Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Contact on TCM's 31 Days of Oscar

Contact (and Men in Black) featured in the TCM lineup

On Sunday, February 24th, Turner Classic Movies will be airing Contact as part of this month's "31 Days of Oscar", in which Academy Award-winning movies are showcased.

Check out the TCM Movie Database entry for the film. Sean Axmaker provides an excellent overview of the film, from the production history to the issues and themes involved; Sagan is described as "one of the most effective spokesmen for the advancement of science and space exploration in the world", and the entry also includes a quote from Ann Druyan:

"Carl's and my dream was to write something that would be a fictional representation of what contact would be like," explains Ann Druyan, Sagan's wife and collaborator. "But it would also have the tension inherent between religion and science, which was an area of philosophical and intellectual interest that riveted both of us."
Each night's worth of movies is organized by a specific decade (all the way from the 1920s to the 1990s and 2000s); it so happens that immediately before Contact on the schedule is a somewhat different 1997 alien contact science fiction film, Men in Black. Saganites have mixed opinions on the merits of MIB; Keay Davidson in his biography of Sagan dismisses it as a dumbed-down "mean-spirited bloodbath"; whereas pop-culture-savvy Nick Sagan slipped in an homage (or more precisely, an homage to an homage) to it in his short story "Tees and Sympathy":
I thought that was clear. The reason why I’m wearing a black suit and sunglasses is because I’m homaging Men in Black.
And Phil Plait answers the question of how "a skeptical, UFO-bashing, aliens-aren't-visiting-us-and-excoriating-cow- you-know-whats scientist-type guy" can enjoy the film in his review:
I loved this movie.

Surprised? "What's a skeptical, UFO-bashing, aliens-aren't- visiting-us-and-excoriating-cow-you-know-whats scientist-type guy going around saying he loves a movie whose very premise is that not only do aliens exist, but live among us?" you are asking yourself.

Well, the movie is awesome. It rocks. I laughed all the way through it. It's funny. It's also satirical, poking gentle but firm fun at the whole UFO and alien subculture.

(Also, for all the differences in tone, note that both films use a shot consisting of an extended zoom out from Earth to outer space to comment on humanity's place in the universe.)

(Cross-posted at Celebrating Sagan)

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