded souls in safety and fellowship? Or is it a collective into which individual cultures are absorbed and dissolved? That’s the question at the heart of “The Apple,” wherein Kirk boldly violates the Prime Directive to impose freedom on a primitive people who absolutely don’t want freedom. They’re being ruled over by what appears to be a miniature-golf obstacle, a being named Vaal, and Kirk won’t have it. He’ll see to it that they think for themselves no matter what. But the question is, can you ever force someone to be free?
19. “A Piece of the Action” — The best of the “Alien Civilizations Modeled After Turbulent Periods in Earth History” episodes, “A Piece of the Action” takes us to a world modeled after the gangster culture of 1920s Chicago. But Kirk’s fuzzy fedora steals the show.
18. “The Naked Time” — A virus causes various members of the crew to lose their inhibitions and reveal their true selves: one becomes suicidal with fear and doubt about man’s place in the universe, another thinks he’s descended from Irish kings, and most famously, Sulu goes shirtless, grabs a foil and starts challenging everybody onboard to a duel. That’s because, as Spock puts it, Sulu is at heart “a swashbuckler out of your 18th century.”
17. “Tomorrow Is Yesterday” — An encounter with a black hole sends the ship back to 1960s Earth, in the first time-travel episode Star Trek ever attempted. The question is, can they mingle with 1960s humanity without altering history?
16. “A Taste of Armageddon” — A virtual war, but a brutal one, is being waged between two worlds solely by computer. Every so often members of each society must willingly sacrifice themselves as casualties in order to avoid actual nuclear warfare. The question is: how far are you willing to go prevent full-on war?
15. “All Our Yesterdays” — One of the most emotional Spock episodes, the Vulcan is trapped in the ancient history of a world doomed for destruction. He falls in love with one of its inhabitants before realizing that he has to make the return journey back to his own time.
14. “The Devil in the Dark” — A mysterious creature has been killing Federation miners. What is this menace? Turns out to be a silicon-based lifeform called the Horta and its just trying to protect its young from the miners’ brutish intrusion. Spock’s attempt to mind meld with the Horta is one of the classic moments of the series.
13. “Charlie X” — The second episode ever aired is a bold, primary-colored fantasia of ‘60s pop art. Kirk gives shelter aboard the Enterprise to a 17-year-old named Charlie (Robert Walker, Jr.) who grew up all by himself on an alien planet as the sole survivor of a spaceship crash. He developed psychic powers, however, which he is far from emotionally mature enough to use. And, oh, does he use them when he goes into a tantrum after not getting his way! He causes one Enterprise crewman to lose her face, causes chess pieces to melt, and has a really passive-aggressive workout with a shirtless Kirk.
12. “The Trouble With Tribbles” — A dispute between the Federation and Klingons over colonization rights to a planet get thrown for a wrench with the introduction of Tribbles, furry little pests with voracious appetites and an alarming birth rate. You’ve all seen the famous image of Kirk standing waist-deep in the critters, but the highlight of the episode may not be Tribble-related at all, but rather how easily the Klingons bait Scotty into a fight by calling the Enterprise “a garbage scow.”
11. “The Corbomite Maneuver” — A giant spaceship blocks the path of the Enterprise, its alien crew claiming that the Federation is expanding too quickly and will be halted in its march across the stars. It really looks like this could be the end of our five-year mission. But Kirk does what he does best. He bluffs. He says they’ve got a weapon called a “corbomite deflector” that will rebound all weapons fire directed to the Enterprise back to the firer. That gets the alien crew’s attention, so Kirk & Co. are welcomed aboard only to find it’s a crew of one: Balok, a jovial man-child played by Clint Howard, who resides in Bacchanalian surroundings and spends all day drinking tranya.
NEXT: The Top Ten
10. “The Enterprise Incident” — The Federation wants a cloaking device of their own, so they have Kirk & Spock go undercover aboard a Romulan ship to steal one. It’s a great heist episode, mostly because of how it pulls in a couple directions at once: you want to see our guys beat the Romulans, but at the same time Spock’s seduction of a female Romulan commander is almost unbearably cruel…to the point where you’re not certain who to root for.
9. “The Doomsday Machine” — Kirk & Commodore Decker lead the hunt for a massive ancient weapon that can devour whole planets. For Kirk, it’s still a job. For Decker, it’s become akin to an Ahab-like obsession. The final moments of “The Doomsday Machine,” as Kirk is about to be swallowed by the monster and keeps telling his crew “Gentlemen, I suggest you beam me aboard,” are among the series’ very best.
8. “Journey To Babel” — The first time we ever get to see the founding races of the Federation — humans, Vulcans, Andorians, and Tellarites — in one place, this proposed peace summit becomes an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery. There’s nothing better than a Star Trek whodunit.
7. “Amok Time” — A.K.A. “Spock Gotta Have It.” Our Vulcan friend’s green blood turns hot when he enters the Pon Farr, the uncontrollable urge to mate that overcomes Vulcans every seven years. It can only be cured if the sufferer meditates, fights an opponent to the death, or has sex. The last option should be fine for Spock since he’s betrothed to T’Pring. But T’Pring’s heart turns fickle and she withdraws from their engagement, meaning that Spock has to fight it out — and he does so against Kirk!
6. “The Galileo Seven” — Spock’s away team is trapped on the surface of a planet surrounded by hostile natives, and their shuttlepod is damaged. A claustrophobic waiting game ensues, as the crewmen do everything they can to survive while waiting for rescue. Just about as suspenseful as any Star Trek episode ever.
5. “Space Seed” — Known now and forever as the episode that introduced Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban) as Kirk’s greatest adversary, it’s also a pointed commentary on how far humanity has come even since (or especially since) the 20th century that produced Star Trek. Khan is a 20th century warlord who was genetically engineered with superhuman strength and intellect. But rather than transcend the petty ambitions and power struggles of Earth in that time, he lost himself in them. He’s a relic of a time — still our time in 2013 — when humanity cared more about power, prestige, and riches than enlightenment. Khan throws into relief everything that humanity tends to be…when we don’t strive to be anything more than what we already are.
4. “Balance of Terror” — Enter the Romulans. No hostile alien race in Star Trek, not even the Borg, had a greater debut than Spock’s pointy-eared brothers from another planet. What Khan represents to humanity — an unenlightened part of our history that we’d like to forget but do so at our own peril — the Romulans do to the Vulcans. Not to mention that “Balance of Terror” establishes the submarine-warfare aesthetic of all of Star Trek’s future space battles.
3. “Mirror, Mirror” — Take everything you know about the set-up of Star Trek then turn it on its head. That’s the idea behind the “mirror universe,” which presents doubles of our heroes living on another dimensional plane, doubles of our heroes with polar-opposite values, personalities, and skills. Rather than there being an enlightened Federation, Earth rules its corner of the universe as the barbaric Terran Empire. And we know they’re barbaric because of their incorporation of sashes, daggers, and bikini tops into their uniforms. Also, if you wear a goatee, you’re probably a doppelganger from a mirror universe.
2. “Arena” — The Gorn were only seen once in Star Trek until nearly 40 years later when they finally returned, given a CGI makeover, on Star Trek: Enterprise. But their first appearance, when it’s clear it’s just a dude wearing an unwieldy lizard costume, is their best. Godlike beings force Kirk and the captain of a Gorn ship who just ordered the destruction of a Federation colony to fight it out mano a lizard, to contain the bloodshed. Kirk’s final act is heartbreaking and beautiful.
1. “The City on the Edge of Forever” — Star Trek’s greatest episode has challenged all storytellers since not to use time-travel as a mere gimmick but as a prismatic tool for examining history and why we made certain choices along the way. Kirk & Spock travel back in time to 1930s Earth, looking for a drugged and psychotic McCoy, and meet a charity worker named Edith Keeler (Joan Collins) with whom Kirk quickly falls in love. She’s a forward-thinking 23rd century soul living in the midst of the Great Depression and dreaming of a future that Kirk knows will come true someday. But she’s doomed to die in a car crash within days. And, if Kirk doesn’t let her die, she’ll go on to lead a pacifist movement that will prevent the United States from entering World War II…allowing the Nazis to conquer the world. Edith has to die, so that the world she dreams of can exist. Time-travel has never been so emotional.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt and follow Hollywood.com @Hollywood_com
More: The Best of the Klingons from ‘The Original Series’ to ‘Into Darkness’ — VIDEO Eight Things You Need to Know About ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ In Advance How ‘DS9’ Boldly Became the Best Most Influential ‘Trek’
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When you think of Star Trek aliens, two interstellar races probably spring to mind first: the Vulcans, those pointy-eared logicians, and their polar opposite, the Klingons. The warrior race has served a lot of different roles on Star Trek over the decades. First, they were the Federation's enemies in a long-running Cold War, as if they were the Russians to Starfleet's United States. Then, they became the Federation's allies. They went from being hotheaded killers to noble warriors. And somewhere along the line, especially on Deep Space Nine, they became the alien embodiment of the human Id.
The Klingons also happen to play a huge role in Star Trek Into Darkness. So, in their honor, we've rounded up eight milestones of Klingon history and culture that sum up why we love them so much.
1. Their Introduction: Meet Kor — "Errand of Mercy"
The Klingons made their debut in the Season 1 episode of The Original Series called "Errand of Mercy." Insanely warlike, they led an invasion of Organia, a planet inhabited by simple peasant dwellers. Or so they thought. The head of their occupation force was Kor, a mustachioed menace who was a lusty foil for Kirk. Kor was portrayed by John Colicos, and awesomely enough, this first encounter wouldn't be the last time we'd see him in the role.
2. Picking a Fight With Scotty — "The Trouble With Tribbles"
What was unique about the Klingons from the start, on The Original Series, was their capacity for getting under humanity's skin. Just look at how easily this one Klingon picks a fight with Scotty. All he has to do is call the Enterprise a "garbage scow." Maybe it's because the Klingons hit so close to him. To 23rd century humans, they're humanity as we used to be — aggressive, militaristic, incapable of overcoming our passions. And they're probably what we're still like here in the 21st century, except that we don't like to eat gagh. (That'd be worms, for those of you don't speak Klingon.)
Oh, you're also probably wondering about their physical appearance in The Original Series. Now we know from all later representations of Klingons that they have serrated forehead ridges. So why didn't they in the '60s TV show? Um, hello, lack of budget. But there is an in-universe explanation. The Klingons' experimentation with Earth-style genetic engineering in the mid-22nd century caused a whole swath of their population to end up looking more or less human. The idea was to use some of these human-looking Klingons to infiltrate Starfleet, but the mutation went viral and ended up affecting much of Klingon society.
3. "You Klingon Bastards..." — Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
The Klingons, though formidable, were a little oafish on The Original Series. Boy, did that change in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock where one Klingon in particular, Christopher Lloyd's Commander Kruge, came to represent just how fearsome the warrior race could be. He had Kirk's son, David, killed in an attempt to wrest Project Genesis out of his grasp. That led to William Shatner's immortal "You Klingon bastard, you killed my son!" monologue. Kruge was so formidable that the only way Kirk could defeat him was by blowing up the Enterprise — the moment after Kruge's crew had beaned aboard the exploding ship, of course. And even then Kirk only killed Kruge by throwing him into a pit of hellfire.
4. Worf — Star Trek: The Next Generation/Deep Space Nine
So after their villainy crescendoed in The Search for Spock, it was a surprise that Gene Roddenberry decided to make the Klingons allies of the Federation on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Symbolic of this detente was the presence of the first-ever Klingon Starfleet officer: Michael Dorn's Worf. Now Worf was a Klingon orphan raised by human parents in Belarus, so he was something of an outcast from his own people while also being a misfit among humanity. That made him, along with Brent Spiner's Data, Next Generation's "outsider on a quest," as Spock had been on The Original Series. He's more martial than many of the humans on the show, and he certainly loves a good fight. But he's entirely a noble warrior. Unlike the party-down, Bacchanalian sensibility of other Klingons we see in on Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, Worf is buttoned-down and stoic, a walking mass of awkwardness. Which makes us love him all the more.
5. Klingon Justice — Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
The final movie featuring the entire Original Series cast showed how exactly the Klingons and Federation made peace. It came out in 1991 and is pretty obviously an allegory for the end of the Cold War. But the two sides didn't patch things up without a little drama beforehand: most notably, the assassination of the Klingon chancellor Gorkon (David Warner), for which Kirk and McCoy had to stand trial. Just check out that Klingon judge's gavel! Is that the scariest thing you've ever seen or what?
6. "The Way of the Warrior"
And even decades into the Federation-Klingon Empire peace accords, tensions could still flare up. In fact, things reached a boiling point in the Season 4 premiere of Deep Space Nine, "The Way of the Warrior," in which the Klingons attack the titular space station after accusing Starfleet's Captain Sisko of protecting the Cardassian Empire's leadership council. (The Klingons and Cardassians had been at war, yada yada yada.) Alliance be damned, the Klingons would attack and board Deep Space Nine in order to abduct the Cardies they wanted. Chancellor Gowron tells DS9's Captain Sisko, when the good captain talks about how formidable his space station is, "You're like a toothless old Grishnakh cat trying to frighten us with your roar!" Only a scenery-chewer like Avery Brooks could compellingly deliver the response to that: "I can assure you this old cat may not be as toothless as you think."
7. Kor's Exit — "Once More Unto the Breach"
Star Trek fans' entire decades-long relationship with the Klingons came full circle when John Colicos, who played Kor way back in "Errand of Mercy" in 1967, returned in 1998 to play Kor once again in "Once More Unto the Breach" from the final season of Deep Space Nine. Instead of a nemesis, he was now a noble warrior — and a legend, if a slightly faded one. Kor was now a "Dahar Master," one of the highest ranks in the Klingon Empire, but it had been a long time since he'd tasted the sweetness of victory in battle. So Chancellor Martok had marginalized him. That is, until Kor took it upon himself to pilot a Bird of Prey into battle against multiple Jem Ha'dar warships during the Dominion war, and did so flying alone. He gave his comrades — and Chancellor Martok — the chance to escape certain death, while sacrificing himself. A worthy end to a foe turned friend.
8. A Klingon Wedding! — "You Are Cordially Invited"
Let's end on a lighter note, because one thing to take away is that the Klingons really like to party. Worf's wedding to Jadzia Dax on Deep Space Nine is a spectacularly debauched affair and shows that while the Klingons may love a good fight, they love drinking, wenching, and singing (especially old warrior ballads) just as much. At times they can be like the rowdiest fratboys in the galaxy. Just don't let them pull a Bat'leth on you.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt and follow Hollywood.com @Hollywood_com
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Yesterday’s news that Disney has decided to shutter LucasArts, the videogame company overseen by Lucasfilm that’s produced nearly three decades worth of Star Wars and Indiana Jones games, not to mention the Monkey Island saga, gave us a full-blown nostalgia attack. Disney seems so determined to put all their effort into the production of Episode VII that they’re shutting down much of non-Episode VII Star Wars content, including the Clone Wars TV series and games like Star Wars 1313 that were in the pipeline for future release. Eric Geller, one Star Wars fan who helps run TheForce.Net speaks for many of us by saying, “They seem to think they need a dearth of other SW content to get us excited for the sequels. Have they met us?”
For kids growing up in the ‘90s, LucasArts’ games were the only way to extend the experience of Star Wars beyond endlessly replaying VHS copies of the Original Trilogy. At least, until we were old enough to start reading the Expanded Universe novels. Whether geared for the computer, NES, or N64, these games helped us fall even deeper in love with that Galaxy Far, Far Away. The batting average of these Star Wars games was really formidable, with the X-Wing and Dark Forces series, in particular, being consistently strong. Admittedly, in recent years, the quality of LucasArts’ output has waned. For all the hype, 2008’s The Force Unleashed doesn’t offer gameplay mechanics or storytelling anywhere near as satisfying as that found in Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, released six years earlier. But we still played.
RELATED: Disney Closing LucasArts, Future of ‘Star Wars’ Videogames in Question
So, to honor LucasArts’ formidable legacy, movies editor Matt Patches, staff writer Michael Arbeiter, and myself, geek writer Christian Blauvelt, put together our picks for the 10 Best Star Wars Games Ever. Oh yes, and the 5 Worst — nobody's perfect!
10. Episode I—Racer (1999)
This is the Rodney Dangerfield of Star Wars games. A lot of fans think it’s terrible without even having played it. But Racer transforms the best sequence in The Phantom Menace into kinetic art, taking you to wholly alien environments like the sulfuric planet Malastare, ocean world Aquilaris, and airless vacuum planet Oovo IV. No, it doesn’t have a story or any depth to its characters—though you do get to play as all the weird alien podracers you glimpse during the Boonta Eve Classic in the movie—but Racer isn’t trying to be “cinematic” like so many games today (games, which, as a result, are often too easy when it comes to actual gameplay). Racer is a souped-up arcade actioner. It capitalizes on your reflexes and muscle memory rather than your higher cognitive functions. But that also means that, like many of the arcade classics, it’s a lot more difficult, and thus a lot more replayable than games with supposedly loftier ambitions. And it has Watto saying stuff like “Ohhhh….You want buy pit droid, eh?” How could you not love that? — Christian Blauvelt
9. Shadows of the Empire (1996)
Lucasfilm’s idea of creating a multimedia “interquel,” a story that explores what Luke and Leia did in between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, took various forms: a novel written by Steve Perry that focused primarily on the movie characters, a graphic-novel tie-in, and a Nintendo 64 game that cut out Luke and Leia entirely to focus on gun-for-hire Dash Rendar, the scruffiest nerfherder in the galaxy not named Han Solo. As Dash, you follow the breadcrumbs from planet to planet to find out where Solo, frozen in carbonite, has been taken, so you can attempt a rescue. Along the way, you encounter droid bounty hunter IG-88, Boba Fett, and a giant dianoga—the tentacle garbage compactor creature from A New Hope! — Christian Blauvelt
RELATED: Why ‘Clone Wars’ Was Star Wars At Its Best
8. Yoda Stories (1997)
You land in the murky waters of Dagobah, your X-Wing pixilated and your R2 unit complete with incomprehensible speech bubbles. And there, you will find your mission of the day: Where will Master Yoda send you this time — Tatooine, Hoth, Endor? Who will you be charged with saving — Han Solo, Princess Leia, C3P0? The Game Boy and PC adventure game sent the player (as Luke) off on multifaceted quests, completing small tasks to aid in the ultimate conquest against baddies like Jabba the Hutt, the Rancor, swarms of Jawas, and even Darth Vader. Combining the joys of platform games and clever puzzles with Star Wars fandom makes Yoda Stories among the best of LucasArts’ contributions. —Michael Arbeiter
7. Dark Forces (1995)
LucasArts did an amazing job creating new characters and designs for their games, and Dark Forces became more than a Doom knock-off thanks to the inclusion of mercenary Kyle Katarn and the revelation of the "Dark Troopers." For a mid-90s, first-person shooter, Dark Forces had unprecedented atmosphere and an array of recognizable weapons finally put in the hands of Star Wars fans. Being able to wield a thermal detonator — only briefly seen in the first trilogy — brought a new dimension to the world we already loved. — Matt Patches
6. Battlefront II (2006)
Upgrading the skirmish style of the original Battlefront, the sequel opened up the format for larger missions, saga-spanning story arcs, space combat, and the ability to play as a Jedi. Sure, putting us in the third-person perspective of a Stormtrooper or Rebel gunman was fun, but dropping Mace Windu in the middle of a battle to slice up battalions of Droidekas and pesky Geonosians was a dream come true. Being able to run over Windu with a Trade Federation tank and send him flying off a cliff bumped Battlefront II up to "classic" territory. And the cherry on top: we loved John Williams' cue "Battle of Heroes" in Star Wars: Episode III, but when it backed up our long nights wiping out invading forces during Battlefront II's many campaigns, it was empowering. — Matt Patches
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5. Knights of the Old Republic (2003)
Compared to Jedi Outcast released the year before, the actual gameplay of KOTOR isn’t great. You have no control over lightsaber combat — moves are actually determined by virtual “dice throws.” But that’s pretty much the norm in role-playing games. What you do get is a story set in a wholly unexplored period of Star Wars history and possibly the most character-driven LucasArts game ever. 3,900 years before the events of the movies, the Republic is at war with the Sith. Or rather, two Jedi, who’ve turned to the Dark Side and are calling themselves Darth Revan and Darth Malak. You play an anonymous Republic soldier with extraordinary abilities that are only slowly discovered throughout the course of the game as you battle back the darkness. As an RPG, KOTOR allows you to make key moral choices throughout the story that determine the direction of the plot…and your character’s ultimate fate, leading up to the most shocking Star Wars reveal since “I am your father.” Also, you will never learn more about the internal politics of Wookiee culture. — Christian Blauvelt
NEXT: What's the best Star Wars game ever? Plus, our picks for the 5 Worst.
4. The Empire Strikes Back (1992)
In the early days of LucasArts, being able to recreate any amount of the Star Wars trilogy was a gift to fans. Like it's movie counterpart, 1992's Empire Strikes Back — debuting first on the NES then ported over to the Gameboy — managed to, for the first time, convey the thrills of the narrative with involving gameplay. The graphics were low-res, the functionality imperfect (no you f**king Tauntaun, MOVE THIS WAY), but in the end, Luke's Hoth escapades and first taste of force powers made for hours of side-scrolling fun. There's a comic book style to Luke's lightsaber movement that remains imprinted on my mind, even today. — Matt Patches
3. Rogue Squadron (1998)
While we cannot forgive the whines and groans that accompanied Luke Skywalker’s desire to take up with the Academy, we can finally understand just why he so desperately wanted to be a pilot: Rogue Squadron gave us the chance to try our hand behind the X-Wing wheel, zipping with an impressive fluidity (at least for that era of video gaming) through some of the Star Wars franchise’s most formidable locales. Highlights of the game include taking down Imperial Walkers with some fancy footwork and a spool of yarn, and taking a dip in the gelatin-esque waters of Mon Calamari. Avoid the tasty topography of this realm: It’s a trap! — Michael Arbeiter
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2. X-Wing Alliance (1998)
The last, and best, game in the PC X-Wing series puts you in the cylindrical cockpit of a YT-1300 freighter (for non-nerds, that’s a ship of the same class as the Millennium Falcon), a Y-Wing, a B-Wing, an A-Wing, and just about every other type of craft you can imagine. But it’s not just a first-person space-combat simulator. X-Wing Alliance tells a deep, involving story about a family, the Azzameens, who run a shipping company around the events of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. When the Empire tries to take over their business, they defect to the Rebel Alliance, and, as Ace, the hotshot pilot who’s the Azzameen family’s cocky youngest son, you participate in the mission to steal the plans for the Second Death Star and finally fly into the Death Star’s reactor shaft in the Battle of Endor itself. — Christian Blauvelt
1. Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (2002)
I’d argue the Star Wars Expanded Universe is at its very best when focusing on characters who aren’t in the films. That allows storytellers other than George Lucas to explore nooks and crannies of the Star Wars galaxy without being a slave to continuity. It also means those novels and videogames don’t feel compelled to drown in the movies’ Joseph Campbell-knockoff mythology and can take different narrative pathways. Exhibit A for how well this can work? The Dark Forces series, which reaches its apex in Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, the greatest Star Wars game ever produced. Flinty, bearded, commando-turned-Jedi Kyle Katarn has to rescue his partner and lover, Jan Ors, from the clutches of one of Luke Skywalker’s Jedi students who turned to the Dark Side. It’s Star Wars' answer to The Searchers, and it takes Kyle from the seedy, neon-tinted Hutt demimonde of Nar Shaddaa to the glistening spires of Cloud City (where you have an epic lightsaber fight in the carbon-freeze room, just like Empire Strikes Back!), to the jungles of Yavin 4.
The level maps are crammed with detail, from the little Ugnaughts who populate Cloud City’s underlevels (who you can slice with your lightsaber if you’re feeling mean-spirited: we do!) to the latest craze in interstellar mixology, a ruby bliel, the must-order drink from your local Chiss barman. And though later games like The Force Unleashed have been touted for their gameplay mechanics, none can compare to Jedi Outcast and its hyper-dynamic lightsaber combat—especially when you have “realistic saber combat” mode activated, allowing for full dismemberment. Until someone invents a T-14 hyperdrive, playing Jedi Outcast is the closest thing to visiting that Galaxy Far, Far Away for real. — Christian Blauvelt
THE 5 WORST STAR WARS VIDEOGAMES
5. Force Commander (2000)
LucasArts was never able to make a great real-time strategy game. The closest they ever came was with Star Wars: Empire at War and Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds—Clone Campaigns, which basically just used the Age of Empires engine. Force Commander was a particular misfire, though, with an unwieldy camera and uninspired combat.
4. Empire at War—Forces of Corruption (2006)
However, Force Commander wasn’t as bad as this epic dud. The sequel to Empire at War features the smallest game maps for an RTS game we’ve ever seen. They’re so small that when a Super Star Destroyer shows up for the finale, it takes up practically the entire map, with no room for maneuverability. A huge missed opportunity.
3. Rebellion (1998)
It’s not just that Rebellion hasn’t aged well, it’s that the PC game’s graphics looked archaic even when it came out in 1998, especially compared to what you could find on the N64 with Rogue Squadron, released the same year. A sad, lazy effort.
2. Kinect Star Wars (2012)
This is the game that gave us Princess Leia dancing in her metal bikini to “Genie in a Bottle.” ‘Nuff said.
1. Masters of Teräs Käsi (1998)
With a name like Masters of Teräs Käsi how could it not be the worst Star Wars game ever?
[Photo Credit: LucasArts]
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The Host, Stephenie Meyer’s latest attempt at harnessing the budding hormones of teen moviegoers, is upon us. You could predict much about the film: legions of swoony fangirls rallying behind the respective banners of Team Jared (Max Irons, son of Jeremy) and Team Ian (Jake Abel); lots of arid, deep-focus shots courtesy of antiseptic futurist director Andrew Niccol; Diane Kruger looking hot in a white pantsuit; William Hurt looking old; a sexy rain scene; puzzlement over the idea that anyone born after 1964 could be named Wanda; the talented Saoirse Ronan being far over-qualified for this tepid, listless young adult material.
What people who haven’t read Meyer's book might not have expected is how the movie ends with such craven set-up for a sequel. It’s a bit odd, because the 2008 novel doesn’t yet have a sequel itself. Not to mention that Meyer has been rather vague about whether she even is planning on producing a follow-up. So are her fans going to experience right now what fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones have long feared: that they may have to wait for a movie sequel until the author of its source material actually decides to put pen to page? Possibly.
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Here’s what happens. Aliens named Souls travel across the galaxy, inhabiting the bodies of other species they encounter. They view their possession of host bodies as a kind of synthesis, a harmonious joining—while the races they’ve inhabited probably view it as a brutal conquest. Now they’ve targeted Earth…and have taken over pretty quickly, with only a modest human resistance left to oppose them. So, yeah, this is basically just Invasion of the Body Snatchers for the CW set.
MAJOR SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT
All the Souls give their human host bodies new periwinkle-blue eyes, for extra creepy effect. Most of the movie concerns the Soul named Wanderer and her acclimation to the new host body she’s taken. The personality of her host body, a girl from the resistance named Melanie Stryder, won’t be repressed. So Wanderer and Melanie end up sharing one body. Also, there’s no plumbing where they end up, so call it “Two Girls, One Body, No Cup.”
They make it to Melanie’s ramshackle family of resistance fighters out in what appears to be John Ford’s Monument Valley. And the next hour and a half becomes an inquiry into Melanie’s ontological status: Is she still in that body? We already know the answer is yes because we’ve had to endure her inane voiceover. The resistance fighters come to accept that Melanie is alive…but they also accept the individuality of Wanderer, who they’ve renamed Wanda. The Soul eventually decides she must give Melanie back her body, and to do that she must die.
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OK, not really, because without her consent the resistance fighters just end up putting Wanda inside another human body that was going to die anyway. Wanda wakes up…and now she’s played by Emily Browning! This is with 10 minutes left in the movie. You don’t just put Emily Browning, a budding starlet in her own right, in your movie for the last 10 minutes and hope to leave it at that. They’ve gotta be planning on using her for a sequel, right? And then there’s the film’s official epilogue, set “A Few Months Later.” Wanda and Melanie are driving along with their indistinguishable hunks when they’re stopped by what we think is an alien patrol. But actually it’s a group of humans with one Soul among them…just like Wanda and Melanie’s group! Proving that there are others out there who believe Souls and humans can live in harmony, yet oppose the Soul invasion agenda. If they band together, they’ll be unstoppable. Stay tuned for the sequel, The Host Part 2: Penumbra (if it follows the Twilight saga’s fixation on using astronomical phenomena in its naming convention).
Except that there’s no sequel in the works as of right now at all! So what to make of this ending? We can’t call it a cliffhanger, because there is no suspense in Stephenie Meyer’s world. But it does seem like set-up. Here are some other burning questions we have too:
1. Does the fact that Souls only want to wear white suits explain why they never appear to possess the bodies of plus-size humans? 2. Do the Souls refuse to drive any car valued at less than $200,000? 3. Does voiceover work effectively in anything but a Terrence Malick movie these days? 4. Where did Jared and Ian obtain their seemingly endless supply of styling product? Are they raiding abandoned salons in their down time to stock up on all the hair gel they can get? 5. Is there no film that William Hurt and Frances Fisher can’t elevate?6. Does the presence of periwinkle eyes indicate that a Soul took over the body of Geordi LaForge?
We'll answer Question #5: When that film is The Host.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: Open Roads Films]
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What does it all mean?
Many of us don’t have time for such lofty philosophical teasers... because we are too busy watching a metric ton of movies. That being said (and questionable priorities notwithstanding) our beloved cinematic pastime is not without its own obscured connotations.
Film, like all artforms, is a conduit for the filmmaker to share various ideas and themes. These ideas needn’t always rest overtly on the surface, and one of the most rewarding aspects of being a film fan is digging deeper and discovering these underlying subtexts. The documentary Room 237, hitting theaters this week, explores the countless theories as to the hidden meanings of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (is the movie a metaphor for the violence against Native Americans or a cover-up for the moon landing?). This inspired us to do a little excavating into some of the established metaphors underscoring our favorite classic films:
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High Noon— Communism Is Not a Red Herring
Citizen Kane— 99.9% Biopic
Often regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, if not the greatest, Citizen Kane is the story of a powerful newspaper magnate and the efforts to decode the significance of his final words. Though director/star Orson Welles swore his titular character is an amalgam of several different individuals, Citizen Kane is most certainly a parable of the life of William Randolph Hearst. Hearst was among the most powerful men in America, founding the country’s largest newspaper and fundamentally changing the face of journalism. In the film, Kane’s home, Xanadu, is directly based on Hearst’s elaborate domiciles and the iconic last word “rosebud” was said to be a reference to Heart’s longtime mistress. In fact, there were so many direct nods to his life that rumor has it Hearst was absolutely enraged upon seeing the film; feeling his life’s story had been stolen.
On the surface, Fred Zinnemann’s High Noon could not be more straightforward. It centers on a small town lawman (Gary Cooper) who is about to retire, just as he gets married, when he is faced with the news that a dangerous criminal he put away is being released from jail and is heading back to town for revenge. Though set in the 19th century west, High Noon is actually a metaphor for the politics of the 1950s in which it was produced. Specifically, it is a reproach of McCarthyism and The Red Scare. Once the outlaw looms and our hero is “named,” all the otherwise good people begin cowardly abandoning their beloved lawman. The subtle finger-wag was clear enough that John Wayne initially criticized the film as being “un-American;” interesting choice of words considering High Noon takes aim at the House Un-American Activities Committee.
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High Noon— Communism Is Not a Red Herring
Invasion of the Body Snatchers— Fight the Little Green Man, Man
If High Noon figuratively rebukes The Red Scare, the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, released just four years later, capitalizes on it. The plot of Don Siegel’s Body Snatchers involves giant plant pods from space that breed exact duplicates of the humans they encounter; the alien imposters eventually taking the place of the humans. To put it another way, a threat “from out there” comes into quaint, small-town America and assimilates its freethinking citizens into mindless drones. Need we say more? The swelter of paranoia over a possible communist takeover of the United States is the unspoken underscore of the movie. The ironic thing about this is that Kevin McCarthy plays the character that tries to warn everyone of the threat; it was Senator Joseph McCarthy who begot the aforementioned poisonous political practice that bears his name.
The Day the Earth Stood Still— Passion of the Klaatu
It’s no surprise that the latter half of this list is comprised of sci-fi titles. More than any other genre, science fiction tends to most artfully address the complex social issues of its day, even when disguised in fantastical trappings. 1951’s The Day the Earth Stood Still begins with a UFO landing in Washington DC, and the alien pilot informing the people that they must cease all warring ways or be destroyed for the good of the universe. The Day the Earth Stood Still is a fascinating case in that it features both Cold War subtext and a Christian allegory. The very title doubles as an apt descriptor for the nuclear stalemate in which America and The Soviet Union found itself post World War II. In the film, the Earth is forced to adopt a forced peace upon threat of destruction — sound familiar? In regard to the Christian symbolism at play, Klaatu comes to our world to save it, preaching a message of peace. He adopts the name Carpenter (Jesus’ occupation) while in hiding, and is even resurrected at one point in the film.
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Aliens— Mommie Dearest
James Cameron’s Aliens redefined expectations for sci-fi sequels. Heck, sequels in general. However, while we may have initially been mesmerized by the sheer bombastic entertainment value of Ripley’s second cinematic adventure, a far more meaningful story was lurking in the shadows. Aliens is an exploration of a woman’s complicated relationship with motherhood. Insemination and violent birth imagery are rampant throughout both Alien and Aliens, but it is in the sequel the Ripley must save Newt from the xenomorph queen in her nest of eggs; navigating a minefield of ova to save a surrogate daughter and having to literally confront the mother of an entire race of beings. This parallel is further enforced by a subplot, removed from the theatrical cut, about Ripley’s deceased daughter. The emotional and physical toll of motherhood upon women is therefore the symbolic core of this sci-fi actioner.
[Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]
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Warning: This post contains minor spoilers from Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers.
"Every time I try to fly/ I fall without my wings/ I feel so small/ I guess I need you baby." For anyone who was young in the early 2000s, those lyrics evoke the twinkly, yet disheartening innocense of Britney Spears' song about loss and heartbreak. The light quality of the piano on "Everytime" evokes a sense of youth and inexperience, something we can chalk up to Spears' musical style and the wide belief that this song was a response to her breakup with Justin Timberlake, whom she'd known since she was a child. But when this song makes its debut in Harmony Korine's dislodging film Spring Breakers, courtesy of James Franco's Alien, and it takes on a whole new life.
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Alien sings the song as he tickles the ivory on his outdoor piano, three corrupted young spring breakers twirling around him in pink ski masks adorned with unicorns, sparkly pink tiger bathing suits, sweatpants with "DTF" on the rear, and shotguns in hand. Eventually, the song transitions from Franco's growly version to Spears' sweet original; the scenes flash from the waltzing teen deviants to scenes of them assisting Alien as he ties up and tortures other vacationers while he steals all their earthy possessions. It's jarring, it's terrifying, it's heartbreaking. It's a technique that appears often in film, but in Korine's raucous movie, the concept of soundtrack dissoance is used to such perfection, that "Everytime" practially takes on a new meaning for those who've witnessed the extraordinary scene.
The video from the film isn't available online, but for some context, here's the song itself:
It's no surprise that this moment takes place in Spring Breakers, a film that relies on music just as heavily as it does on visual elements. But, it's not the first to make use of the counter-intuitive practice of soundtrack dissonance. From A Clockwork Orange, to Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, to every Tim Burton movie, and even Disney/Pixar's Up and ABC's Lost, the selection of the "wrong" music has served to force out an emotion, be it sadness or laugher or some other feeling. By forcing a distance between the viewer and the subject, a greater emotional reaction is achieved.
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The most similar example to Spring Breakers' Britney ballad comes courtesy of A Clockwork Orange, when Alex leads his droogs into a robbery and eventual rape. The scene is violent, with the gang picking up and tying up their victim F. Alexander's wife while they merilessly beat Alexander himself and prepare to rape the woman. The whole time, Alex (Malcom McDowell) is cheerfully crooning "Singing in the Rain." (Be warned, this clip is very NSFW.)
With even greater brutality, but slightly more humor, comes this scene from American Psycho, in which Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) switches on "Hip to Be Square" by Huey Lewis and the News before hacking Paul Allen (Jared Leto) to bits with a sinister grin on his face. It adds an element of comedy, but one that still has us so disturbed, we're a little afraid to actually laugh.
And you can't talk about violence paired with cheery music without including this scene from Reservoir Dogs, in which Vic Vega (Michael Madsen) rips up his victim while singing along to "Stuck in the Middle With You."
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The trope exists on television too, where "Mama" Cass' "Make Your Own Kind of Music" became synonymous with the terror of the unknown on Lost. We first encounter the song when Desmond makes his first appearance as the mysterious threat in the hatch. He's got food, running water, some sort of terrifying vitamin injections. And as he's waking up with his mysterious routine, his very existence threatens our heros Jack and Locke as they peer down into this strange, unnerving new setting. Suddenly, the happy morning tune is one of imminent danger instead.
In Tim Burton's films, it's almost always certain that something terrible is about to happen when children begin cooing in his Danny Elfman-scored soundtracks. One example exists in this Sleepy Hollow scene, which showcases a moment of calm between young Ichabod and his mother before the nightmares of her awful torture come back to the grown Ichabod (Johnny Depp).
The use of singing children, of course, isn't unique to Elfman and Burton. A classic use of the innocence of children juxtaposed with the danger of an agressor comes from Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, in which Tippy Hedron witnesses the deadly crows gathering on playground equipment in front of a schoolhouse as the children sing a school days tune together. There's virtually no action, but the suspense born out of the children's song is incredible.
Then, there's the use of terror-to-pleasant-music juxtoposition that influenced so many films after it: the scenes of exploding nuclear bombs set to "We'll Meet Again" at the end of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
And while this technique is most often used in situations of terror or violence, it can also be used for a laugh. In Up, after the first few minutes of the film render us weeping balls of mush, we're given a little comic relief at the hands of Carl in old age. The famous aria from Carmen, "L'amour Est Un Oiseau Rebelle." The pairing of Carl's stale, boring old man routine with the oppulence of the iconic tune evokes a sense of sad comedy, but one that helps us get into the lighthearted action of the rest of the film.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: A24 Films]
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Documentary that examines the claim of alien investigators that the Brazilian military took part in an international cover up when people in Varginha, Brazil reported a small cigar-shaped object crashing into the ground and strange creatures running around.