Space Station 76

space_station76Director: Jack Plotnick. Starring: Liv Tyler, Patrick Wilson, Marisa Coughlan, Matt Bomer. USA, 2014. IMDb: 4.9. Budget: roughly 1 million. My rating: 2.5/4. Retrofuturistic black parody, Jim Jarmusch vs Wes Anderson on a 70-s space station.

– Warning. Dr. Bot must remind Misty not to become… too close to her therapist bot.
– I’ve gotta be close to somebody.
– We must keep this professional.
– Don’t be so cold.
– I must maintain objectivity.
– But I feel like…  I just feel like you and I have really been going through it here, you know? I feel like I have really been connecting with you. You know me.
– Emotion overload.

(Misty visits the robotic psychologist Dr. Bot)

 

– I’m a leg man, you know?

(a discussion between 2 guys about newly arrived female crew member)

 

Can you imagine the future with corded telephones and colonies on orbital space stations, VHS cassettes and interstellar travel? If you can’t, Jack Plotnick did it for you. ”Space Station 76” is a 1970-s version of the future that never came. And “Space Station 76” has one of the best A.I. ever. Seriously.

 

What I liked. It’s actually easier to describe ”Space Station 76” by saying what it isn’t.

 

It’s not exactly a comedy – at least, not if you understand modern comedy only as ”21 Jump Street” or Seth Rogen-like comedy. It’s more of a Jim Jarmusch vs Wes Anderson on a 70-s space station-like film. Deadpan humour. You never know when the characters are actually joking – well, probably except for the robotic psychologist Dr. Bot, the true gem of the film.

 

It’s not really a science fiction, or, at least, not in first place – the film mostly mocks its retrofuturistic sci-fi setting and ridiculous 70-s costumes, but in a nice and elegant way. It’s not a pure parody – the film really cares about its characters, never using them just as subjects of ridicule. It’s not an art-house movie – the film is not that experimental and distant from the viewers. Last but not least, it has R rating and uses it smartly – no dick jokes, but deadpan humour. The scene with the frozen dog was just nuts.

 

Combination of all this makes ”Space Station 76” pretty unique – and as it often happens with movies of  this kind, the audience hardly got it. ”I wanted to explore what it was like to be a child growing up in the summer of the 70s, which was my experience, but I wanted to tell it in sort of an artistic way by setting it in the future as we had imagined it would be in the 70s”, said Jack Plotnick in an interview.

 

There’s a weird funny episode when Liv Tyler’s character, Jessica (who just arrived at the space station) and Matt Bomer’s character, Ted (who has been living there for a while with a psychotic wife) are trying to approach each other and having a meaningful intimate conversation. Ted has an artificial arm that sometimes goes out of control. When Jessica, following her romantic impulse, puts Ted’s arm on her heart, the hand goes rogue and starts to squeeze Jessica’s left tit. All of this showed with in a deadpan manner, finishing with Jessica finally saying ”I think I should go now”.. If you like that kind of humour, you’ll find ”Space Station 76” brilliant.

 

Visually it’s a beautiful film. You may accuse it of anything but the style. It really squeezes most of its tiny budget, citing 70-s science fiction classic like Logan’s Run and Star Wars. And Dr. Bot, oh! That’s the quintessence of artificial intellect and a good parody. It reminded me of another oddball movie ”Dark Star”, the episode when Sgt. Pinback was trying to convince the Bomb N. 20 not to explode.

– I need to tell you I have just been feeling… so much better since we started treatment. I mean, like, even just my dreams  have just been better. You know, like, I haven’t been having all those feelings… and I’m just really feeling in the now.
-Feelings can sometimes pull one out of the now and put them in the then. Live in the now, not in the then.
– I don’t wanna be in the then. I wanna be in the now.
– Talking about the now can put one in the then.
– I don’t want to be in the then, I want to be in the now. I wanna move forward…
– Don’t move too far forward, you’ll be out of the now. Not too far forward.  Stay in the now.

(Misty visits the robotic psychologist Dr. Bot)

 

– What are you thinking in the midst of this silence?
– Actually, I was thinking about smoking.
– Cigarettes contain carcinogens which may cause cancer in carbon-based life forms.
– Right.
– You are a carbon-based life form… therefore, cigarettes may cause cancer inside you.
– Thank you.
– You’re welcome.

(The captain visits the robotic psychologist Dr. Bot)

 

What I didn’t like. Space Station 76” is at times uneven, especially in the first part. The photography, the acting, the music – all is well-crafted and you feel the movie was made as a passion project, but it’s the screenplay that occasionally sags, running out of fuel – maybe because it was written by 5 different people? Some scenes intended as funny left me perplexed. Some felt really unnecessary. Some plot lines got lost in the middle and didn’t get the development. A more carefully crafted screenplay would really help the film. It’s especially seen in the first half of the film, with the second being more juicy and concentrated.

All the actors created memorable and bright characters – maybe, even too much, as at times they seemed little bit too monotone in their role, like playing the same note over and over. Of course, it was intended as a part of the movie’s style, but a little more versatility wouldn’t harm the film. Liv Tyler (superhero satire “Super“, sci-fi “Robot & Frank“, “Armageddon“) was a nice exception to that, as her character was actually alive, with doubts and flexibility. It was great to see Patrick Wilson (Nite Owl in “Watchmen“, “The Conjuring”) who added a weird touch to the film with his pseudo-sexist obsessions.

The production. The project was originated by Jack Plotnick at his house while experimenting with his friends and favourite actors. This is his debut film, but Plotnick is by no means a newbie – he is in first place an actor with 20+ years of experience (”Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, ”Drawn Together”, ”Wrong”).

Worth watching? Decide by yourself. ”Space Station 76” is an interesting project, but definitely not for everyone. If you like weird and touching humour of ”Super”, ”The Lobster” or ”Defendor” combined with a retrofuturistic sci-fi look on the 70-s, definitely yes. I started to watch it with bias but learnt to appreciate it more and. Visually stylish and delicate, ”Space Station 76” still leaves weirdly good aftertaste, even far from being perfect. It’s an odd little movie that is trying to find its own tone.

2.5/4
Watch also: if you want too see a weird sci-fi comedy, have a look at “American Astronaut“, “Dark Star” or “Kin-Dza-Dza“.

Kin-Dza-Dza!

Director: Georgiy Daneliya. Starring: Evgeny Leonov, Yuri Yakovlev, Stanislav Lyubshin, Levan Gabriadze. USSR, 1986. Imbd: 8.2. My rating: 4/4. Absurd surreal dystopian sci-fi kin-dza-dzacomedy.

– Patzak! Where is your muzzle? Mister PG ordered – all patzaks should wear a muzzle. And
be joyful.
(Uef speaking to Violinist)

– When the society does not have a pants colour differentiation, it does not have the aim. But when it does not have an aim…
(Bee’s monologue)

20170320_014956Wanna see some truly unorthodox and brilliant sci-fi? Ever heard of “Kin-dza-dza!”? Probably you wouldn’t expect this from a Soviet science fiction, but it is actually a black absurdist comedy set on a faraway planet. It’s hilarious, weird and sad parody on both capitalist and communist societies. Continue reading

High-Rise

Director: Ben Wheatley. With: Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Siena Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss. UK, 2015. IMDB: 5.7. My rating: 2/4. Psychodelic decadence kaleidoscope of a class conflict in one building.

highrise

– You know, Toby, when I was your age, I was always covered in something. Mud, jam, failure…
(one of the main characters)

– Do you want an autograph?
– I am actually searching for Riesling.
(dialogue between Hiddleston’s character and a famous actress)

– Keep the change!
– There is no change.
(dialogue between Hiddleston’s character and a shop assistant)

20170317_221720High-Rise” is based on the 1975 novel of the same name of J. G. Ballard. So maybe some of you have some idea of what to expect. I didn’t. The story is about a luxury tower building projected by a talented architect Royal (wonderful Jeremy Irons). It is fully functional and has everything necessary for its inhabitants, even a gym and a supermarket. A young psychologist (Tom Hiddleston with a very aristocratically sad face) has just moved in. However, soon the tension starts to rise between common families living on lower floors and an elite class living higher.

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It is an extremely cold-blooded movie. With all the atrocity, sex and schizophrenia that we20170317_221637 see, it leaves however no place for the compassion. There is too much of everything – too many characters that change each other too quickly, too much craziness that may appeal first but then falls into a self-repeating decay, too many straight-forward metaphores (for example, the surname of most important person in the tower is Royal). It starts pretty intriguing but soon, just as during the scene where Hiddleston’s character with no emotions is operating on a human skull in his laboratory, the director Ben Whitley tries to use same cold approach 20170317_221118on the novel’s metaphore about capitalism and social classes. From being just hectic and nervous, the movie becomes simply shizophrenic with the feeling of “let’s see what’s inside of this skull”. There’s some good satire and irony here, but it’s spread for almost 2 hours that feel infinitely long.

20170317_220853As the story goes on and the bloody revolution actually happens, it’s easy to lose track, like if the movie didn’t know in which direction move next. The photography is beautiful and the acting surprisingly is really very sturdy, balancing on the edge of excess (Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Elisabeth Moss, Siena Miller, Luke Ewans and many others – all did a good job!). Still, I couldn’t refrain from the feeling that instead of being means to express something, the redundancy and craziness became the aim, like here they were created just for the sake of it. It’s like fighting for freedom not because you want freedom but because you like to fight.

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High-Rise” is beautifully shot. Most scenes and just any random frame could be easily converted in great photograph or even poster. You get this feeling easily – just have a look at the trailer. But as I said before, our eye can be tricked with ease and it gets used quickly to the excess on the screen.

Worth watching? Decide by yourself. In first place, it would be honest to pay tribute to the20170317_185711 director – “High-Rise” is stunning visually and all actors are great. But that’s it. It’s not a bad movie, but it feels just… somehow unnecessary. “High-Rise” drowns in excess, just like the elite class it’s deriding. If you want to examine an ant hill that is put on fire, then go for it. Still, with a source like here it could have become something bigger, but it seems that this was more of a cool-looking exercise for Ben Wheatley without examining deeply what the story is really about.