Revisit 70's SFi with Space Station 76 (2014)

— Alan

Seems to have a Anchorman in space vibe. I like the look of it.

I am all over that.

They had the feel down right, but I confess that trailer did almost nothing for me beyond marveling at how they managed to capture 70’s special effects so well. It’s not within light years of Galaxy Quest.

I agree with ya, Gus, but I would speculate that trailer #1 is just a glimpse at the movie - just as with the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer #1, you don’t really see much of the plot; it’s just an introduction to the characters and setting. I suspect before all is said and done that way too much about Space Station 76 will be revealed in the trailers.

The GoG trailer had 1000x more charisma than this did. I realize that deadpan humor doesn’t always translate well into trailer format, but this completely lacked any of the truly ridiculous lines that you need to make deadpan memorable.

Deadpan isn’t really deadpan if it’s ridiculous. You’re thinking of slapstick or just schtick.

No, I’m really not. An example of what I’m talking about: This is Spinal Tap.

These go to 11.
Four Yorkshiremen

How revealing that America now entertains dreams of turning back the clock to its pre-malaise days.

(And who needs pastiches when there are so many originals to go with?)

I’m telling you, it’s only a matter of time before Nixon’s memory is rehabilitated, because let’s face it, it’s all been down the drain for you since.

But that’s always been the case. What do you think Westerns were all about?

Yeah, and in the seventies they were all dreaming of the time when Nixon was only vice president (consider Happy Days).

The Western, however, has long been in decline, because it became preachy, or else ultra-violent like Peckinpah or the Italian pastiches.

It’s always been the case in all media, in all cultures, at all times. Vietarnias is just being his usual attention-whore trolling idiot self.

I sometimes start to take Vietarnias’ posts seriously. But then I quickly remember where he’s from and I just chuckle to myself.

I remember (reading about) the time when a certain former member of Qto3 declared himself to be “the most respected thinker on this forum, by far”. Presumptuous indeed, but that’s easy when one wins by default because nobody else bothers making an effort. The most insulting thing is when you take the time to write a wall of text which you sort of hope makes sense in the end, only to see people respond with one-line dismissals that don’t even show they’ve taken the time to read it, or, Broken Forum-style, with animated GIFs.

Where to start with this film?

First, that all the evidence we have at this time, unless someone saw it in its initial festival presentation, is the trailer above. Which is cut like every other trailer of the recent era. With the music kicking in at the exact same point it does in every other trailer. I’d rather not judge a film by its trailer, but it is impossible to do otherwise at this point; I will, however, disregard the way the trailer is cut and base my assessment on what is being shown.

One of the main actors in it has a line delivery very close, if not identical, to Will Ferrell’s. And Ferrell, of course, made Anchorman, which I hated, especially the zoo climax which pushed whatever spoof existed back into safe rom-com territory. The rest of the time, it was like an attempt at history that attempted to not ruffle the feathers of its prospective audience, which, unlike its setting, could not be imported from the seventies. It was smug, knew who the good guys were and who the bad guys were because 2004 told it so (this one now advising Bush, that one now working at Fox, etc.), while refusing to heed even the seventies’ criticism of the media, going from “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” to “go fuck yourself, San Diego”. Because to acknowledge Network would have meant that not everything was as rosy as the Mary Tyler Moore Show indicated.

In other words, it deals in nostalgia. It spits on the grave only to end up building a mausoleum.

So, well, we now get Anchorman in Outer Space, with an aesthetic derived from, I presume, everything from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Star Trek and so on. But none of the dystopian element of science fiction of the period, which even accidental parodies of same from that time, like Moonraker (itself probably the nadir, or close to it, of Bondian self-parody), could not escape falling into. So far, the only social criticism on display here is “ha-ha, they smoke!” Its seventies world, like Anchorman, is that of the sitcom. Whatever battles are waged are the battles that have been won over time and can now be laughed at (the War on Smoking, for one), or can be won through mockery.

I don’t even think its main attempt is to attack the conventions of the genre, beyond its visual style. Previous attempts to do so have fallen apart. There was Galaxy Quest, which began as satire, only to conclude as the same type of story it was mocking in the first place (i.e. the whole Three Amigos in Outer Space plot which concludes with fakes doing real heroics). But even that was set in the present. Here, we have an attempt at spoofing historical science fiction. SF always had this weakness of considering the fashion of the future as merely an extension of the fashion of the present - hence everyone in the 22nd century wears bell-bottom pants and so on. And that’s the problem of all science fiction films, from the best to the worst: they consider the fashion standards of today as the most plausible scenario for the future. The current SF films set in the distant future make the exact same mistake; we just don’t realize it because the fashion hasn’t significantly changed. Today the idea that bell-bottom pants will be worn in the 22nd century appears to us as something so ridiculous that it deserves making a spoof about it; but it may well be that the future will be inhabited by people wearing bell-bottom pants, just as they might regard Ambrose Burnside as the historical reference for facial hair. It is not impossible.

I understand that this is necessary to make the audience relate to the characters and the setting, to make them think: “OMG they are just like us”. But what happens when you revisit old SF films? It kicks the idea of progress right in the balls. Because those old SF films too thought their era was the ne plus ultra of human evolution, that it was, not so much the End of History, but the starting point of this End. Imagine, if you wish, a novel written in the seventies, set in the 22nd century, that would pit the Soviet Union and the US in outer space as though the geopolitics of the period it was written in remained frozen in amber for a few centuries. (Well, Putin might take us back there, but I think my point is clear enough.)

SF, in its dystopian form, involves a critique of modernity. In this it is not alone. Network condemned the television of its day. All those airplane disaster movies were capitalizing on a method of transport that had given us high-profile accidents and skyjackings. Then along came Airplane!, which showed how this was all too ridiculous to be taken seriously (and Airplane! itself was based on a much earlier film from the fifties, Zero Hour!). Films on the Titanic are likewise critiques of modernity, but apart from a television special in 1977 nothing of importance was made on the sinking between 1958 and 1997. Why? Because by the seventies it was dead as a critique; ocean liners had gone the way of the dodo; and the only high-profile non-military sinking film of note made during that period, The Poseidon Adventure, tellingly involves a liner not on its maiden voyage but on its last before scrapping.

Airplane! ruined that genre because it showed how hackneyed and sadistic it was. More importantly, it attacked genre conventions without ever succumbing to the temptation of having its plot taken seriously. (I have never seen Zero Hour!, but snippets here and there indicate that they remade entire parts word for word, and only heightened the absurdity of the situation.) This being said, just try making an airplane disaster film in the grand style of the seventies and you will just unleash endless accusations of Toosoonery and bad taste, just as if you’d wanted to remake The Towering Inferno (or, as I like to call it, the anti-Fountainhead). But truth be told, those films were tasteless, because they were peopled by one-dimensional characters and the interest was primarily voyeuristic. But at least the critique was there. (I also prefer Police Squad! to The Naked Gun because it is much clearer as to what exactly it is attacking, the cop shows of the sixties and seventies.)

So, I will see what Space Station 76 will try to attack first and foremost: the past (the easy target, betraying a belief in progress), or the present, the certainties of today, the belief that nothing from our era will ever be repudiated, and that there’s nothing to be learned from those old films (just watch Colossus: The Forbin Project and tell me if it isn’t still relevant today when addressing the singularitechnotranscendentalist sentiment of our age).

But 1976, 1976 – Oscar for best film: Nominees included All the President’s Men, Taxi Driver and Network. Three bitter films about how it’s impossible to have faith in public institutions. What won? Rocky.

So, there you go.

…or it’s just a fun, little comedy.

Vetar types to quiet the voices in his head.

And for some reason perceives parody as “attack”.

If it’s not, then what good is it?

The best satirists either love, or deeply understand, what they’re parodying.

Christ, if he can assume that much from a 90 second trailer, imagine what’s going to happen when they release one that’s TWO minutes long!?